Water-themed art goes with the flow in the metro

Amanda Lovelee, left, and Emily Stover from Plus/And installed a sculpture last week at Waterworks Park in Grimes. Photo: Group Creatives

Writer: Michael Morain

A cool new sculpture about water just popped up in Grimes, right at the end of one of the driest summers on record. “Water Water Everywhere” at the city’s Waterworks Park is a thicket of metal signs, some nearly 20 feet tall, that together form the title phrase from “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” The words appear as fragments that click into legible logic only when seen from particular angles.

“You can see it from the splash pad,” said the artist Amanda Lovelee, who designed the sculpture with Emily Stover, her partner in a Twin Cities art collective called Plus/And. Soon they’ll install a series of smaller signs around the park that spell out a related message in semaphore code.

“We want to break down a complex, sticky issue” – in this case, water quality and supply – “and add a sense of play and joy,” Lovelee said.

The artists worked with the city’s public works office to manufacture the sculpture with the same materials the city uses for street signs. They chose a palette inspired by local wildflowers and, just for fun, tossed a bit of glitter into the steel’s powder coating.

“We often think of nature as brown and green,” Lovelee said, “but so many pop culture colors come right from nature.”

Plus/And will take that idea further with a sculpture it plans to install next spring near the Center Street dam in downtown Des Moines, as part of the ICON Water Trails. The artwork, called “Hello, River,” will be a giant pearlescent mussel shell, big enough for visitors to step into. Inside, they can press a button to hear an audio recording of the river that corresponds – with a quiet trickle or a roaring rush – to the level of the river’s current flow, according to live data from the U.S. Geological Survey. The sculpture’s design was inspired by the pearly insides of mussels in the river and muscle cars the artists spotted during one of their trips to Des Moines.

“You’ll be hugged by an iridescent mussel. It’s bigger than a car,” Lovelee said.

After all posts went up last week in Grimes, the artists were relieved that their computer-assisted renderings actually worked in real life. The words showed up just like they’d hoped.

“When we stepped back and saw that it worked,” Lovelee said, “I felt like my heart quivered a bit.”

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