The Coastal Star

Let the Motion Move You: Arts District features kinetic displays

Debby Coles-Dubay, Boynton Beach’s public art administrator, engages with a moving sculpture in Lake Worth. Boynton Beach will host the 2013 International Kinetic Art Exhibit and symposium.
Jerry Lower/The Coastal Star

By Mary Jane Fine

    Right up the ramp and around the corner, in the west gallery of the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County’s Robert M. Montgomery Building in Lake Worth, a tall, silvery sculpture invites all comers to shove it, push it, knock it down, if they can. A few steps away, a glass bowl winks with light and tempts admirers to dip a hand in and stir the inch-long blown-glass bulbs that nest there.
    Surprises reward those willing to engage with the exhibits — and encourage them, Debby Coles-Dubay hopes, to seek more hands-on experience with artwork that bows and spins and shimmers and glows and flaps and teeters and otherwise responds to wind or water or sunlight or plain old human touch.
    “This is a preview of our indoor exhibit,” says Coles-Dubay, public art administrator for the city of Boynton Beach, which will host the 2013 International Kinetic Art Exhibit and Symposium from Feb. 8 through 10. “From September through December, we installed outdoor art to stimulate interest in what’s to come.”
    What’s to come is an event billed as both exhibition and education — an introduction for some, a re-introduction for others, to the notion of motion in art, which traces its history back to the early 20th century and the Dada and Constructivist movements. A spin-able bicycle wheel mounted atop a four-legged stool — Marcel Duchamp’s 1913 Bicycle Wheel — is generally considered the first example of kinetic art, art that moves. The form moved onto center stage in the 1950s and ’60s, when it was difficult not to see one of Alexander Calder’s mobiles.

Children interact with the Tangerine Glider, a kinetic art piece of powder-coated steel by John King.  The sculpture is on display on the grounds of the Schoolhouse  Children’s Museum and Learning Center.
Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star

        Right now, in the Boynton Beach Arts District, it’s difficult not to see examples of kinetic art. Dance with the Wind on Ocean Avenue, is just one: A series of polished stainless steel circles within circles, it climbs to a height of 33 feet — the creation of Swiss designer Raifonso, he of the knock-me-down exclamation point. Raifonso, who also has a residence in West Palm Beach and is co-founder of the upcoming exhibit and symposium, created Dance with the Wind for China’s 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
    Nearby, is Mni Iktom, by Boynton Beach artist Sarah Younger, a complex piece that incorporates water, earth, sun and wind — four elements of the Lakota sacred hoop. The Lakota believe that the hoop is broken whenever one violates a law, principle or value of their culture, causing the loss of harmony, balance, beauty and peace. Younger, who will be a speaker at the symposium, uses the work to demonstrate alternative energy.
    “Kinetic art,” she says, “Is definitely a participatory art form.”
    Solar Butterfly, at the corner of West Ocean Avenue and North Seacrest Boulevard, showcases alternative energy as well. The far-larger-than-life butterfly, by New Jersey artist Rein Triefeldt, gently moves its wings, seeking to demonstrate the capturing and use of solar power.
Coles-Dubay and the city of Boynton Beach seek to renew the form’s popularity and the city’s place in the pantheon of art-savvy locales.
    “We decided, let’s not do a typical art fair, let’s do something different,” she says, recalling planning sessions by the city’s Art in Public Places Program. “We want to bring in students, developers, architects. We said, let’s bring in the education component and have the artists talk to the public. They can learn what really went into this; and, to me, that’s the best way for people to learn about art.”

A glass bowl winks with light and tempts admirers to dip a hand in and stir the inch-long blown-glass bulbs that nest there. Jerry Lower/The Coastal Star

    At the Lake Worth preview, communication and its hinted-at surprises come in the form of that oh-so-now buzzword, “interaction.” The hit-me statue, a 6-foot-tall exclamation point, tilts a little or leans a lot, depending on the vigor of one’s shove, but it always bobs upright again, a sleek, stainless steel nod to the inflatable Joe Palooka punching bag of the 1950s. The glass bowl, when handled, sends light fluttering around its edges and glows orange at its base, as if warmed to the core by attention.
“Kinetic artists are like one-armed paperhangers,” says Barbara Ready, chairwoman of the Arts Commission in Boynton Beach, marveling at the inter-weaving of technology and science, creativity and ingenuity that goes into the work. “They’re always thinking, ‘How do I do this? How do I make that work?’ ”
    The hows and whys and why-nots will be open for exploring during symposium sessions such as “Transition from Tradition” and “Breaking the Barriers.” Youth workshops will coach children and teenagers in making pinwheels and Calder-esque mobiles.
    The idea for everyone, Coles-Dubay says, is to experience art in a different way and find it to be more approachable.
    “You have artists who exhibit art in a gallery or a museum but, often, people don’t feel comfortable there,” she says. “They don’t feel they know enough.”       

What: The 2013 International Kinetic Art Exhibit and Symposium
When: Feb. 8-10
Where: Boynton Beach; indoor exhibits at City Hall, the Civic Center, the City Library and the Schoolhouse Children’s Museum; outdoor exhibits on Ocean Avenue and Boynton Beach and North Seacrest boulevards  
Cost: Free for the exhibit and symposium; $30 for kids’ and teens’ hands-on workshops.
More info: Go to                 

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