For many years my work has been about the transformation of materials over time. I have worked with ordinary materials that turn themselves into something else - such as salt, water, soap, and rust. The Hummingbird Palace is a continuation of this exploration. I have long wanted to make artwork with plants – something that grows and changes over time – but found that it was easier said than done. Plants are not always cooperative. I also made drawings where I coaxed hummingbirds inside my studio with a feeder, (each time they sipped, nectar would fall on the drawing below). Needless to say, I also found that hummingbirds are not always cooperative in terms of making artwork. Hence this work has been several years in the making – trying to find plants that I could get to “work” in an installation, a way to lure hummingbirds to be part of my artwork, and finding structures that were appropriate to what I was trying to achieve.
I began two and a half years ago, making wooden structures to grow plants on. I spent months making tower and arch forms outdoors and began experimenting with plants. When I became satisfied with the of results of the plantings, I realized that the structures were not developed enough. I then spent the next year and a half working on small structures to explore what sort of feel I wanted the piece to have.
The overall feeling I wanted from the structures was one of weightlessness. I was trying to make structures that paradoxically had no structure at all - that they could be released from the constraints of the materials that were necessary to hold them up. I envisioned the counterbalance of the grounded weight with the hummingbirds hovering above them. Together I felt that they created some kind of equilibrium - a delicate balance, akin to floating.
In essence, this delicate balance is what I want people to experience. There is both a fragility and a sturdiness to all the component parts. There is also a complexity of parts that must all work at the same time; the vines must grow up and through an intricate manmade structure, flower, bring the beauty of the hummingbirds, which bring a community of people to see and experience it, (as well as to keep it going,) in order for it all to be realized.
The Hummingbird Palace was made possible in part with grants from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, and the generous support of two Providence philanthropists, (who wish to go unnamed). Thank you both!
Thanks to the many people who donated their time and energy to help in the construction and maintenance of the project. Thank you to : Alexa Bullard, Ana Stolle, Roberta Shapiro, Tori Smith, Jess Regelson, Marnee Colburn, and Peter and Jessica Flood, Marion Purvience, Patucci Shehan, Marco Schiappa, Chuck and his crew at Bristol Marine, Kim and Sue Beth Charlebois, Bob McMann, Tim Tolman, Ellie Siegel- Warren, Coral Bourgeios and of course many thanks to my husband, Fred Stolle.
I need to acknowledge the wonderful work done on the steel understructure and fence, which were fabricated by Monica Shinn and Lee Corley at the Steelyard in Providence. Also a huge debt of gratitude to Carmen Boscia for his many hours working on the installation.