By Chelan David
The project. Speaking of Home is a public art exhibit by Minneapolis, Minn., artist Nancy Ann Coyne. Comprised of translucent, 10-foot by 13-foot black and white photographs, the work was installed in the windows of the skyway bridging part of the Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis. The exhibit explores the meaning of home, and as part of the state’s sesquicentennial, celebrates Minnesota’s cultural diversity.
The 150-foot-long installation features the photographs of 23 immigrants and the word “home” in their own languages and handwriting. The images appear opaque or transparent, depending on the time of day and the viewer’s vantage point.
The companies. Coyne worked with Portland Color, Portland, Maine; Fisher Textiles, Indian Trail, N.C.; Hilord Chemical Co, Hauppauge, N.Y.; and Spectra Jet Transfer Papers, Gloucester, Mass. Each company donated product and services.
The task. As the first public artwork for the skyway system. Coyne’s goal was to transform a skyway from a utilitarian, pedestrian walkway into an evocative journey into the urban landscape, and give voice to Minnesota’s immigrant population.
The challenge. The first challenge was to convince the skyway owners and advisory committee to approve the project, given restrictions on imagery, signage, and content. The design challenge was installing the images seamlessly, so that they could be experienced both at the skyway and street levels. Also, the images had to be printed as fine art photographs with the same technical and aesthetic standards as museum prints on paper.
The solution. Coyne selected a scrim fabric, due to its dynamic nature in natural light and its properties of translucency and tactility. She chose Fisher Textile’s GF 4853 because of its printing performance and how well the fabric holds the inks. After more than a two-year search Coyne found Portland Color in Maine, where the photographs were printed on a Hewlett Packard/ Scitex XLJet 1500 dye sublimation printer. Coyne used Hilord Chemical’s solvent dye sublimation inks, and an HP product, manufactured by Hi-Lord, HP Scitex DS100 specialty textile inks.
The result. The exhibit is compelling in content, aesthetically resolved, and mesmerizing in changing light. As a public artwork it succeeds famously, creating a sense of place by engaging the site’s past and present.