A parade of hot-air balloons drifting across the landscape was a colorful, awe-inspiring sight, and a public art installation at the Anderson Abruzzo International Balloon Museum in Albuquerque, N.M. It gave balloonists and museum guests a unique lens with which to view lighter-than-air travel during the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta® held Oct. 4–12. “Sky Portal,” artist Randy Walker’s suspended sculptural ring of stainless steel and colorful acrylic fabric braids, turned an open space into a place for visitors on the ground to gaze skyward. For balloonists sailing overhead, the Sky Portal was a compass rose orienting them in the right direction.
City of Albuquerque Public Art commissioned Walker to create a work that would evoke the geometry and magic of balloon flight. The flawless setting featured the Sandia mountain range to the east, the museum to the south, the launch field for the annual Balloon Fiesta to the north—and a 70-foot-diameter compass in concrete and stone landscaping to call attention to directions.
The sculpture’s perfect focal point is a reflecting stainless steel ring (fabricated by Primitive Precision Metalcraft in Minneapolis, Minn.) suspended 25 feet above the ground. On top of the ring, woven acrylic fiber braids provide rainbow colors, texture and movement. Illumination at night highlights the bright braids and conceals the sculpture’s supports, making it seem to float from afar. For a brief dawn-to-dark video of Sky Portal, visit the museum’s facebook page.