Emerald Necklace Fog Sculptures Open to the Public

Japanese artist Fujiko Nakaya’s fog sculpture exhibition, Fog x Flo, made its debut on Aug. 11 at five different sites along the Emerald Necklace.

The five exhibitions include Fog x Canopy at the Back Bay Fens, Fog x Island at Olmsted Park, Fog x Beach at Jamaica Pond, Fog x Hill at the Arnold Arboretum, and Fog x Ruins at Franklin Park.

The Emerald Necklace Conservancy made it one of their key goals to build visibility and community engagement with the Emerald Necklace Parks, so curator Jen Mergel said that they wanted to tell the story of how Frederick Law Olmsted created the Emerald Necklace parks by sculpting with water. That’s where Fujiko Nakaya comes in. She calls the five different sites “stepping stones” along the Emerald Necklace.

Along with the exhibition, the Conservancy has rolled out a new way finding system with nearly 100 new signs throughout the parks with maps so people will realize that the Emerald Necklace is all one connected system. “And then if they choose, once they’re engaged or once they’re learning to navigate the parks, to go deeper, they can come here, either start here or land here to learn more,” Mergel said.

Another facet of the exhibition is the collaboration with various artists and performers, with almost two dozen confirmed. Between now and the closing of the exhibition on Oct. 31, the performances will vary from composers to performers to visual art to dance pieces, and even an interactive piece that people can use on their phones.

For the first site, Fog x Canopy at the Back Bay Fens, composer and sound artist Beau Kenyon has worked with a costume designer to create an interdisciplinary piece. The costumes will be fitted with speakers and MP3 players so that the performers will embody the sound that Kenyon has created. Local choreographer Peter DiMuro choreographed a routine to go along with the sound. Kenyon performed during the opening weekend of the exhibition, but his performance can be seen again on Sept. 14 and 15 at 6 p.m. at the Back Bay Fens sculpture.

The fog sculptures will run every hour from dawn to dusk. Some of them are seven minutes, some are eight, it just depends on what Nakaya envisioned for each space. A schedule of when the fog will go off will be posted online.

The water is safe, potable water from the city and the Conservancy is paying for it.

“A lot of it actually goes directly into the park which we’re very excited about,” said Emerald Necklace Conservancy President Karen Mauney-Brodek. “As you may or may not know, the Emerald Necklace as almost no irrigation just like a lot of city parks. When Olmsted built the parks, that’s wasn’t a standard thing to install in-ground irrigation.”

She also said since that trees take in a lot of water through their leaves, a lot of this water will go into the leaves of the trees at the Fog x Canopy site, where the fog creates a literal canopy for people to walk through.

Mergel said that this is very different from mist, which falls and has larger water droplets than fog. She said that fog is only 17 microns in size, which Nakaya was able to create through her special patented nozzles. The nozzles have an aperture of .006 microns, and as the water passes through the aperture, a needle splits the droplets even further. This is what creates the floating, ethereal sculptures that are so easily moved by the wind.

These fog sculptures are never the same twice because of the way the wind morphs the fog into a different form every time it goes off. Mergel said that Nakaya was interested in this type of a sculpture that is both “composing and decomposing at the same time.”

Nakaya said that 21 of her family members were coming to Boston to enjoy the opening of her work, and she said that the canopy piece is the one she likes the best. It “turned out to be perfect as I imagined,” she said.

She said that the most challenging part has been learning to work with the wind, because “every moment it’s so different.” Instead of people just depending on their visual senses to experience art, Nakaya said she aimed to create an installation where people can immerse themselves in it and use all of their senses to experience what it has to offer.

“Fujiko’s work doesn’t require any language. You can come from any background and appreciate that and I really love that,” said Mauney-Brodek. “I really love that it really doesn’t need a lot of explanation and it’s just really experiential and for everyone.”

At the last site, Fog x Ruins at Franklin Park, Fujiko has collaborated with sound artist and saxophonist Neil Leonard to create an immersive experience at the Overlook Shelter Ruins.

Jazz artist Duke Ellington used to play at the ruins, and his baritone saxophone player, Harry Carney, and his lead alto saxophone player, Johnny Hodges were from Boston. So when Leonard found out that Ellington and his band played there annually, he decided he wanted to pay homage to Ellington and weave in part of his composition called “Lady of the Lavender Mist.”

“I began with a small fragment of that and the piece just flowed the way the fog does to find its own place,” Leonard said.

The recordings were made at a place called The Tank in Colorado, which Leonard said is a 60-foot high cistern that is now used for recording. Leonard spent five days recording there in May, and the soft edge sound that can be heard at the site is created solely by the cistern—there is no electronic processing on Leonard’s saxophone. Titled “Lavender Ruins,” Leonard’s composition is punctuated with clicking sounds to complement the hard edges of being able to view the sky through the upward spraying fog.

Overall, the Conservancy hopes this exhibition will draw people into the rich history of the space and allow them to interact with nature. “We’re very excited that whole we have this mazing exhibition going on, we also use it as an opportunity to really do something to invest in this space and help Bostonians and Brooklinians that consider the Emerald Necklace theirs to tell a little bit more of the story and the history of it, because we think it’s really amazing but sort of hidden in the way that it is done,” said Mauney-Brodek.

More information about the exhibition, including organized tours, can be found on the Emerald Necklace Conservancy website.

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