Original 2021 installation of Fairy Ring
On February 17th artist Meredith Connelly’s permanent installation of ‘Fairy Ring’ will be lit for the first time in Charlotte’s South End. The family-friendly event is a must for art lovers and budding artists alike.
The event which is hosted by EDENS will feature kids’ activities, music, food, and drinks in the communal green space at 2000-2140 South Boulevard. The official lighting will take place at 6:30 pm, and it will truly be an event to remember.
In this interview, Meredith shares about how she redesigned the original installation which is the artist’s first permanent installation, her process, and a reveal of the location for her next installation coming this April.
‘Fairy Ring’ will be debuting as a permanent public sculpture at Atherton Mill in Charlotte’s South End on February 17th. Tell me about how you redesigned the installation.
The first iteration of the ring was designed to be temporary and to intentionally leave minimal impact on the grounds. This new design is different in that way, as there is quite a bit of up-fitting is necessary to plan for long-term exposure to the elements, potential public impact, and to make sure that the sculptures are secure. Based on a longer design timeline, a budget to accommodate upgrades, and the identified fabrication process, the scaling of the ring made aesthetic sense. I moved to a strong cast fiberglass material, a longer-term wiring solution, and bolting all the forms to a hidden cement base. There are also four differentiating mushroom sizes in the new design versus three from the temporary version, and the mushroom stems are longer, the caps are wider, and if you look underneath you will see detailed gills incorporated into the caps.
What did you enjoy most about redesigning the original Fairy Ring and expanding the installation?
Fairy Ring is my first permanent installation, with more permanent works coming to the Charlotte Art League this March, Mint Hill in 2023, and beyond. Even writing that sentence excites me and brings me to a place of reflection. I have been working towards crossing the bridge from temporary to permanent work my entire career, while simultaneously staying grounded in my practice, choice of materials, and use of light in my work. I have had so much joy, creative challenge, learning, and professional growth through this process and do not take this opportunity for granted. Far beyond the very vulnerable impact, it had on me personally, what excites me the most is that Fairy Ring is art for all and offers an accessible are experience for our community, while also changing the cultural footprint of our city. It has been wonderful working with Edens, the developer of Atherton Mill, as their foundational principles as a company deeply align with this initiative and who I am as an artist.
The work consists of 100+ cast fiberglass mushrooms, are there particular mushrooms that the fiberglass mushrooms are modeled after?
There will be 112 cast mushrooms installed, and this particular design was more fluid than being based on one specimen. For this work, the cap shapes, gills, and stems were all creative decisions inspired by a variety of fungal forms. This was a result of making sure the art elements work in unison with one another, the need for the caps to be a specific scale, and to incorporate organic details like the curving stems or gills on the underside of the mushrooms. That being said, I do have other designs that are very specific to particular scientific specimens, such as Snails coming to Romare Beadren Park in April as part of CLT Shout organized by Charlotte Center City Partners.
While the original temporary exhibition included 80 mushrooms, the permanent exhibition consists of over 100 fiberglass mushrooms. How long does it take to create each fiberglass mushroom?
This is a hard question to answer as there are so many steps in this process that occurred over the past 10 months! The first step is modeling the forms digitally, which is why I worked with Making Things Charlotte to support this critical part of the process. Each mushroom had to have a cap and stem designed separately, and there was considerable tweaking in order to achieve the overall vision. From there the designs were sent to be 3D printed, and two master molds were made from each of the 3D printed versions of the mushrooms. After molds are made, the casting process begins. Casting in fiberglass is something that I had to outsource, as I do not have the machining and tools to do this in-house, so there is a lot of communication and creative decision-making that takes place with the fabrication team during this phase of the process. The time it takes to cast each object is dependent upon the details, thickness of the fiberglass, and drying time of each cast. From there they have to be buffed/polished, and pre-drilled for bolting. While the casting was occurring, there was also the need to design the lighting inserts, with a focus on ease of access for bulb change access, along with testing to address finalizing bulb location for the desired light diffusion.
On February 17th from 5:30-8:30p there will be a family-friendly event where the Fairy Ring will be officially lit. What is the best part about seeing people experience your work for themselves?
Someone asked me some time ago if I could fully enjoy looking at my own works of art. That was a difficult question that required some introspection on my part because I initially look at every work of art I create from an analytical/critique-based perspective. Part of my reasoning for doing this is to block outside voices and focus on creating work that is true to my expression and vision and ensure that I am growing my skills. However, it can also lead to putting myself in a “perfectionistic art silo” and being overly critical. Watching people of all ages and cultural backgrounds engage with the art in any capacity or sharing a viewing experience with others gets me out of my own head. It connects me to the greater purpose of why I create, my small role in our world, and the power that art has on human existence. That will always be the best part for me; the reminder of the connective power in art and my role in creating a space where that can occur.