Fiona Lam ’20
Situated in Central Park in the heart of New York, its elegant waves of eye-catching fabric patterns with origins tracing back to Indonesian, African, and Dutch history grab the attention of many walking the bustling streets of the big city. It stands 7 meters tall and at its center, a strong metal structure gives it stability. Though its complexity opens it to symbolize a range of different themes and meanings, the “Wind Sculpture” crafted by artist Yinka Shonibare was built to represent migration – the relationship between person and place interwoven with global movement. Shonibare drew inspiration from his own nationality, being British Nigerian, as well as the change he has seen in America, to create his marvelous artwork.
The significance of movement being illustrated in the “Wind Sculpture” is also to spread a sense of togetherness in our modern society, where it may be difficult for people to recognize and share with others the diversity of America and what it really stands for. Shonibare addresses how the meaning behind his creation ties in with his response to President Trump’s views on immigration. Shonibare says, “There are many inequalities among people: racism, nationalism, sexism, homophobia. All these things don’t really go away. As artists, what we try to do is create a platform engaging people on these social and cultural concerns.” A message being conveyed here is one about unity and awareness. Even when our society can be filled with harsh judgment and unjust, through simply sharing and embracing art for what it is, attention can be both driven towards the issue at hand or the art could act as a distraction and symbol of hope for the future. The artist wanted for the structure to emphasize the beauty in the move to America and the various cultural upbringings that migrants carry along with them here. The free-flowing shape of the structure is meant to portray the idea that, no matter the means of transportation taken during migration, wind always plays a role in the journey.
Pops of orange, teal, gold, and brown are dispersed throughout the sculpture and repeated designs emit a ripple effect. This effect helps accentuate the “piece of cloth getting blown away with the wind” image. There’s irony in how a huge, solid sculpture decorated with such bold colors can depict something so delicate and carefree. In an interview given last month, Shonibare added, “It’s a non-sculpture in a way, an attempt to sculpt emptiness, to sculpt wind, to sculpt something that’s not there. And it’s solid, though it’s made to look soft.’’ Furthermore, the artist says that this particular wind sculpture, one of many he has sculpted, is the first to introduce a new series he is starting in addition to his previous collection, whose sculptures are featured among several public platforms from the National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C. to the Ndubuisi Kanu Park in Lagos. In making his work public, Shonibare demonstrates his plan to be able to see many future monuments being exposed to the general public to appreciate, and not being taken down merely because “you can erase history by the fact you are taking down certain monuments.”