There’s a long running joke going around about earning a “wasted” college degree in basket weaving… often including some other equally “useless” factor. “Underwater” basket weaving often tops the list. It’s a good thing for us that Nathalie Miebach didn’t listen to these silly presumptions and combined a dual curriculum of Astronomy (learnt at Harvard University) and basket weaving (studied with a local artisan). The result was the highly complex sculptures we have here, literally weaving together astronomical, weather and climate change data into her work. She tells Discover Magazine:
“Basket-weaving is my main sculptural medium through which I translate the data into sculpture because it provides me with a simple yet effective 3D grid through which to translate data. The sculpture becomes collaboration between the material, the numbers, and myself. The material I use to translate is reed, which has an inherent tension that does not allow me to completely control it. If I push it too hard, it will simply break. My lack of control ensures that the numbers have as much of a say in creating the form as I do. It is the changing nature of the numbers over time as well as the inherent tension of the reed that create the shape of the sculpture. Only in certain instances do I step in and exert pressure when I sense the piece falling physically apart. I never know what the shape will be beforehand, which often leaves me scratching my head—some shapes are easier to work with than others.”
Thus, like the changing of the weather, Miebach’s work takes on a level of complexity beyond our cognitive abilities – often appearing abstract without the understanding of where their shape originated from. Because of her work’s frequent basis on weather – often locally collected using her own private weather station at Herring Cove Beach in Cape Cod – the sculptures are intrinsically location based and carry the signature of that one local.
Abstract as they may appear, the sculptures include variables like temperature and wind strength translated into colors, shapes and points. In the example above – its data collected over a number of days – vertical spokes bisecting the piece correspond to the hour of the day, while green round reeds are associated with twilight hours data and yellow flat reeds are from sun data. The red and orange sticks are high and low tide readings, and the blue balls are the number of whales sighted at a particular day and hour. Miebach doesn’t easily reveal these details however, often leaves her works up to individual exploration and interpretation.
Be sure to see her Ted talk from 2011 below: