American, b. 1948
High-back Windharp Chairs, 1987
Painted steel and piano wire
Gift of BE&K Engineering and Construction, Birmingham, Alabama
Doug Hollis’ High-back Windharp Chairs was the first work secured for The Carell Trail. At first glance, the two parts of the sculpture appear to be tall, oversized metal chairs painted in the same brick orange color of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, where the artist has lived since the mid-1970s. Arranged by the artist to face each other and create something like an outdoor room, the chairs are the product of his self-described “furniture phase” in the 1980s. With their vivid color and elevated seats, raised, as Hollis stated, “just a little too high, so when you’re sitting on them, your legs are kind of dangling a bit,” the two chairs have a playful, humorous quality. Upon closer examination and listening, Hollis’ sculpture reveals itself as a musical instrument. With their high-backs constructed from taut piano wire, the work also functions as an aeolian, or wind, harp, generating sound with the breeze.
Hollis developed an interest in sound and outdoor sculpture in 1976, while working as an artist-in-residence at the Exploratorium, a museum in San Francisco, founded by noted physicist Frank Oppenheimer. Hollis has since created numerous large-scale public commissions with aural components, often created by integrating wind and moving water elements. He is perhaps best known for Seattle’s A Sound Garden, a multipart sculpture comprised of twelve twenty-one-foot-high steel towers, each with an organ-pipe suspended from a weathervane at its pinnacle. The project was commissioned by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s Seattle campus, and the rock band Soundgarden cites it as the inspiration for their name.