Past Projects: Mirare

In 2012, the design students worked with SandCart Studios on a sculpture project designed for the McCarran Airport in Las Vegas. The sculpture features two DC-3 airplanes composed of over 2,400 hanging butterflies. The butterflies of the first plane are printed replicas of butterflies native to the Las Vegas area. The wings of the butterflies on the second plane feature the tail logos of airlines that fly into McCarran.

The students worked with artist and engineer Stu Schechter to create the sculpture’s butterflies. The process was comprised of three main stages.

The first stage was research. The students first held a meeting with Mr. Schechter to work out the schedule and job specifications. The research for the first plane involved finding high-resolution images of 24 butterflies native to Nevada, with a goal of having the widest range of colors and shapes possible. A group of students also found all airlines that fly into McCarran and located images of their plane tails. The research findings were sent to Mr. Schechter for approval after completion of stage one.

The second stage was the digital creation of the butterflies. This involved bringing the images into Adobe Photoshop for silhouetting, creative editing, and image manipulation. After the butterflies were put through many revisions, the team held another meeting with Mr. Schechter to review their designs and make any adjustments.

The third stage was the printing process. After much research, the students found a print shop they wanted to work with and held a meeting with Mr. Schechter and the printer. After formatting and correcting the files according to the printer’s specifications, the students sent out the butterflies to be printed and cut.

The final butterflies now hang in the McCarran Airport, resulting in a beautiful sculpture of two DC-3 planes. The students were so grateful for the opportunity to work with a professional design studio and alongside Mr. Schechter. The final display looks beautiful!

Artist Statement:

Nevada has a unique topography defined by faulted mountain chains and flat valleys. Clarence Dutton (geologist for the U.S. Geological Survey) described the terrain as “an army of caterpillars marching toward Mexico”. From the spectral colors found in this Nevada landscape these ‘caterpillars’ must have produced the incredible diversity of Lepidoptera found in the region.

Nevada is a crossroads for traveling about the southwest. The interstates that cut through the deserts today are the same routes Native Americans used for seasonal migrations and trading. Wagons, trains, then the automobile followed in the early days of the modern settler. McCarran Airport is another focal point of migration. In a matter of hours you can enter or leave Nevada from anywhere in the world.

Mirare – to look at thoughtfully; to wonder at.

In Mirare we see two airplanes. The lead plane is ghost like – a rabble of butterflies native to Nevada. They swirl, hover and dive as if they are starlings getting ready for winter. The following plane is solid – a rabble of butterflies displaying tail colors from visiting aircraft at McCarran International Airport. Mirare speaks to the natural instinct for migration. Here we juxtapose the fantastic migration of butterflies with the human urge to travel. The artwork is fabricated from almost 3,000 small butterfly sculptures suspended by almost 2,400 fine stainless steel wires.

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Installation slideshow:

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