Metro, Arts

‘Little Cloud’ Installation Brings Airy Optimism to The Street

It’s not every day that you come face to face with a cloud. But now, if you’re wandering down The Street in Chestnut Hill, perhaps on your way to Shake Shack or Star Market, you’ll come face to face with a giant one, staring you right in the face with a giant smile.      

This is Little Cloud, The Street’s newest public art installation, and a joint venture with Art Production Fund, a non-profit organization dedicated to commissioning and producing ambitious public art projects. A 10-foot tall sculpture, Little Cloud takes the shape of a picture-perfect cloud, with a little tuft of cloud resting atop its main body. But the installation isn’t fluffy or wispy like the clouds floating above us. The sculpture is made of pure white fiberglass, so that it’ll stay intact until its duration on the The Street concludes in December. On its front side is a face, a little curving smile framed by two large black dots for eyes, and two blush-pink dots just below on its “cheeks.”

The Little Cloud rests atop a white platform, smiling at passersby and exuding the seemingly simple, but often difficult to capture, feeling of pure happiness. The cloud’s effect is a mixture of ethereal and playful, a shockingly complex mix of emotions that is elicited from such a straightforward creation. But this effect, evoking powerful and positive emotions through a universal symbol, is exactly what FriendsWithYou, the artistic duo behind Little Cloud, intended.

Formed in 2002 by artists Samuel Borkson and Arturo Sandoval III, FriendsWithYou is an art collaborative focused on creating feelings of “magic, luck, and friendship” through its works. In the past, these works have criss-crossed the globe and included everything from more physical works such as glowing Supermoon in South Korea or a Light Cave in Michigan, to Light Spirit, a virtual reality experience. Now working together for almost 16 years, Borkson and Sandoval explained to The Heights in an email that they have created a body of work that they hope combats the “isolating social arrangement of modern culture” with pieces that show “a space or an object that is meant to be shared.” Regardless of the specific piece, the themes that the artists work to express concern their search for “communion” and their strain against “isolation.”

“We live in an age of a perpetual precarious condition,” Borkson and Sandoval said in an email, “whether it be economically or ideologically, that is very hard to assimilate, and we are seeing the struggles first hand.”

In this case, their response to the struggle question is a cloud, a universal beacon of lightness and optimism. It’s an example of how the duo prefers taking universal ideas that are sometimes difficult to express, and transforming them into “very much accessible language.” For Borkson and Sandoval, the symbol of the cloud has a become that kind of language, a “recurring icon” that carries a specific and profound message that one might not first expect.

“[The cloud is] a symbol of uplift and simplicity; animism brought to the breath and atmosphere to the lightness of a burdened reality that we can all aspire to,” Borkson and Sandoval said.     

Even though the image of the cloud was already a motif of FriendsWithYou’s work, it took Borkson and Sandoval a few months to develop the best way to fit their concept into the Chestnut Hill community. And for a duo used to dealing with “complex, interactive performative work,” creating Little Cloud didn’t pose too much of a challenge.

Borkson and Sandoval do, however, have specific hopes for the impression that Little Cloud might make on the people who visit The Street, explaining that they hope visitors “take a second to stare into this icon and share the serenity that it projects.”     

Perhaps them, after absorbing a sense of calm from Little Cloud, viewers will send it back into the world around them.

Featured Image by Madeleine D’Angelo /  Heights Editor

September 16, 2017