Arts & Culture

Get your camera ready: Union Station’s new exhibit will soar overhead like silver birds

A rendering of how Patrick Shearn and his Poetic Kinetics team will present “Reflecting Motion” at Union Station.
A rendering of how Patrick Shearn and his Poetic Kinetics team will present “Reflecting Motion” at Union Station. Union Station

The creative genius behind the giant puppets at the 2008 Beijing Olympics will bring his latest large-scale art installation to Kansas City next month.

Union Station announced Tuesday that Patrick Shearn and his Poetic Kinetics team will present “Reflecting Motion,” a silver-form work that will appear to float in midair, starting May 12 at the Haverty Family Yards.

“The venue is terrific,” Shearn said of the Haverty Family Yards, a 1-acre festival space that is part of recent expansion on the west side of Union Station. “I’m really looking forward to working there.”

Shearn, who was at Union Station several months ago scouting the venue, calls his floating artworks “Skynets.”

“Reflecting Motion” will be designed to evoke the synchronized movements of birds, schools of fish or insects. The artwork will cover some 40,000 square feet and will rise and fall with the wind from 18 feet to 72 feet. It will require more than 75,000 streamers of metalized holographic PET film on a monofilament net, as well as about 13,400 linear feet of rope.

“What’s exciting to me about this installation is the ability for people to get underneath it, to really be a part of it,” Shearn said. “It’s not above buildings or over a body of water. It’s one of our few installations that people can get close to and be intimate with.”

“Skynets,” each of which is uniquely designed for its venue, have been featured around the globe, including Berlin, Lisbon and Los Angeles, where the group is headquartered.

Shearn’s “Liquid Shard” was displayed in Los Angeles’ Pershing Square Park in the summer of 2016. His “Reflection Rising,” with a Chinese dragon in a rainbow of hues, soared over the Scottsdale, Ariz., waterfront canal in November 2017.

Much of the Union Station project will be preassembled, Shearn said, and the on-site setup will take about a week. He will be on hand for the entire setup and for the opening.

Haverty Family Yards “provides the perfect place to present the brilliant visual spectacle of Patrick Shearn’s creation,” George Gaustello, president and CEO of Union Station, said.

The artwork’s ultra-lightweight materials enable the wind patterns of the venue to create an ever-changing viewing experience.

“This is an art experience that is just fantastic,” said Tony Jones, president of the Kansas City Art Institute. “It flies, it transforms itself, and constantly changes — like clouds and vast wheeling flocks of birds, it’s pure visual delight and surprise, a wonderful mixture of art, technology and science — with a lot of magic mixed in.”

Having worked 30 years in the film industry, Shearn has experience in animatronics, robotics and visual effects. His Poetic Kinetics studio wowed the stadium crowd and a worldwide TV audience with its creations at the Beijing Olympics and is well known for its artworks at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Burning Man and other festivals.

On the evening of May 11, Union Station will hold a kickoff event with local performance art collective Quixotic performing beneath “Reflecting Motion.” The installation will stay through Sept. 2.

Last month, Union Station also announced it would be the first venue in North and South Americas to host the “Stonehenge: Ancient Mysteries and Modern Discoveries” exhibit, starting May 25.

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