“What artist, so noble … as he who with far-reaching conception of beauty and designing power, sketches the outlines, writes the colors, and directs the shadows of a picture so great that Nature shall be employed upon it for generations…”
– Fredrick Law Olmsted, 1852
“I’m driven by the feeling of being absorbed in nature.”
–Fujiko Nakaya, 2017
Both Fujiko Nakaya and Frederick Law Olmsted are innovative artists who combine scientific observation and creative imagination to craft immersive artworks. Instead of seeing boundaries between different realms of knowledge, they integrate insights from a range of sources and disciplines.
(L): Courtesy of the National Park Service, Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site; (R): Courtesy Jen Mergel
In 1883, Olmsted moved to Fairsted with his wife Mary and their children. Courtesy: National Park Service, Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site.
Born in 1822 in Hartford, Connecticut, Olmsted grew up exploring the nearby countryside and gained a love for rural scenery. Before coming to Boston, his life took many twists and turns. He sailed to China on a merchant ship, managed farms, oversaw a California gold mine, and was an accomplished and prolific writer who published popular essays about his travels in England and the Southern United States. During the Civil War, he headed the U.S. Sanitary Commission, predecessor to the American Red Cross, and campaigned to protect Niagara Falls and preserve what is now Yosemite National Park. Through these experiences, Olmsted gained a deep appreciation for nature’s ability to heal and bring people together. He integrated his social, aesthetic and engineering concerns into a new profession he called “landscape architecture.” In the Emerald Necklace, these beliefs found full expression.
Nakaya’s father, Ukichiro Nakaya (1900-1962), was a pioneering scientist who studied the process of crystallization and created the first artificial snowflakes in a laboratory. Born in Sapporo, Japan, in 1933, Fujiko Nakaya moved with her family after WWII to Chicago. After high school there, she studied art at Northwestern University, then painting at the Sorbonne in Paris. By the 1960s, she was painting clouds but eager to create art: not as fixed compositions but as fluid, evolving forms that would naturally compose and decompose in real time—like clouds. She returned to Japan and since 1969 has pioneered a unique form of dynamic, engaging, site-responsive art aptly described as “fog sculpture.” Through her collaborations with the American group Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.)—in particular with artists Robert Rauschenberg, engineer Billy Kluver, and cloud physicist Thomas Mee—she honed designs of her fog art nozzle systems by 1969—and patented the system for fog art in 1989.
Nakaya’s fog sculptures have been shown over 80 times around the world in a range of environments, from Australian deserts and Japanese gardens, to meadows in France and the San Francisco Bay, from the National Mall in Washington, D.C. to a parking garage in Austria, and at the exteriors of museums including the Guggenheim Bilbao, the Toyota Municipal Museum, the Tate Modern in London and the Centre Pompidou in Paris. This exhibition of five simultaneous installations across 5 miles of parks in Boston is her most extensive and expansive exhibition in her 50 year career.