The 2012 Woodmere Straw Bale Installation – “Diagon Alley” aka “HayMaker”
The Woodmere Art Museum’s Autumn Bale Installation, aka. The Hay Maze is celebrating its third year and is quickly becoming a local tradition. For three consecutive years, the museum places about 20-40 tons of local farm products, hay and straw bales, on their front lawn to assist in local harvest celebrations. In years past, the “Witch’s Boot” and ‘Owlseye” (Owl's eye) utilized traditional sized bales as maze building material. However, last year's installation was greeted by The 2011 Atlantic Hurricane Season. Hurricanes Irene and Katia added thirteen inches of rain within its first week of completion.
The rain coupled with a grade slope varying from 1:15 to 1:24 made a ruin of the installation before opening to the public in mid September 2011. Surprisingly, the weather did not deter attendance, and Owleye, while a shadow of her intended form, successfully entertained patrons and guests.
Woodmere asked me to do second installation for 2012. Eager to apply what we learned in 2011, I accepted. The criteria that informed the 2012 installation was as follows:
· More mass- while the space between objects was important, the stability of the actual object/wall was equally as important. Visitors enjoyed climbing on objects as much as moving between objects.
· Locate installation on the least sloping areas of the site. Located in Chestnut Hill, the property has significant slope, thus limiting suitable areas in which to stack bales.
· Evoke an urban setting. During the last week in October, Chestnut Hill celebrates the Harry Potter series of fiction and film with a Harry Potter Festival. The Museum desired to coincide the installation with the festival, thus naming it “Diagon Alley”.
· Create a holding pen for a six-foot diameter centerpiece ball, the symbolic resident of the installation.
Eighty enormous 850 lb. straw bales are incorporated into concentric squares, nesting one inside the other. Using bales twenty times the size of the 2011 maze offered new design opportunities as well as stability and durability. At the perimeter, bales are stacked to create post and lintel portals for access to magic markets. Beyond the portals is another square called the “commitment wall” – a diaphanous honeycomb wall of straw bales intended to challenge the visitor. At the center of the maze resides a mystical red sphere. The installation is not a maze in the traditional sense. Although some spaces are maze like, the installation is more a play apparatus that remains open ended to various imaginations and opportunities. The alternate title makes reference to the shared geometry of the pugilist “ring” - the square circle.