Alumna Leslie Tharp’s three-part sculpture, Lift, was recently installed in Scottsdale, Arizona, as part of the Belle Art Exhibition, coordinated by the Scottsdale Public Art Program. A large-scale metal hot air balloon installation, Lift occupies a 20 foot by 20 foot space. Made in Tharp’s Gainesville shop, the sculpture represents hope and opportunity. The symbol of a hot air balloon has been an important icon of inspiration in Tharp’s work for many years, and Lift is her first opportunity to create and exhibit a hot air balloon inspired by a piece of art.
The installation is located in a covered outdoor location called the Bell Tower. Made from suspended metal hoops, the balloon shapes are between five and ten feet tall and are suspended over woven steel basket forms that coordinate with the size of the balloon above. The baskets were woven with non-traditional blacksmithing techniques, capped on top to create sitting surfaces below each balloon. These sitting surfaces allow visitors to appear as if they are taking a hot air balloon ride.