INDIANAPOLIS, IN - Winding trails cut through the green grass of the Fountain Square neighborhood in Indianapolis, boarded by the banks of the Pleasant Run River, across the iron and wood bridge at Barth Avenue, Ka-Bike-O-Scope, an art installation, waits for a person to pedal or crank it into motion.
Powered by the hands and feet of the rider, brightly colored pieces of acrylic cast a kaleidoscope of color on the ground surrounding the bike. Suddenly the rider becomes an artist through of power of his or her own body.
Ka-Bike-O-Scope is one of the many the pieces created by the team of Quincy Owens and Luke Crawley that have found homes all over Indiana and various cities in US. Among the subjects they like to explore in their work are climate change and other environmental issues.
“We always feel that art with a strong conceptual basis is more powerful and can have more of a purpose beyond just the visual if there’s something more behind it,” Crawley said.
Owens said viewer’s reactions can change when they read the artist’s statement posted next to their work.
“It’s an interesting way to kind of trick people into the education process because otherwise, if it’s a piece about fossil fuels and how we’re destroying our environment with some big picket signs about how fossil fuels are bad, people will stop a mile away if they don’t agree,” he said. “So it’s nice to do a piece where people can walk up to it without that billboard message. Our attitude is if you can get them into the room, then you can have that conversation.”
Owens and Crawley met while both teaching at Herron high school in Indianapolis, where Owens was teaching sculptor and Crawley physics. They collaborated on one project that lead to a successful partnership that combines art and science.
“ I think his strengths raise up my artistic side and my science raises up his scientific side and it ends up bringing out the best in both of us.”
Both artists enjoy pushing themselves with materials and media. Often they add sound to their pieces, which recently have consisted of large sculptures of bright acrylic cut into various geometric shapes lite internally. They believe sound and motion make the pieces fully dimensional as well as visually dynamic.
For both artists making public art is important because it creates fewer barriers between the viewer and the piece, allowing for equal opportunity viewing. Rather than paying a museum fee or feeling pressured to buy at a gallery, the viewer can just enjoy the piece in the space it was made for.
“I personally would like to see public art incorporated in any public space,” Crawley said. “I believe any building or park or any spot that’s got some sort of green space can always be improved with public art, but that’s heavily biased.”
One of the pieces that reference climate change is 2058: First September Without Ice. Owens read an article that estimates 2058 would be the first winter in the western hemisphere when there wouldn’t be any ice. He and Crawley decided to make iceberg- like, forms enclosed in with acrylic panels, but left the skeletal frame visible at the top to represent where icebergs might be without human interaction.
“There’s no arguing that climate change is happening.” Crawley said. “The argument, I think, is whether or not we are accelerating it or contributing to its increasing rapidly. So that was kind of our take on it: Without us, maybe these icebergs would be bigger and 2058, maybe that date gets pushed off further.”
By addressing climate change in their work, the artists feel they can bring awareness to a topic that might otherwise be ignored.
“This is the scientist in me speaking,” Crawley said. “There are too many people in important places that are ignoring some very real and serious issues affecting our environment, especially when it comes to climate change. I mean, just ignoring the science is dangerous. The facts are out there and there’s a grim outlook. I think it’s important to do what we can while we can.”
The artists understand their work could upset people but also hope to allow room for discussion.
“Unfortunately there are going to be some people who see some environmental based art and it’s going to entrench them even more kind of in the opposite direction from where we’d like them to go,” Crawley said. “I can’t really do anything about that except try to put my best foot forward.”
Owens added, “If you create work that screams at them in a way that would never entice them to come near you or your message or your work, then it’s a lost conversation. We always want to be creating opportunities for conversation and not pushing those opportunities away.”
However, they also hope their art could inspire or cause the viewer to speak out about environmental concerns.
“That would be kind of the ultimate goal,” Crawley said. “It might also be somewhat naive to think that’s gonna happen, but if just one person stops and decides to read the concept statement or the artist statement behind some of the work and it affects them more positively toward that end, then that’ll be a win for us.”