Created and Sold by Janet Echelman

Janet Echelman

Impatient Optimist

Item details

Asked to express the spirit of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s work and mission in a sculpture, and to create a heart for their new global campus in downtown Seattle, we created “Impatient Optimist.”

The voluminous form is composed of ultra-lightweight fibers that create an ephemeral presence in the Seattle sky. The artwork is Echelman’s most delicately complex sculptural form yet, suspended between two buildings on the campus.

During the day, the sculpture’s hues interplay with the changing colors of sky. At night, it becomes an illuminated beacon as colored lighting sequences are projected in real time as the sun rises in each of the foundation’s global offices. This connects the work happening in the campus to the tangible services being delivered to people around the world.

The sculptural form is derived from visualizing the “shape of a day.” Echelman considered what it means to be able to experience life in its fullest color – looking skyward for optimism. She took photos of the Seattle sky every five minutes for a full day. Her studio analyzed the color data and graphed the results radially to generate the basis for the form.

The sculpture net is a physical manifestation of connectedness. The number of knots alludes to the notion that the work of a single person can affect a million lives. When a single element of the sculpture moves, every other element is affected.

Impatient Optimist is visible to the public at all times from the campus overlook, as well as from several vantage points nearby.

Materials: Spliced and braided PTFE, UHMWPE, and polyester fibers with colored LED lighting
Dimensions of net: 120 ft. length x 80 ft. width x 40 ft. depth
Installation Dimensions: 300 ft. length x 175 ft. width x 55 ft. height

Context & Credits

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Janet Echelman

Meet the Creator

Janet Echelman is an artist who defies categorization. She creates experiential sculpture at the scale of buildings that transform with wind and light. The art shifts from being an object you look at, to a living environment you can get lost in. Using unlikely materials from fishnet to atomized water particles, Echelman combines ancient craft with cutting-edge technology to create artworks that have become focal points for urban life on four continents.

Recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship, the Harvard University Loeb Fellowship, a Fulbright Lectureship, and the Aspen Institute Crown Fellowship, her TED talk “Taking Imagination Seriously” has been translated into 34 languages with more than one million views. Ranked number one on Oprah Magazine’s List of 50 Things that Make You Say Wow!, she was named an Architectural Digest Innovator for “changing the very essence of urban spaces.” She recently received the Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award in Visual Arts, honoring “the greatest innovators in America today.” “