Friday, February 15, 2013

Jimmy Kuehnle Lights Up Cleveland

Photo by Rob Muller 
If you've seen a floating ball of light on your commute home lately, your mind is not playing tricks on you.

It's local artist Jimmy Kuehnle and his latest creation: approximately 3,000 Christmas lights woven around a steel rod attached to a tricycle. If you have yet to witness the kooky contraption — rest assured — Kuehnle will light up the Brite Winter Festival in Ohio City from 5-8 p.m. this Saturday.

Kuehnle, an assistant professor at the Cleveland Institute of Art, designs colorful inflatable suits and impossible bicycles — wearable art that tests our perceptions of space and mobility — and is currently an artist-in-residence for the Spaces World Artists Program, which provides space and support for artists to create new work. We caught up with Kuehnle to chat about how his Twinkling Tricycle Tour of Enchantment is making Cleveland brighter this winter.

How does your light machine work?
It’s a workman’s industrial tricycle I bought from Craigslist from an old Ford factory in Indianapolis. [The Christmas lights] are powered by a 12-volt battery with a DC/AC power inverter because they’re just regular household Christmas lights. A quarter-inch steel rod armature supports the lights and forms a cloudlike shape so that the lights seem like they’re floating in the air.

Where did you get your inspiration for this project?
I’ve made many art bicycles and wanted to make one in Cleveland. It’s up north and cold in the winter, and I thought, What better way to be out and about and making people smile than a light-encrusted tricycle?

How have people reacted to you and your light machine?
People will stop in their cars along the street to snap photos. I've had people stop on their way home from work, circle back, come over and say 'Hi.' Complete strangers track me down to email me photos and videos [of me] from the Health Line. It's a great, all-around good experience.

What meaning would you attribute to your art?
It’s a reaffirmation of human ingenuity and the human condition. We're all basically meaningless in this big, fast universe of nothingness. If we take the time to realize we all have hopes, dreams and desires, and we're alive, maybe we could enjoy a bit of it.

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