Blue skies covered Pittsburgh this morning, yet in a small park on the North Side, Ned Kahn summoned the clouds.
The artist conducted his first testing today of the partially completed "Cloud Arbor," a sculpture commissioned by the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh to form the centerpiece of Buhl Community Park at Allegheny Square.
When completed, the sculpture will consist of 64 steel poles, each reaching 32 feet into the sky and containing nozzles that spray a fine mist of water into the air. As he stood near his creation, Mr. Kahn was engulfed by a white fog.
On that rarest of Pittsburgh days -- warm and cloudless -- Mr Kahn's sculpture begs the question: does the often overcast city of Pittsburgh need a cloud factory?
Mr. Kahn, who lives an hour north of San Francisco, said he received a similar reaction when he created a fog sculpture for the typically foggy California city. Yet he has long been intrigued by the idea of using fog as a sculptural material. His art, he believes, makes people see fog and clouds in a novel way.
"If you step back and look at it, it's incredibly beautiful and interesting," he said. "I feel the same way about clouds, and I just want to call people's attention to it."
The Children's Museum called on Mr. Kahn eight years ago to create the facade for its building. They turned to him again when they wanted to create a focal piece for the park, said Chris Siefert, deputy director of the Children's Museum.
The sculpture, which was about halfway done today and will be completed for the park opening June 23, is unique enough to draw people to Pittsburgh, he said.
And where some may see a surplus of clouds, he sees the poetry of fog, the way it expresses the movement of the wind.
"It demonstrates the swirling emotion of things we cannot see. It makes them visible," he said.
The sculpture is next to Children's Museum, and children will be able to play within the fog and the sculpture, but Mr. Siefert said the museum has not created merely a playground. Instead, it will be a place for the community to gather and enjoy the green space and the artwork.
As he stood within the swirling cloud created by the sculpture, Mr. Siefert saw nothing but blue skies ahead.
"Its drama is really exceeding my expectations," he said.neigh_city - artarchitecture
This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To subscribe, go to http://old.post-gazette.com/trypress/ Kaitlynn Riely: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1707. First Published May 18, 2012 3:45 PM