At the beginning of this month, bikers and trail-goers may have noticed a web-like installation lining the walls of the top of the tunnel near the Metcalf Theater. Passersby quickly become entangled in the mysterious piece.
The artist behind the vibrant green web is second year graduate art and design major Ben Bradshaw. Bradshaw said that the knotless netting technique used in the tunnel piece’s design is reminiscent of his childhood camping trips.
“One of the things that one of our family friends showed me how to do is how to cut down a branch and wrap it in a circle and make a dream catcher,” Bradshaw said. “This process of netting emerged from that child-like creation method.”
Bradshaw said that this fascination resurfaced as he got older and began to experiment with netting more small projects.
“I was actually wrapping boards and then spray painting them to use as a masking element,” Bradshaw said.
Before this tunnel piece, Bradshaw said he made another web in the woods near Prairie Hall. The tunnel piece is something that Bradshaw said he was looking to do for some time.
“The title of the piece is ‘Liminal Lime’ and the term ‘liminal’ is suggestive of this transitory space — the idea of a tunnel being like a wormhole that takes you from one place to another,” Bradshaw said.
With this recent piece being so large, Bradshaw said that it took a lot of time and resources to make it.
“It took me 56 hours of active weaving and spooling of my netting needle, and I used 2.72 miles of yarn, which is 19 spools,” Bradshaw said.
Laura Strand, a professor of art and design and area head of the Textiles Program said that she’s known Bradshaw for two years and that his work is particularly interesting.
“It’s a technique that he has in his own repertoire, and he has expanded it and looked for ways that it can take over spaces,” Strand said.
Strand said Bradshaw would occasionally ask her for her opinion on some of his projects, but has developed his own unique vision.
“He asks questions about how I might think it would look better or what I think might work well in the way that it looks, but he has developed a body of expertise in that particular style that doesn’t require any questions from me,” Strand said.
Art and Design Professor Ivy Cooper is a member of Bradshaw’s graduate committee. Cooper said that for the Masters of Fine Arts program, he has to show her and the other members his work.
“His committee had a meeting with him and he had to present all of his work in the program up to that point and so he presented drawings and fabric works and prints and videos of his piece out in the woods,” Cooper said.
Cooper said that this recent piece in the tunnel is really something to be proud of.
“This piece in the tunnel is my favorite work that he’s done,” Cooper said. “I think that it is doing unexpected things. It’s doing things even he didn’t expect.”
Bradshaw said one of his favorite parts of this piece was the interactions he had with people.
“I’ve really enjoyed the conversations that happened with the passersby. There’s so much traffic on that trail from students of the campus and locals that I had some really great interactions with people that I would never have talked to otherwise,” Bradshaw said.
Strand said that she believes one of Bradshaw’s motivations is to see how a space is transformed and see how this affects these conversations and interactions.
“Right now what he’s speaking about is the relationship of the world at large, the Earth itself and the places that are occupied by people — to be overwhelmed by the process of making the thing that will make people really re-associate themselves to the space,” Strand said.
Visit Bradshaw’s Instagram page @spacetime.mtn to learn more about his work.