Elevate 2014: Romy Maloon's 'Calibrate' gives Downtown the floral treatment


  • Romy Maloon
  • FLOWER GIRL: Romy Maloon's "Calibrate" will cover the front facade of a vacant building in the Fairlie-Poplar district.

An ode to old televisions before the era of HD and thin LCD panels, artist Romy Maloon’s installation for Elevate 2014 is modeled after the color block calibration that would show up after the channels went off the air. Nostalgia aside, Maloon’s large-scale installation "Calibrate" reflects on Elevate’s "Social City" theme and its goal of re-imagining downtown Atlanta. Made with synthetic flowers placed on large panels, Maloon, a 2014-15 Walthall Artist Fellow, crowdsourced her labor through the local art community, hosting large knitting sessions around town. Her often-dramatic work has been seen previously at the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, and Art Basel in Miami. Maloon spoke to Creative Loafing about working with others, knitting parties, and helping revitalize downtown Atlanta.

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How did "Calibrate" come about?
Essentially, I'm going to wrap a building on Forsyth and Walton streets with synthetic flower panels. The panels are designed in the pattern of the old television calibration patterns. Those images that used to pop up on the old television screens to recalibrate the color so everyone was working on the same color field. Part of Elevate's theme this year is "Social City" so in order to make the work in a timely manner and engage that idea, I've been hosting "knitting circles." They are really work sessions where I've been inviting people from the community to come and help me and have a part in being involved. Eventually they get to see it up on the wall, hopefully having some ownership over doing that.

Is this the community in the area or your own community?
One of the challenges for myself when I started the project was thinking about how the notion of community is so huge and it means so many things to so many people. Was I thinking just about my personal community? I'm pretty involved in the arts community. Is it my family community? What does that entail? In order to have a wider reach, I reached out to a lot of arts organizations in order to host these work sessions at different spaces. One of the challenges is, how do I essentially have a party and get all of these people to show up?

What places did you host the work sessions at?
I've done them at the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, Dashboard Co-op's 621 Spring St. space, Mammal Gallery, Ponce City Market in collaboration with the Creatives Project and also, at the Atlanta Arts Festival with the Creatives Project as well.

What materials are you using for the project?
I've been using synthetic flowers and factory-made flowers. I've been fortunate that a lot of them were purchased on Craigslist or even donated to me. I had an open call to whoever wants to bring me flowers. If they have a random fake flower tree in their house, they can bring them to me if they want to sacrifice it for the greater good of art. I've also been purchasing them. The process, for myself and other people to do, is essentially taking the flowers apart and separating them by colors. We have a bag of all red, a bag of all blue, a bag of all yellow. Sometimes, that's a range. Some of the blues are purple; some of the yellows are orange. I've enjoyed crowdsourcing the labor because people have different ways of doing and classifying things and that was very interesting for me to see. I've also relinquished some of my personal control over the project, which I think was really helpful for myself and makes the project more interesting. Seeing how other people make patterns and choose to adhere the flowers. Once they take the flowers apart and separate the greenery, they string them into an electrical wire plastic string and zip tie the strings onto the panels, made out of landscaping material. It can actually withstand the weather elements and it has a nice, thin weave so you can zip tie right through it.

How big is the size of the building you are hanging the installation from?
The flowers and the materials can really withstand the elements. I did some tests when I left some flowers out for weeks on the side of my studio building. Sometimes, the color would dull, depending on the flower. Part of what I'm really interested in seeing is how it will change once it is on the building, when it's up there for two weeks. Will colors run together? Will certain flowers fade out? Will certain things warp? But in terms of the size, each panel is about 4-feet wide and I'm going to have eight panels. It will be about half the size of the building.

"Calibrate" implies to adjust something. How do you hope Elevate will change the perspective on this particular area of the city?
"Calibrate" came mainly from the TV calibration screen and the design for the color field. When I started thinking about that and why I'm so attracted to this, I thought why doesn't make sense to put this on the side of a building? I really started thinking; Elevate's whole goal is to recalibrate the area utilizing contemporary public art so it seems like a very good marriage. The building where the installation will hang from is vacant, so we are able to cover the windows. Hopefully, we'll get people looking up and seeing the possibilities. The whole area is a really beautiful historic area, with lots of interesting buildings. It's a very pedestrian-friendly area and close to the MARTA station. There's so much opportunity to make it a vibrant area like it once was.

Elevate. Fri., Oct. 17 to Thurs., Oct. 23. Free. Various locations. www.elevateatlantaart.com.

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