Song of the Skinks

Jacob Parra improvising. Jacob and Tim Pickering performed on Song of the Skinks at the dedication ceremony.

musical improvisation by Tim Pickering and Jacob Parra
event video by Ellen Cottrill for Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville
cover image by Will Dickey for Florida Times-Union

Description

stainless steel and thermoplastic coating
completed 2020
10'H x 24'W x 4'D

Song of the Skinks is a sculpture installation that functions as a musical instrument. It’s adjacent to a playground in a public park in Jacksonville, Florida.

The project started with a community engagement process to find out what needs could be met with this public art project. I met with park users and various organizations that serve the diverse community. Inclusiveness, accessibility, and reaching out to kids were themes that came up over and over in our discussions, and set the groundwork for my design.

The site is in a neighborhood of immigrants and refugees from all over the world, many with limited English proficiency. The community center in the park often hosts sporting events for wheelchair users and visually impaired people. I settled on music as a universal language that can bring all of these constituencies together.

The sculptures are plosive aerophones – musical instruments that are played by striking the open ends of tubes. Pitch is determined by tube length. The artwork offers 16 different notes, tuned to concert pitch: a full octave with all 12 half-steps, plus a few outliers. Each tube is labeled with the note it makes.

The sculptures represent blue-tailed skinks in fanciful and mixed-up poses. I was inspired by the quick little lizards which seem to occupy every outdoor surface (and some indoor surfaces) in Jacksonville.

Meeting musical, structural, and regulatory requirements meant the complex shapes of the bent tubes needed to be very accurate. The tubes were bent by Nissin Precision Machines in Japan, using their incredible free-form tube bender (check out the link below for video of the machine in action). Many thanks to the team at Nissin for their time, expertise, and attention to detail!

For

Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville

Type

public art, outdoor, musical, interactive