“Flying Fish” land at Price Sculpture Forest

— Created June 15, 2021 by Kathy Reed

By Kathy Reed

Price Sculpture Forest in Coupeville has landed a big, big fish. Rather, the sculpture forest is now home to its first sculpture by an international artist – a massive school of “Flying Fish,” created by Amsterdam artist Daniella Rubinovitz.

Now, as people explore the paths at the forest – which is home to dozens of sculptures from artists on the island, around the region, across the country and now on the other side of the world – they can’t help but notice the newest addition, which is suspended in the trees, its shiny metal surface catching light and shadow, making the “Flying Fish” appear to fly through the old growth forest.   

“It is pretty exciting,” said Scott Price, founder of the sculpture forest. “She is a terrific artist and our first international artist in the sculpture forest (though Jeff Kahn has exhibited and sold commissions internationally). Daniella Rubinovitz (daniellarubinovitz.com) lives in Amsterdam and specializes in large scale public space sculptures. She has created a 27-foot wide metal sculpture…suspended entirely up in the air between large trees.” 

To discover Rubinovitz’s inspiration for the sculpture, Whidbey Weekly had scheduled to “meet” the artist virtually, however, technical difficulties forced us to do an email “interview.” She said she “doesn’t know life without art,” having grown up in a creative household.

“Growing up my mother was a fashion designer, and my father enjoyed painting and high supporter of the arts,” Rubinovitz shared. “We often went to museums and art was present in our household. After high school I went to fine art school; here I took on every medium I could get my hands on. I took on stone carving, clay, painting, drawing, printmaking, jewelry, welding, film, photography. I just did it all and loved to combine the disciplines.”

Her professional journey has been a fascinating path – first moving in the direction of industrial design, then moving into art therapy. Now she has come full circle and has merged her two passions, creating art for public spaces where people can connect and discover.

“I love interactive art,” she said. “Art that gets people to connect, touch, be it indoors or outdoors. Having art outdoors is exciting, it is accessible for the public to interact. It is available for all walks of life. I love the feeling of nature that is awakened outdoors.” 

Connection has been hard to come by for everyone over the past 16 months. But technology has made the world smaller in many ways and connections have happened – such as the connection Scott Price was able to make with Rubinovitz over Instagram. One thing, as they say, led to another. In this case, it led to a 27-foot-long metal sculpture of a school of fish, created in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, fabricated in Washington state and installed in Coupeville.

“Scott Price and I connected on Instagram,” Rubinovitz said. “I received a note…[inviting] me to participate. I was intrigued. As we communicated through email, we saw that we had some commonalities, Tufts, Burning Man, nature and art.

“I was inspired by the coniferous trees. Their vertical dimensions inspire a mystery in me,” she shared. “Though I had other art in my portfolio that might have suited, I was inspired to create something specific that would be suspended between trees. Suspending a sculpture between these trees totally excited me! Something that plays in this magical space.

“‘Flying Fish’ came to life. It represented an abstract school of fish that would be suspended. As I worked on this project, I understood more about why it was so dear to my heart,” Rubinovitz explained. “The metaphor became visible and it has been an inspirational project for me to work on. Needless to say, that this was created under lockdown conditions of COVID. The remote working seemed quite normal.”

Rubinovitz created a full-size drawing of “Flying Fish” at her studio, where it still hangs.

“To create this drawing I was able to walk over it and literally shape the forms with my hands and feet,” she described. “I also used a long stick and had charcoal on the other end. I danced into the forms as the motions created shapes. In the forms themselves there is also a glimpse of the past, present and future. The forms intuitively took on indigenous shapes as I was sketching them out. There is a connection between these times. There is a connection between generations. Together they form one large, fish-like form, made up of many fish and the negative space. They play optical illusions.

“Having this full size sketch made all the difference. I would have lost contact and it would have simply been too abstract had it gone directly into the computer. I could see exactly what it would look like suspended between the trees. I saw the scale,” she continued. “In this sense I kept confidence and control over the piece. I also kept the connection with the actual piece now in the forest. This feels like a portal in a way, knowing the seed of inspiration is right here and connected with the hanging fruit, so to say.”

When her charcoal sketch was completed, Rubinovitz said she stood on a ladder and took pictures in sections, which she then pieced together on the computer. The most difficult part of the process, she said, was trying to communicate with a nine-hour time difference as the pieces were being fabricated in the U.S. Eventually, the six panels were shipped to Coupeville on a flatbed truck.

Installation of this piece was anything but normal. Due to COVID travel restrictions, Rubinovitz was not able to be there when the sculpture was installed just before Memorial Day.

“During installation, Daniella was able to check in with us while we video called on our phones from nine time zones away,” Price described. “My father, Ken Price, and park neighbor/friend, Bob Davenport, co-led the entire process with me. On the main construction day, we had eight more people also onsite to help move, lift, and position ‘Flying Fish’ into place. There was a combination of extensive advance planning plus real time development of solutions until we got everything right.”

Rubinovitz said she was glad to rely on Price’s team to oversee the important details of assembly and installation.

“It would have been desirable to be there in person to actually help install it, though the volunteers were experts at climbing those incredible trees,” she said. “I’m quite pleased with the results, I am so much looking forward to seeing pictures of it as visitors take selfies and such with it. I hope that they use the #flyingfish and #daniellarubinovitz hashtags so I can track these pictures down!”

It is also exciting, Rubinovitz said, to be the first international artist to have a sculpture on display and the fact it was all done during a pandemic just means anything is possible.

“Art speaks this nonverbal, international language,” she said. “It crosses borders and speaks directly. This whole project felt right from the first moment. Scott’s positivity was encouraging. I feel that over the last two years specifically, we are able to do much more remotely. Globally, this pandemic has also empowered and moved the technology to allow this. This is exciting in what possibilities open up around it.”

She hopes “Flying Fish” will inspire and speak volumes to those who see it in its new forest home.

“I want people to feel invited to imagine and experience what it’s like to walk through this underwater world without additional breathing devices,” she said “I hope people will experience this specific moment of time as the school of fish swim/fly by. I hope they get the sense they are here at the right place, at the right time. They catch the fish swim by. There is no coincidence. 

“I hope they get a sense of evolution, a moment where fins transform to wings and see that the forest changes from underwater to above water,” Rubinovitz continued. “This on its own plays with the metaphors of conscious and subconscious worlds. It’s a moment to reflect on what is real. ” 

Price Sculpture Forest is open daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. or until dark, whichever comes first. It is located at 678 Parker Road, in Coupeville. There is no charge to enter, but donations are gladly accepted. Find more information at sculptureforest.org. To learn more about Rubinovitz and her art, visit daniellarubinovitz.com.