The clattering of metallic grass and the clanking of giant wooden wind chimes mingled with the thumping of a plastic waterfall and the pounding of triangular drums inside Science Museum Oklahoma.
“It's gonna be loud in here,” said Scott Henderson, director of the museum's Satellite Galleries, smiling as he watched artists and their helpers installing pieces for a new exhibition.
When art and science, along with sight and sound, collide, it's bound to make some noise, after all. That's just what he had in mind with “Soundscapes,” a new exhibit of sculptures based on the distinct relationship between the visual and aural realms of art and science.
An opening reception for “Soundscapes” is set for 7 to 11 p.m. Saturday. The event is free and open to the public.
On view through Aug. 2, the exhibit features the work of 11 established Oklahoma artists. Most of them are accustomed to working in the visual domain, but Henderson challenged them to each produce a sound sculpture for the show.
“A sound sculpture is either sculpture that produces sound or sound that creates mass ... or a visual. A couple of these kind of do both,” he said. “Everything that's been done in this show is almost a test, because this is stepping outside everyone's element.”
Standing under the 45 enormous wooden wind chimes she crafted for her suspended sculpture “Free Fall,” Beatriz Mayorca smiled as she sent them gently bonking together with the brush of her hand.
“It was very challenging, because sometime the sound that you have in the head, that is not the real sound that you have,” the Oklahoma City artist said. “But I love a challenge.”
For her two “Soundscapes” sculptures, Mayorca found inspiration in the landscapes of her native Venezuela.
Along with her wind chimes, she created “Angel Falls,” a sculpture of plastic tubing mounted on a blue painted backdrop. The piece depicts a cross section of the world's tallest uninterrupted waterfall. When the plastic knots are knocked against the wooden backing, the sound is almost drumlike.
“I love to work with industrial materials like wood, concrete, metal,” Mayorca said. “With wood, it brings memories from my country. ... It's more warm and earthy.”
Edmond native Christie Hackler also was inspired by her homeland as she created her piece, a cluster of steel sculptures fashioned after Oklahoma's Black Kettle National Grassland.
Since the exhibit is showing indoors instead of in the Oklahoma wind, her rust-color sheet metal pieces, collectively titled “A Snake in the Grass Is Better Than Two in the Bush,” shake and rattle when someone depresses foot pedals.
She said metal can be cold and harsh, so she used natural elements and soft curves.
Christie Owen said her husband, Mark Owen, a drummer, inspired her to make her “Soundscapes” sculpture titled “Tympanum,” which is Latin for “drums.” Her husband and fellow drummer Lance Pelligrini, both formerly of the band Gravity Propulsion System, will play her drums, which are triangular, at Saturday's opening.
“It's an exploration of percussion as sculpture,” Owen said, taking up sticks and demonstrating. “Most drums are round, so it was an experiment to see what happens to the sound when it's not in a round chamber. ... Basically, it still resonates in the chamber, it's just that it doesn't resonate evenly. It bounces off the angles.”
There also will be a performance aspect to “Contextual Relations,” a work that visual artists Jerrod Smith and Phillip Danner are creating with musicians Christopher Clark and Dustin Ragland.
The audio visualizers that generate colorful imagery based on music. The artists plan to set up a microphone where museum visitors can sing, clap or talk to make the projection change.
“The ultimate goal is to just create a feeling, so you walk up, and it's ‘Wow this is beautiful,' or you know, is whatever. ‘This is ambient,' ‘This is annoying,' ‘This is vibrant,'” Smith said. “It's kind of appealing just to try these things.”
“Soundscapes” also will feature a community art piece in the form of a junky old piano Henderson found online. Periodically during the hands-on exhibit's run, including at Saturday's reception, visitors will be invited to use power tools, paints and their hands to transform the piano into artwork.
“People will be able to come in and paint on it, draw on it, build on it, carve on it and just kind of make it into its own sculptural piece,” Henderson said. “It's going to transform through the show through audience interaction.”