Giant whirlwinds, spiral galaxies and oceanic currents are just a few forces at work in Ned Kahn‘s art. This Sebastopol artist applies his background in science to the engineering of wondrous sculptures and public installations that transform natural phenomena into dynamic visual experiences, unveiling the mystery of the physical world surrounding us. Spark tracks Kahn in his studio and machine shop as he churns out the final details of his monumental project “Wind Portal.”
Internationally renowned for his installations, Kahn’s creative impetus began in the Bay Area. Soon after graduating from the University of Connecticut, he became an apprentice to the late Frank Oppenheimer, legendary founder of the San Francisco Exploratorium. Kahn continued working at the Exploratorium as an exhibit designer for 10 years, where numerous works of his are still on display. Other art installations by Kahn can be found around the Bay Area, including 14 exhibits at the Chabot Space and Science and “Wind Portal” at the San Francisco International Airport BART station.
Providing many with their first exposure to environmental art, “Wind Portal” encircles the top of the main escalators at the new BART station. A 55 foot-long shimmering lattice supporting 200,000 one-inch, stainless steel discs detect and reflect every subtle shift in the wind currents passing through the station. As pedestrians enter and exit the station, they can see invisible rhythms in the wind’s behavior.
Lauding the complex beauty of fire, water, fog and wind, Kahn’s art retains a fluid momentum that conveys perpetual play of order and chaos. Although his artworks allude to numerical science, Kahn’s ultimate fascination lies in the visual wonders of natural phenomena. In Kahn’s own words, “I am less interested in creating an alternative reality than I am in capturing, through my art, the mysteriousness of the world around us.”