Metamorphosis

Commission Winner

Location: Baltimore Harbor East Metro Station, Baltimore, MD

Description: Metamorphosis features a suspended, undulating cloud of lenticular-like glass tiles. Each presents a dynamically changing image of a fluttering Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly, applied to a two-sided glass surface using a lenticular technique with digital ceramic ink. As commuters move around the sculpture, up and down the escalators, the custom slides create the movement of a large group of migrating butterflies. 

The Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly is a rich symbol of Baltimore as a city of transformation, connecting past, present, and future. The work evokes the rebirth of the Harbor East neighborhood, transforming from its industrial past to become a vibrant, contemporary urban epicenter. Since 1973, the Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly has been an official symbol of the State of Maryland.

Metamorphosis shifts the way people interact both with each other and the community as a whole, by engaging visitors as active participants in the work itself. The migration of butterflies represents the idea of a natural rhythm evoking the pulse of the city as commuters use the Red Line for their daily travel. Every day, as visitors come and go through the Red Line, they witness a continual migration of the Checkerspot Butterfly, connected to the rhythm of their own daily lives. 

The artwork also gestures towards our interconnectedness with the natural world. The beloved Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly is now in danger of extinction in Maryland. While this species was once common in the region, it has experienced significant declines in recent years. Similarly, Baltimore’s public life and common spaces requires care and responsibility to remain vibrant for future generations. 

The effect of a fluttering Checkerspot Butterfly is created using a digital ceramic ink printing process where each tile image is comprised of three images of a butterfly in motion that are interlaced digitally into thin strips - the outer glass tiles have etched lines the help create the illusion. As people move by the tiles, the ethched lines obscure parts of the image, so that the brain sees for a fleeting instance only one, then the second, and then the third and then the first one again. What the brain perceives is interpreted as motion. The ceramic ink used provides forever-lasting, vivid colors that are fused into the glass for outstanding durability even in extreme conditions. Ceramic inks offer unmatched resistance to scratching, UV light, and harsh weather. This approach provides an interactive, dynamically changing artwork that requires no maintenance, technology, and power requirements.

 

Architect: METALAB