manmade recycled rainbow by michael jones mckean manmade recycled rainbow by michael jones mckean
may 14, 2012

manmade recycled rainbow by michael jones mckean

‘the rainbow: certain principles of light and shapes between forms’ by michael jones mckean, 2012 picturing a successful test run of the man-made rainbow over the bemis center image by chris machian all images courtesy the artist and the bemis center

michael jones mckean: the rainbow: principles of light and shapes between forms bemis center for contemporary arts, omaha, nebraska, USA june 21st, 2012 until september 15th, 2012

micronesia-born and USA-based artist michael jones mckean‘s ‘the rainbow: certain principles of light and shapes between forms‘ is an investigation into the phenomenal vision of prismatic rainbow across the sky. the virginia commonwealth university professor has created a man-made rainbow formed from repurposed rainwater and a small solar-power system developed over the span of ten years of collaborative research.

‘the rainbow’ will be on display twice a day for fifteen minutes at the bemis center for contemporary arts in omaha, nebraska, USA from june until september of 2012.

‘the rainbow’ spans from one side of the street to the other, ending by the bemis center image by hesse mcgraw  

‘whether a majestic arch in the sky that appears after a short spring shower or a small, homespun rainbow created with a garden hose on a sunny day, a rainbow operates as an egalitarian visual experience. it is by nature temporary, undetermined, and wonderful. the rainbow exists somewhere between real and representation, actual and artifice. mckean is deeply interested in the rainbow as a complex form — ephemeral and steeped in mythology — that possesses an out-of-time existence as pure optical phenomena. the image of a rainbow extends through time, surpassing our known and archived histories, and operates as a constant unchanged form. although the symbol of a rainbow has been co-opted, politicized, branded and commodified, an actual prismatic rainbow still has an ability to jolt us from the everyday. it feels hopeful, yearning, optimistic, ghost-like and meaningful. whether perceived immediately as an artwork or not, the experience holds the power to connect diverse publics through an intangible, shared encounter‘. -the bemis center

passersby appreciated the trial run for this hovering installation image by chris machian

because the piece is contingent upon rainfall, bemis chief curator hesse mcgraw told hyperallergic that, ‘essentially it’s designed so that we can sustain normal operations with no rain for three to four weeks. so with average to slightly-below-average rainfall in omaha, the project is completely sustainable over 15 weeks‘.

image by larry gawel via

experimentation for the creation of this public artwork began in 2002 as mckean first thorugh of ‘the rainbow’. after partnering with nebraska water differentiationand water management company lindsay corporation‘s mechanical engineers and scientists, the artist found that the large-scale work would be best powered by an entirely integrated system. this method is comprised of solar panels, a commercial irrigation system and a rainwater collection system conceived of by mckeanand the company’s rainwater and harvesting experts. approximately 63,000 gallons of water are filtered down to six holding bins with a volume of 10,500 gallons on the ground floor from roof-top gutters. mckean’s bemis center commissioned installation is visible from a distance of 1,000 feet as nine fountain nozzles spray a light mist of rainwater into the air powered by 60HP pressurized jet pumps.

picturing the rainwater collection system in its rooftop collection and installation process

a drawing indicating technical specifications for the work

a conceptual sketch of the piece

  • Awesome doesnt even begin to describe this art installation….

    Dr. Heywood Floyd, Esquire says:

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