High above the heads of visitors to the McAlexander Fieldhouse, a perpetual bike race is taking place. Eighty bikes are poised mid-flight, an imaginary Tour de France that will never have a winner.
Called “Peleton” which refers to the main group of riders in a bike race, the art installation was created by Seattle-based artist Beliz Brother, and was installed over Spring Break. It is comprised of bikes that were destined for the junkyard, but which Brother rescued for a new life.
When Brother was commissioned to do a piece for the Fieldhouse as part of the Oregon Arts Commission Percent for Art program, she researched Corvallis and the university, and decided that bikes were an appropriate medium for the installation.
“Relating to the local cultures of Corvallis (one of the top cities nationwide for bicycles), the OSU campus, and to the activities of the McAlexander Fieldhouse,” Brother said, “the artwork abstracts the movement of a peloton or group of bicycle riders participating in a race.”
She knew that sustainability was an important emphasis at OSU, and made sure her project reflected that. She started collecting junked bikes last summer, stripping them down, and donating useable parts like brakes and chains, to a local bike co-op, recycling the other pieces she didn’t need. What remained were frames and wheels, which she took apart, cleaned and painted.
She then reassembled the bikes in a pattern that resembled a bike race, suspending the bikes at an angle, and playing with the geometric patterns they created. Each bike shares a back and front wheel, so the entire piece is connected together, rather than a collection of individual pieces. They’ll sway together in a minor earthquake, she said, something that has to be considered when working in the Pacific Northwest.
She and her team assembled the piece – which stretches 120 feet – in her studio, carefully plotting the position of each bike. Then they transported the pieces to Corvallis, and following Brother’s diagrams, recreated the race from the rafters of McAlexander.
“Each bicycle is positioned to create a sense of movement and visual complexity as the artwork progresses through the building,” she said.
Brother’s work appears in a number of public buildings around the nation, and internationally as well. Among her many accolades is a National Endowment for the Arts Visual Arts Grant, an Americans for the Arts Public Art Network award, and a Lila Wallace & Arts International Artist Fellowship.
~ Theresa Hogue