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Sculpt by numbers

Counting on the Weather
By IAN SANDS  |  March 4, 2009

NATHALIE MIEBACH creates objects from thin air . . . and humid air and fog.
Nathalie Miebach's Brookline apartment looks like the home of a very talented madman. Her bizarre, meticulous basket sculptures are in nearly every room of the house — in the hallway, the bedroom, her study, and even in her husband's study. The shapes these sculptures take are the stuff of strange dreams. The one beside Miebach's bed could be a cocoon from which an oozing wretch of a creature will emerge. The one in her husband's study resembles a misshapen tuba.

If you look closely at these pieces, a second life presents itself. The countless wooden dowels, buttons, balls, and tiny flags that adorn the baskets represent everything from barometric pressure, to cloud cover, to bird sightings. Miebach's sculptures, you see, are effectively extraordinarily complex 3-D maps of specific regions' weather systems.

The sources of the meteorologic patterns that inspire Miebach's works range from Boston and Cape Cod to Antarctica. One, titled Barometric Pressure: Herring Cove, Cape Cod (2008), explores the connections between cloud cover, soil temperature, bird sightings, and air pressure. According to Miebach's Web site (, another, Antarctic Explorer (2007), looks at that continent's journey "from total darkness in June to 24-hour sunlight in October." For a piece like Antarctic Explorer, Miebach researches her weather data online. If the locale is closer to home, she often takes readings herself.

Recently, the weather sculptures have begun to open unfamiliar doors. Miebach, who has no formal training in the sciences, is currently teaching a class based on her work at Amherst College. The Museum of Science also has enlisted her to appear as part of its "When Science Meets Art" speaker series, on March 11, during which she will showcase some of her sculptures and discuss her spin-off project: working with local musicians to translate weather data into musical scores.

"I think it's great," says Miebach of the widespread appeal of her idea, "because the whole point is to push a conversation across disciplines for me, but it's not something I intended. It's just a wonderful accident."

Nathalie Miebach's "Weaving Science into Sculpture" lecture takes place on March 11, at 7 pm, at the Museum of Science, One Science Park, Boston.

Related: Burning issues, Wet, hot American summer, Local color, More more >
  Topics: Museum And Gallery , Amherst College, Cape Cod, Cultural Institutions and Parks,  More more >
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