Completion nearing for "Under Her Wing" art project

A welder works on the art project "Under Her Wing was the Universe" in downtown Enid Wednesday, July 10, 2019. (Billy Hefton / Enid News & Eagle)

ENID, Okla. — It's as much a construction job as it is an art project, Enid artist Romy Owens said of her creation, "Under Her Wing was the Universe," and as such, a timeline leading to completion has been hard to adhere to.

Still, she said she feels it won't be much longer. With the steel towers up, the hardest part of piecing together the downtown art installation is over, she said.

"Realistically, we're well over halfway done," she said. "There's quite a few things that still need to happen, but they will happen much faster."

Recently, the towers got a new blue paint job, and "detail welding" was the latest work to wrap up. With the latter taken care of, the next step is to string cable across the towers, which will take form outlined by their steel supports, further achieving the look of a metallic wing.

However, she said, "it could take anywhere from two weeks to a month to get that cable up."

After that, lighting will be added to the wing, the bulbs acting as stand-ins for the stars.

Members of the CDSA Youthbuild program will lay out a concrete path snaking through the wing, giving visitors a guided path below its synthetic sky.

"If everything went perfectly, it would be two months (until completion)," she said. Currently, over 100-degree temperatures have been slowing things down, it's unsafe to perform long shifts in the heat. In weeks and months prior, it was too wet to move as quickly as she would have liked.

"I'm not comfortable even trying to put a date on it because I don't know," she said, adding there's too many possibilities that could spring up.

The final steps for "Under Her Wing" include landscaping and signage, she said, and landscaping likely won't start until closer to fall, when whatever grass, trees, flowers they choose to plant will better flourish.

"We should see some big change in completion this year, because once we get the concrete path and the electrician back in there, then everything else is rapid fire."

The wing and its stars is the reason for the sculpture's name, "Under Her Wing was the Universe."

Analysis can end there if the viewer chooses, Owens said, as the structure should be visually engaging enough at the surface level to be enjoyed, but there's more to see than shaped metal, and more behind the name than what it readily spells out.

"You can just appreciate the form, but if you want, scratch a little deeper," she said.

The piece "recognizes the past and celebrates the future," the relationship between one generation and another.

At some point, Owens said, "somebody took you under their wing and said, 'This is how the world works.'"

It could have been a parent, a sibling, a friend, anyone, she said.

"It's one of the few things we all have in common. Let's celebrate that."

While most of the community has been supportive of the project, plenty have voiced criticism, she said, mostly online but occasionally in person. Regarding the unenthused demographic, she hopes some opinions will change when the sculpture is finished.

"Enid has a good public art collection already ... it's focus has just been more traditional in nature," Owens said.

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Willetts is education and city reporter for the Enid News & Eagle.
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