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Industrial design a first for Deborah Margo

Art: Deborah Margo

University of Ottawa part-time professor Deborah Margo of the visual arts department, is going to have to balance her teaching duties with designing an art piece to decorate the new OC Transpo building on Belfast Road, after being chosen by the City of Ottawa.

The City made an open call for local artists to submit ideas for a public art project for the building last April. Five months later her design, Inflorescence, was chosen as the winning proposal.

Margo began the project by visiting the building to get an idea of what it looked like, and what kind of piece she would be able to do. The big windows and scale of the building drew her in, and she was inspired to design a proposal for the project.
Margo’s piece will be made out of thin pieces of copper that will be bent and formed to resemble clusters from spider plants, known as inflorescences. The multicoloured clusters will hang in different places from the ceiling.

Margo says that her inspiration came from focusing on the environment of the call centre and trying to figure out what would contrast but also compliment the busy workplace.

“The office building where they are going to be is going to have a lot of technology in it because it’s a call centre, so I wanted to make something that was very much showing how it was handmade, something that showed the hand versus technology, something that would glow and had multiple parts that were interconnected,” said Margo.

She also used the large windows to her advantage by ensuring that the material she chose would cause a reflection of the natural light throughout the workplace.

Margo also says there are certain differences between doing public art pieces and personal art exhibitions or shows.
“First of all when you’re making a public art piece, it’s permanent…so the idea is that it has to stick around for at least 50 years, so that’s already very different. And because it’s in a public space, other people are going to have to live with the thing for a long time.”

Another big difference when doing public art pieces, Margo points out, is the collaboration with other people, specifically those who are not necessarily artists themselves.

“The engineers, usually they kind of go ‘What? What is it you want to do? This is art?’ but they’re kind of interested too because it’s usually a little outside of what they’re usually doing,” She said. “You want to put together a team of people who, it might be outside of their comfort zone, but are interested and excited about the work.”

Margo says that she also enjoys the collaboration because she gets to learn more about skills that she doesn’t have herself. Finding balance through contrast is clearly a common theme for her, both in her art and how she creates it.
Margo’s piece is expected to be finished in Fall 2015.