The newest addition to Goldwell Open Air Museum at Rhyolite is a steel sculpture called “Portone,” by accomplished artist Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya.
The artist is described as “an award-winning neuroscientist-turned-artist, TED mainstage speaker, professor, and STEM advocate.” She has been featured or recognized by such organizations and publications as the Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, NBC, the New York Times, and many others. Just last year she had a solo exhibition, “Connective Tissue,” at the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art at UNLV.
The list of exhibitions and projects Phingbodhipakkiya has produced is impressive—too long to include here. In many of them she champions women and science (often women in science) and seeks to foster exploration and creativity. She has even created a fashion line and community, “ATOMIC by Design,” based on the 118 atomic elements, for “girls and women who aren’t afraid to wear their smarts on their sleeves.”
Her new piece at Goldwell consists of nine 10×10-foot steel frames in a sort of Jacob’s ladder arrangement, painted pale blue on the outside and yellow on the inside. It sits on the southwest corner of the museum grounds.
Of this sculpture, Phingbodhipakkiya says, “‘Portone,’ meaning ‘doorway’ in Italian, is a meditation on restoration and transformation, and the hidden power that lies within us all. It is modeled after a beta sheet, a critical substructure that makes up the protein catalase. Catalase is a life-protecting enzyme found in nearly all living organisms from bacteria to plants to human beings. It converts caustic hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen, substances that are not only benign but also crucial for survival.”
“We live in chaotic times, and ‘Portone’ offers us a moment of refuge and renewal. Like Dante passing through the nine circles of heaven, visitors may pass through its nine frames with an eye toward the horizon. This piece invites visitors to transform the noise and pain inside us into life-affirming strength, which we can then channel toward a more nurturing and unified world.”
The sculpture was erected on the site by a crew of Goldwell directors and friends, headed up by director Joel Spencer, whose welding and painting skills and equipment were crucial. It was completed just this month. Spencer, who took the lead in choosing the location for the sculpture, said that he liked the idea of enlarging the footprint of the museum’s exhibits.
More about Phingbodhipakkiya can be found on her website, alonglastname.com, and a search of her last name on YouTube will bring up fourteen videos featuring her.
Richard Stephens, a freelance reporter living in Beatty, is president of the board of directors of Goldwell Open Air Museum.