Public Art Field Guide: Flame

The art you Metro right under every day.

Ballston isn't exactly known as an artistic epicenter, but then again neither is Rosslyn, and it boasts more public art statues and murals than many other burroughs of the Metro region. But for this entry of the Public Art Field Guide, the lens shifts to the other end of the Wilson Boulevard corridor.

What Ballston might lack in the quantity of public art, it makes up for with quality. "Flame," a towering glass prism of a statue is impressive in size and scope. The beacon of holographic glass rises a whopping 42 feet, serving as a lighthouse for lost pedestrians.

The geometric amalgamation of glass stands just outside the Ballston Metro station at 950 Glebe Rd. Its size and location make it hard to miss. And when the sun is angled just right, its visibility becomes even more apparant, as the resulting sparkle streaks out across the streetscape--rays of light interacting with the different colored panels of glass.

"Flame" is the work of experienced artist and sculptor Ray King. King is admittedly obsessed with the interplay of light, glass and shadow. King pines the natural world for geometric inspiration, and uses math to formulate interesting new designs. The result is something simultaneously complex and simple, modern and prehistoric.

What isn't always so obvious in his statues, is King's interest in the different ways ancient cultures (think Aztecs) used light and glass in their rituals and monuments (did the Aztecs have glass?). Surely this inspiration is lost on most commuters exiting the Ballston Metro stop each morning.

"I've never noticed that," says Rosslyn resident Kevin Picken, "whenever I'm in Ballston, it's usually to go to bars, so maybe that's the reason." There is a lot to be distracted by in Ballston, but artist Ray King hopes that sometimes that might be a glimmer of light extending from his "Flame."

Groups like the Ballston-Viginia Square Partnership also hope public art like "Flame" becomes more visible to the surrounding public. One of their many tasks is working to pressure impending development projects and their overseers to provide public art in compliance with the Public Art Master Plan. They also evaluate public amenity proposals, and critique public art submissions.

With construction now happening at a rapid pace across Arlington, one can only hope that means a great proliferation of public art installments. But for now, there are still plenty to stop and muse at; and if you're in Ballston per chance, try "Flame" for starters. Until next time...


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