Winged Life


Eternity by William Blake.

He who binds to himself a joy

Does the winged life destroy

He who kisses the joy as it flies

Lives in eternity’s sunrise.

Winged Life is a human-sized sculpture of a monarch butterfly in a resting position with its wings pulled back. This is not a flying a butterfly, but rather one that warms itself in the morning sun before taking off to its next destination, getting ready to take flight after feeding, nurturing, and resting. Winged Life symbolizes a moment in life when you need to let go of what was, spread your wings and take off to a new adventure.

The inspiration for the sculpture came to Katy in 2017 while helping to install Ethyl, Joel Dean & Yustina Slanikov's life-sized sculpture of an endangered blue whale made almost entirely of recycled plastic to underscore the scale of the plastic problem. The largest animal to have ever lived, a blue whale weighing 300,000 pounds, this same weight of plastic 300,000 lbs enters the world’s oceans every nine minutes. Working on this project changed me and my relationship to single use plastics and sustainability.  The chance to actually experience the scale of the largest animal to have lived was very moving, a visual representation of a small fraction of the plastic in the ocean, both things that are hidden beneath the water and beyond my ability to truly comprehend as theoretical information. 

While working on Ethyl Katy was struck with the image of a Monarch Butterfly, something that has held a very special place in my heart ever since she was a little girl.  Her father took me on a father-daughter weekend trip to see their migration. It was a magical experience. she had never seen so many butterflies before. They were so bunched together they looked like leaves on a tree, but they were butterflies.  Thousands and thousands of orange butterflies. It was one of those childhood moments of pure joy and overwhelming connection to something much larger than yourself.

The whale made the ocean plastic pollution problem into something tangible, you could see and feel. By making a monarch human size, Katy intends to make the plight of the pollinators tangible in a new way. The opportunity to feel touch and experience the anatomy and the experience of a butterfly on a personal scale, something so small and fast moving it is rarely experienced beyond a beautiful passing visual. She wants to use the sculpture to educate and inspire. Safeguarding pollinators is one of the easiest, most accessible ways to make a difference on our environment. The monarch butterfly is one of the best-known butterflies in North America. It has recently suffered serious population declines, and we are at serious risk of losing this creature forever.

In addition to her regular crew of builders and doers, Katy has teamed up with engineer and mechanical kinetics expert Matt Davis to create the complex movements of a butterfly’s wings. Matt is responsible for the design of projects of unimaginable scale, such as the 1,250 square ft expanding screen for U2’s 360° world tour and the 72 ft retractable arch for the 2002 Winter Olympic Medal Ceremonies. What an honor to have such a big talent help bring this small project to fruition. 

Coming Burning Man 2020