Shell Game

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When folks at the S.C. Aquarium last year hatched a plan to pair up artists, business sponsors, and 40 life-sized fiberglass models of loggerhead turtles for Piccolo Spoleto this year, they had in mind similar creature-themed public art installations around the world that fired their community’s imaginations — the “Cows on Parade” brand is probably the most celebrated. That installation, which which first trod city streets in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1998, made its way, famously, to Chicago in 1999 and has now wandered as far as Buenos Aires, Argentina, and São Paulo, Brazil.

Like Chicago’s bovines, the plastic turtles were awarded to area artists and designers, based on the top 40 proposed submissions, for them to do with what they will. The two-score results will appear through the city and the surrounding islands on May 25, coinciding with the opening of Piccolo and Spoleto.

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Last Friday night, following a viewing of shadow puppet artist Geoff Cormier’s premiere of his original work Mr. Evening at Read Brothers Stero on King Street, I had the good sense to follow the herd around the block to new wine shop/watering hole The Trusted Palate, which shares space in the back with glass artist Justin Walling’s studio. Walling happens to be one of the 40 turtle artists, and his work in progress was holding down a table in the back. When my own pitiful pix of it turned out too dark, Justin helpfully supplied some of his own I cleverly snapped a few quick shots of the sleeping beast and smuggled them out of the store to share with you, loyal Spoleto Buzz blog readers.

Afterward, Justin explained to me what the finished product — destined for the front beach at IOP, courtesy of mayor Mike Sottile — will look like: “The space between the mirrored glass tiles will be grouted with dark green grout. The underbelly will be a creamy white. The eyes are cast glass lenses with mirror finish. The turtle will be on a stand and be ‘floating’ a few feet off of the ground.”

When I find the other 39, you’ll be the first to know.

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