Beihai, a large trade-based port on China’s southwest coast near the Vietnamese border, is reported to be one of the fastest-growing ecotourism cities on the planet. It is steeped in maritime silk road legacies; saturated with ancient gardens, islands, white sand beaches, and pagodas; and punctuated with artistic marvels like its famed Beihai Music Fountain and an undulating urban architectural feat entitled Fake Hills.
This past November, Lyons’ Riverhouse Studios sculptor, John Boynton King, accompanied by his daughter Willow King of Boulder, traveled to Beihai after being asked to participate in Beihai Tide, China’s First International Outdoor Kinetic Sculpture Exhibition.
Through professional connections made via his affiliation with the two main stateside kinetic sculpture showcases, Whirlwind: Art in Motion at the Overland Park Arboretum in Kansas and the International Kinetic Art Exhibit and Symposium in Boynton Beach, Florida, King was networked into this unexpected and exciting invitation that was also extended to four other westerners and six Chinese artists.
The invitation from the Beihai Tide exhibition came in August. King says he was “captivated, horrified, and allured” initially. Without his supervision and using only basic computer-aided design drawings, the show’s Chinese orchestrators were about to refabricate and enlarge King’s original piece entitled Sky Writing, a 14-by-14-foot painted steel kinetic piece inspired by a half-hour hang-gliding experience spent circling above wind currents alongside a red-tailed hawk.
Less than three months after the invitation, King arrived in Beihai, relieved to see that the project was successfully accomplished and well-received. During their short visit, King and his daughter were treated like royalty. They met Chinese dignitaries and an array of international artists. King gave a presentation via a translator, and he participated in the event’s interactive opening ceremony.
The professional connections that paved the way for King’s involvement in China echo his aspirations for artistic cross-cultural collaborations toward positive world change. Wei Xiao Ming, Professor of the Central Academy of Fine Arts in China, has been involved in analyzing art as a force to propel sustainable economic growth, as well as creating peace monuments in Sweden using scrapped military equipment. Ralfonso Gschwend is an international designer of environmentally interactive installations, as well as co-founder of the worldwide Kinetic Art Organization, with more than a thousand members in over 60 countries.
Kinetic art is typically an interactive sculptural work composed of static parts stirred into motion by internal or external stimuli. King’s mantra, “The movement is the thing,” stems from the writings of László Moholy Nagy, who believed in art as a vehicle for the betterment of humanity. This philosophy is evidenced by King’s growing number of hands-on kinetic commissions, including large inspirational installations created for premier educational and medical facilities throughout Colorado.
King’s kinetic works are often dubbed dancers, sprites, gliders, or seekers based on their different systems of movement, desired interaction, and distinctive character. The natural elements and fluidity of his live-work surroundings along the North Saint Vrain River are major influences. A Michigan native, King majored in art Beloit College in Wisconsin. He sold kinetic sculptures in Chicago and New York galleries in the 1970’s and has been involved for decades in an array of arts-related projects in Boulder County.
Works by King can be viewed in the Denver area at places such as the Butterfly Pavilion in Westminster, Bison Ridge Recreation Center, Bemis Library , the Denver Public Schools‘ Emily Griffith Campus lobby, the Children’s waiting area at Kaiser Permanente in Rock Creek, Kaiser Permanente’s Lone Tree facility, Aurora’s Centrepoint Medical Offices, Fire Station 15 at Murphy Creek, and Aurora’s Metro Center Light Rail Station. King’s Blue Butterfly Tree sculpture can be viewed and is available for purchase at Western Stars Gallery in Lyons.