Watch for Clear People, Downtown’s Newest Public Art

Downtown Lakeland is about to be invaded by more than two dozen see-though people. They’re part of a public art installation of life-size sculptures made by wrapping real people with layers of packing tape.

The sculptures that will be displayed along Kentucky Avenue, in Munn Park and in front of LkldTV were created by local art activist David Collins to entertain and provoke thought. And just maybe to promote the artist and his efforts to decorate downtown Lakeland.

Collins is known for provoking and promoting. His earliest public art installations were unsanctioned (painted light poles, sidewalks, tree trunks, window murals on unoccupied buildings) but more recently have had the blessing of officialdom (last year’s 20-foot giraffe painted on shrink wrap covering a tree in Munn Park.)

The exhibition called “Clearly People: Exoskeleton Encounters,” goes live Jan. 20 with a 7 p.m. reception at LkldTV, 202 N. Massachusetts Ave. Collins will speak briefly around 7:30, introduce collaborators Meredith Pope and David Dickey Jr., and unveil a Google Maps guide to the installation.

Among the pieces designed to get a reaction:

  • Two pregnant women with visible unborn babies; one woman is smoking, as is the baby in her womb; the other is reading, and so is her fetus.
  • A walking birdbrain (His empty skull contains a hanging bird) looking at his cellphone who’s oblivious that his pants have fallen around his ankles and he’s about to run into a sign at the entrance to NoBay.

And some are designed to delight:

  • Dancers and two pixie figures that will hang from trees in Munn Park. One pixie has butterfly wings; the other, dragonfly wings.
  • A pied piper leading a swan flock in front of Explorations V children’s museum.
  • A woman swimming the backstroke down the sidewalk.

In all, more than three dozen figures comprise 22 scenes that will stretch from the front of Fresco’s on Kentucky Avenue to the entrance of NoBay.

A block away from the main action, a diver will perch on the art deco overhang on the Massachusetts Avenue-and-Cedar-Street entrance to LkldTV, where Collins has worked on the sculptures in a large studio for three months.

Collins and Pope wrapped 24 models in packing tape, starting with a sticky-side-out bottom layer. It took eight to 10 layers of tape to achieve the rigidity needed to hold the sculptures in place.

The artists wrapped each model one section at a time; to wrap the whole body would have caused them to lose balance. The layered tape was cut from the models using surgical scissors with a rounded portion facing the skin to avoid injuries. Then the sections of each figure were taped together.

Collins estimates he used 760 rolls of tape in the project.

Materials, model fees ($50 each) and other costs were paid via grants of $2,500 each from the Lakeland Downtown Development Authority, Spring Obsession and Broadway Real Estate Services.

Said LDDA’s Julie Townsend: “Downtown is the cultural center of the city, so we want to encourage thought-provoking and edgy art installations that pique the public’s interest and get them engaged with the art and Downtown.”

Collins said he has derived no income from the project, but perhaps that will change if he’s able to sell any of the pieces when the exhibit ends. There’s no end date yet, but he said the sculptures will be removed when they show signs of weathering.

When the installation opens Jan. 20, Collins will introduce an online walking map of the project built into Google Maps. The map will include photos of each piece, a description or artist commentary, and the name of the model.

After he introduces the map at the reception, Collins said, he hopes people use it to find and view the pieces “and come back for a nightcap.”

The reception will also feature about 30 large photos of the works taken by Dickey.

For Collins, public art is a means to get his work in front of a wide audience. “Every artist wants their work to be seen by lots of people. It’s a stepping stone for marketing your brand.”

What’s next for Collins? He’ll be working on canvas paintings that will be mounted behind windows and doors he’s been collecting in his Lakeland garage and in the studio of his summer home in North Carolina.

“I want it to look like you’re looking out the windows or looking in the windows,” he said, adding that viewers will be able to interact with the art by manipulating blinds or opening and closing the windows.