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Behind Body Politic

Behind Body Politic
Posted on 09/25/2018
Two spheres lit up at night

When artist Joe O'Connell traveled to Lenexa to find inspiration for an outdoor sculpture commissioned for the Lenexa civic campus, he found a city whose residents and leaders take pride in community – a concept that would inspire the name and design for his interactive work of art, "Body Politic."

"When I visited Lenexa, I saw a community that was very conscious of itself as such - and that was very nice. The term 'body politic' goes back to the medieval times and suggests that citizens are the 'body' of an organism and the king is the 'head.' As societies have lost their kings, there is still a sense in which citizens are a 'body.' And people use the term generally to refer to the citizens of a city, state or nation."

The finished sculptures from O'Connell and his team from Creative Machines were recently installed on the western end of the civic campus between the Lenexa Rec Center and the parking garage.

These hand-hammered stainless steel orbs are enveloped in more than 200 cut-out silhouettes which each convey an emotion, action or attitude toward life. The diverse silhouettes reflect the spirit of the Lenexa civic campus, which is designed to be a place where people gather and make the connections that are so vital to building community.

"Lenexa City Center is a great gathering space, and it got me thinking about why we gather in public," O'Connell said. "I think one reason is to observe the feelings of others through how they hold their body.... I think this is why we go to social spaces instead of remaining stuck on screens. We understand each other at a distance very well by observing each others' bodies."

The sculpture itself is designed to draw people together with its dynamic interactive qualities. Lights inside each orb change colors through the night. The light colors can also be changed using a button – inviting visitors to meet at the sculptures and collaborate on a uniquely personal light show.

Published Sept. 25, 2018