UAA | University Art Analysis – ‘Inflorescence’ is mirror magic

Graphic by Michaeline Collins.

“Inflorescence,” a mirrored sculpture, has called the front of the ConocoPhillips Integrated Science Building home for the past two years. Heath Satow unveiled the sculpture at a ribbon cutting ceremony in June of 2017. 

The sculpture “Inflorescence” sits on the west side of campus in front of the ConocoPhillips Integrated Science Building. Photo by Young Kim.

Satow, who lives in California, creates 3D public artwork. He attended the School of Design at North Carolina State University and apprenticed at Clearscapes, a sculpture firm in North Carolina. He graduated in 1991 and was placed in charge of the sculpture studio at the firm. 

“Inflorescence” was commissioned as part of the Percent for Art in Public Places program. The Alaska Legislature passed the statute in 1975 requiring 1% of the capital construction costs for public buildings to be used for art installation. 

Viewers experience the interactive aspect of “Inflorescence” created by the mirror-polished steel. Photo courtesy of Ted Kincaid.

“The mirror-polished stainless steel facets of each ‘seed,’ ‘atom’ or ‘cell’ create little individual paintings of the world, each one interpreting the same world around it, but each one unique in what it shows us,” the sculpture’s description on Heath Satow’s website said.

“Inflorescence” was inspired by the patterns of sunflowers, Satow said on his website. The statue has over 1,500 individual pieces, giving the artwork a unique, multi-mirrored effect. 

The geometric shapes and spirals throughout the piece are characteristic of the Fibonacci sequence found in sunflowers, one of the most famous mathematical formulas often found in nature. Satow sent designs for the sculpture to his engineering consultants in Los Angeles, and they responded with 80 pages of calculations, according to his website.

Heath Satow unveils his sculpture “Inflorescence” at a ribbon-cutting ceremony in front of CPISB on June 16, 2017. Photo courtesy of Ted Kincaid.

“With the [ConocoPhillips Integrated Science Building], I wanted something that would relate across all the sciences and a lot of times that seems to boil down to math,” Satow said in an interview on July 19, 2017, with UAA’s Green & Gold News. “You’ll find that’s a common thread through the sciences.” 

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Satow intended “Inflorescence” to be interactive as well as interesting to observe. The sculpture reflects the viewer and the surrounding environment. The artwork also includes interactive lighting sensors that make the lighting on the piece warmer or cooler depending on how many people are interacting with it.

“The viewer can walk directly inside the piece, seeing their own reflection multiplied hundreds of times,” according to Heath Satow’s website. “The interior becomes self-reflective — interpretations of interpretations.” 

A unique aspect of art is how subjective it can be depending on the viewer’s perception. 

“I believe that art pieces on UAA’s campus provide a unique opportunity for Alaskan artists to showcase their abilities,” senior political science major Hunter Dunn said. 

Roy Franklin, a freshman business management major, noticed the sculpture while walking around campus the first few weeks of school.

“It looks cool, but I never really understood the meaning behind it,” Franklin said.

The most distinguishable quality of “Inflorescence” is the mirror-polished finish that allows the viewer to see themselves and the surrounding environment duplicated at thousands of angles. 

“I like the reflections,” Koby Wightman, a freshman psychology major, said. “I think they are cool.”

For more information on “Inflorescence” and other sculptures by Satow, visit his website