New Suspended Artwork Breaks Mold

Weiss’ arching ‘Recto Verso’ becomes first of 3 pieces to hang in Airside concourses

By Matt Neistein

Published February 3, 2020

Read Time: 3 mins


Creating a sense of place has been a guiding principle at Pittsburgh International Airport, but artist Rachel Mica Weiss already sees the region in the airport – and her vision of those interwoven identities provided the inspiration for a groundbreaking new art installation.

In December, Weiss worked with the airport’s skilled laborers to suspend her shimmering Recto Verso from the skylight in Concourse B, the first of three unique artwork projects envisioned for the Airside Terminal by Rachel Saul Rearick, the airport’s Arts and Culture Manager.

“I was taken by the terminal’s wide bulkheads, and how they operate with the tight arched skylights that sit between them,” said Weiss, a sculptor who recently relocated to Pittsburgh from Brooklyn, N.Y. “I wanted to expand upon that relationship with my arches, echoing the existing structure and calling further attention to the signature curve that arguably defines Pittsburgh’s landscape.”

Recto Verso consists of two pairs of bending aluminum frames with dyed nylon rope ribbing that are suspended perpendicular to each other. Depending on perspective and lighting, the golden artwork can glint silver, making the gridded lines more ephemeral.


Weiss calls the practice of weaving her “steadfast muse.” Her large-scale installations are “really about creating gigantic looms in space,” she said. That theme is evident in Recto Verso, with so many individual elements of the piece that are diametrically opposed blending together to create a cohesive dynamic.

Over the course of nine months, Weiss spent time in the airport and her East End studio designing and building the sculpture. Her recent move to Pittsburgh helped her see the inherent architectural ties between the region and its airport.

“I was immediately drawn to the arches throughout the city, from its gothic churches to its emblematic golden bridges,” she said. “And with such a clear connection between the airport’s arch-driven design and the surrounding landscape, I was better able to realize and conceptualize my own arches as interventions.”

Weiss has numerous public art installations under her belt, from Airbnb’s Seattle offices to the U.S. Embassy in Kyrgyzstan, but the airport project presented new challenges.

The long, shallow space offered limited hanging points, and the 24/7 nature of the airport required the team to spend four consecutive nights – when there are fewer passengers in the terminals – installing the work.

“Designing a seamless, invisible anchoring system for the piece within the skylight was arguably one of the greatest hurdles to overcome,” she said. “We had to strategically design and place the anchors such that they were both nearly invisible and accessible, strong and slight – which we ultimately did, successfully.”

Also making things more difficult: the moving walkway running down the center of the concourse. Designed to make traversing the airport easier, the walkway makes it a tough task simply to access the area above, let alone to hang a sculpture that weighs hundreds of pounds from a glass and aluminum skylight.

The airport’s carpenters and laborers spent months collaborating with the engineering department to solve the physical conundrum. Safety is always the top priority at PIT, and ensuring Recto Verso could be attached securely was a painstaking effort, Rearick said.

“From the onset of this project, our team has been equally committed to supporting the aesthetic vision of the artist, while also planning for a safe and secure installation process,” she said. “We’re extremely proud that our engineers and trades crews were able to resolve and integrate such a beautiful and intricate artwork alongside Weiss.”

The walkway that proved to be an installation challenge ultimately fulfilled its intended purpose: serving as an asset to the installation, as it now smoothly carries passengers underneath the two pairs of 20-foot by 13-foot “halves” of the sculpture as they gaze upward while their perspective shifts.

Recto Verso sets the stage for two more suspended artworks in Concourses A and D in 2020. Rearick is excited to see how they complement Weiss’ work while making their own marks.

“As we continue to grow our arts and culture program here at PIT, these installations afford us the opportunity to keep pace with the type of projects that are seen in airports around the world,” she said.
“The added reward for our program is that the Pittsburgh region boasts of incredibly talented artists, with each of these three sculptures being designed by Pennsylvania artists.”

Carin Mincemoyer, a native Pittsburgh sculptor, is currently creating a piece for Concourse A that is scheduled to be installed in the spring, and Rearick expects the other installation to take place later in the year.

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