While there still may be snow atop Mount Sentinel and Jumbo, spring is here, its official arrival Tuesday marked by Montana artist Patrick Zentz's "cycle/s" sculpture outside the Missoula Art Museum.
Zentz mathematically coordinated "cycle/s" to mark high noon on the equinoxes and solstices that herald the changing seasons.
He made adjustments to his sculpture — which uses materials from a bicycle — by taking into account Missoula's latitude and also daylight savings time to accurately mark the occasion.
A few clouds put the prized moment in jeopardy, skirting the sun as the shadow projected by the piece neared the metal disc on the sidewalk that was its mark. Ultimately, the sun was shining and the oculus circled the disc at 1:43 p.m., exactly when Zentz said it would.
"Pat always rises to the occasion and that's what I admire about him as an artist," Missoula Art Museum senior curator Brandon Reintjes said. "You can sit down with him and talk about the most mundane things and he brings a profound aspect to it."
A yellow chalk line about a foot long was drawn before the metal disc, with dashes marking the minutes leading up to high noon to show the accuracy of the display.
A little more than 10 "sun groupies," as Zentz called them, gathered outside the museum at Pattee and Pine streets to celebrate the occasion. As he addressed the crowd, Zentz described the different cycles, such as sine waves and solar cycles, that inspired the piece, and how it was cyclical in material and concept.
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"Just alluding to those cycles, the history of how our ideas change and manifest," Zentz said. "What we've done and what we're working towards."
As Zentz spoke, Malcolm Magpie smudged the area with sweetgrass and sang an honor song to bless the occasion when Zentz was done. Another onlooker, Cassidy Tucker, enjoyed how the piece brought art and science together.
"I think right now with STEM programs, there's this debate on whether art should be in there or not and I think that it's important because we don't get enough focus on art in education, anyways," Tucker said. "So I think he does a really good job at bringing the two together."
Reintjes joked that the event was just as much of a "deinstallation party" as it was a vernal equinox viewing party. After Tuesday's event, Zentz and another man took down the sculpture that stood in the Missoula Art Park for just about a year.
While the sculpture may no longer be there, Zentz is planning on developing an app that will allow people to see the sculpture in an augmented or virtual reality.
"It will be made to interact with what you see in real time," Zentz said. "So if it happens to be your birthday, the shadow will be in the right place and it will move across as it would on your birthday."
The app is still a few years from being released but Zentz plans on releasing a limited-edition version and share the profits with the museum to continue their collaboration and help act as a fundraiser.