Project Description

Filament/Firmament is a permanent public artwork for the newly expanded main branch of the Cambridge Public Library by longtime Cambridge resident and acclaimed sculptor Ellen Driscoll. A collaboration of the Cambridge Commission on the Status of Women, the Cambridge Arts Council, and the Cambridge Public Library, Filament/Firmament is a living memorial that honors the contributions of women to the life of the City. Using etched glass, perforated zinc panels, woven cable, text, and textile imagery, Filament/Firmament metaphorically represents the oldest and most universal of women’s activities – weaving and sewing.

Filament/Firmament montageThe metaphor of weaving is particularly apt for the two-story interior space that houses Filament/Firmament since the location itself knits together the original library structure and the new addition. The sky-lit vertical atrium is filled on the upper level with tensioned cables that emerge from diagrams etched into two opposing walls of glass and that are woven across the space. The theme of weaving and connectedness is further explored in the lower half of the atrium space with a zinc-coated wall featuring 240 cutout circles that suggest the dot pattern of a Jacquard loom punch card. The Jacquard loom revolutionized textile manufacturing in the nineteenth century and is a precursor of the modern day computer circuit board. Each hole is an etched-glass window to a different woven textile pattern. Together, the 240 circles represent many different cultures and civilizations throughout the world reminding us that weaving and the simple act of intertwining string is a metaphor for the endless process of invention.

Filament/Firmament also features profiles of remarkable Cambridge women in a searchable website accessible from a dedicated computer adjacent to the space and available to the public. The website, formally entitled the Cambridge Women’s Heritage Project, provides permanent documentation of the remarkable women of Cambridge and serves as a resource to stimulate further inquiry into the rich history, present day life, and future inspiration related to the contributions of Cambridge women to our community and beyond.

Photos of the completed project

Opening remarks from private reception and artist talk, 21 March 2010

About the Artist: Ellen Driscoll’s sculpture, drawings, and installations have won her recognition nationally and internationally. Her numerous public art commissions range from New York’s Grand Central Station to Boston’s public parks. Solo exhibitions include shows at the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Contemporary Arts Center. She is a recipient of Guggenheim and Bunting Fellowships, among other awards, and her work is in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Whitney Museum, and Addison Gallery of American Art. Driscoll is currently the head of the sculpture department at Rhode Island School of Design.