Phoenix, Arizona, 2008
28’h x 10 ’w x 10 ’d
Bronze and Rammed Earth
Detail of "The Phoenix"
"The Phoenix" under construction
This is a gateway feature for the downtown area of Phoenix. Made of sustainable materials, rammed earth and bronze, "The Phoenix" is a first of its kind. The "The Phoenix" is located at Van Buren and 7th Avenue, and serves as a traditional gateway and western entrance to the City of Phoenix.
According to the piece's sculptor, Rebecca Thompson, "the monument draws on the mythical story of the Phoenix Bird which rises anew from its own burning ashes, "The Phoenix" sculpture seeks to rediscover our City's history and the pioneering spirit of the Southwest".
Rebecca explains, "The Phoenix myth is primarily about transformation and renewal. I designed "The Phoenix" sculpture to embody a metaphorical balance of the elements, Earth, Water, Wind and Fire."
- Earth is represented through the primary construction material of golden hued "Rammed Earth."
- Water is represented through the use of bronze plates wrapping around the 28' foot structure like a river. Fish and aquatic life forms are modeled onto the bronze plates, symbolizing the preciousness of water sources and its life sustaining qualities as the desert's most valuable resource.
- Wind is present as it moves through the opening in the center of the Phoenix structure.
- Fire is present as the sun moves its light and shadows through the center opening as well.
Rammed earth sculpture is a construction process involving the compression of a damp mixture of earth that has suitable proportions of sand, gravel and clay into an external supported frame that molds the shape of a wall section creating a solid wall of earth. Traditional stabilizers such as lime or animal blood were used to stabilize the material, but cement has been the stabilizer of choice for modern times. After compressing the earth the wall frames are removed and require an extent of warm dry days after construction to dry and harden. A structure can take up to two years to completely cure, and the more it cures the stronger the structure becomes. When the process is complete it is much like constructing a hand made wall of solid rock.
"The Phoenix" uses local soil and minimal water resources in its construction. The labor intensive process results in sandstone like qualities which age well over time, one of the primary reasons artist Rebecca Thompson enjoys using this ancient building material.
Rebecca Thompson was raised near Washington, D.C. and studied Fine Arts at Cornell University. Her work is a balance between formal sculptural elements and the public art realm. Rebecca believes we are all affected by what we experience and she wishes to create work which has a positive impact. Her aim is to sculpt pieces which create hope, contemplation and a sense of peacefulness. Although drawn to large-scale, public projects, Rebecca also exhibits a variety of sculpture and paintings. She has taught art in various capacities including the University level throughout her career. Rebecca is married to Scott Thompson, and has two children, Christian and Aubrey.