I saw pictures of Janet Echelman’s sculpture, entitled Impatient Optimist,
installed at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and decided to go check it out. Suspended in the center of the campus between buildings, the work was inspired by the hand crafted fishing nets made in India. The artist suggests this knotted web is a physical representation of our connectedness and the ability of one person’s actions to impact millions of lives — an encouraging message placed at the heart of an organization trying to serve the most vulnerable.
This photograph was taken from the lobby of the building before you go through security. During the day, while the campus is active, the piece interacts delicately with the sky
and surrounding buildings, but at night, when the campus shuts down, the work comes alive with an ethereal light show. It can be seen from the surrounding neighborhood — like a bioluminescent creature floating in the dark night sky. From photographs it appears the most striking view of the piece is when you stand directly underneath it, which makes its location a bit bewildering. The work could easily have been placed in a plaza along a pubic street. Unfortunately, the work remains a mesmerizing jewel that draws you in but withholds its true splendor for a privileged few. Placing the work behind security is an ironic decision considering the organization’s mission.