Art Is Fleeting, at Least When It’s in the Sky

On a warm, clear Sunday afternoon, many New Yorkers looked up and saw not a cloud in the sky — except for the ones that were talking to them.

Just after 4 p.m., a plane began skywriting short phrases over the Hudson River and the West Side of Manhattan as part of an art project, called “The Sky Is The Limit/NYC.”

Some of the idioms were a bit daunting. “Lost Our Lease” read the first batch of fluffy clouds. “Last Chance,” puffed the next (though for what, it did not say). The third, “Now Open,” was somewhat sunnier.

Kim Beck, the artist behind this chatty skyscape and an associate professor of Art at Carnegie Mellon University, explained that these phrases were taken from the kind of sign you might see hanging in the window of a store, especially in this economic climate.

“They’re advertising messages that are no longer advertising anything specific,” Ms. Beck said. ” ‘Lost Our Lease’ can speak to the feeling of being exhausted, and ‘Last Chance’ is everything coming to an end. ‘Now Open’ means something else as well.”

The project, sponsored by the Friends of the High Line, lasted about two hours from start to finish and prompted a flurry of questions on Twitter. Some wondered if it was an advertisement, or a part of the Occupy Wall Street movement. A few people remarked that the clear blue sky and so many people with their eyes fixed overhead reminded them of Sept. 11.

On the street, Ms. Beck said, people turned to one another and tried to sound out the words together. That moment of community, she said, and the arch of those phrases, ending with “Now Open,” is a nod toward hope in difficult times.

“We don’t really know what’s happening in our economy,” Ms. Beck said. “I’m hoping there’s an optimism in that final text, and that it comes together as a bit of a narrative. That’s my hope; to think positive.”

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