Living Art Pioneer Dave MacKenzie Takes His Art to the Next Level for ArtPrize 2014

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Living Art Returns to ArtPrize with Bigger and Bolder Planted Wall Exhibit


3500 Plants Make Their Home in This Living Art Piece

It’s essentially an environmental statement showcasing the importance of plants in our world

Last year, artist Dave MacKenzie debuted his unique brand of living art using a 1,400 square foot living wall system containing 2,500 plants at ArtPrize®, the world’s largest publicly voted art contest. This year, Dave is back with a bigger and more intricate design. Entitled ‘Breathe,’ the living mural is home to more than 3500 plants and reaches over 20 feet tall at its peak and stretches 150 feet long.

‘Breathe’ separates itself from MacKenzie’s earlier work by breaking the traditional mold of a rectangular canvas. The new design is curvilinear, graphic, and interactive.

“The largest graphic includes a windblown pattern of color in which white flowers spell Breathe O2 (oxygen) and symbolize the air. The green patterns, above and below, represent the forests and fields. And, the yellow in the upper right hand corner symbolizes the sun, which fuels photosynthesis, which yields oxygen (O2),” says designer Dave MacKenzie.

“This vital process happens within the leaves, and therefore ‘Breathe’ also features leaf-shaped graphics of Michigan native trees, including catalpa, oak, beech and maple,” MacKenzie adds.

Using the LiveWall® system as the canvas, the entry surrounds and buffers the noise and odors of the B.O.B.’s waste dumpsters and air-conditioning equipment. ‘Breathe’ was inspired by the idea of restoring the built environment to a more natural state. The living architecture movement is a growing trend in design that aims to restore balance to urban settings by reintroducing vegetation lost during urbanization.

MacKenzie stretched beyond the use of plants and incorporated lighting elements into the design of his piece as well. These lights trace the outline of the leaf shapes and the veins that run through the leaves. MacKenzie explained that these features symbolize the important role that light plays in the photosynthetic process, which creates the air we breathe.

MacKenzie hopes that his piece will inspire others to become passionate about living architecture and green walls. “It’s essentially an environmental statement showcasing the importance of plants in our world,” MacKenzie said.

‘Breathe’ can be viewed outside of the B.O.B. during ArtPrize, which runs September 24 to October 11, 2014.

About Dave MacKenzie
Detroit native MacKenzie grew up in West Michigan and for 30 years has been a business owner, horticulturist, writer and product developer of plants, green roof, and green wall systems. MacKenzie founded and is president of Hortech, Inc. and its subsidiaries LiveRoof, LLC and LiveWall, LLC. At the request of usually family friends, he said he’s sometimes been talked into landscape design, which re-engaged him with drawing which he enjoys. He found landscape design intriguing, seeing the design come to life. The same is true with planted roofs and walls, which he said he discovered people found an even stronger emotional connection to and fascination with. “It is this emotional connection, even more than the plantings themselves, that I find most interesting about planting rooftops and walls.”

About ArtPrize®
ArtPrize is a radically open, independently organized annual international art competition with an unprecedented $200,000 top prize decided entirely by public vote. Time Magazine name ArtPrize one of the “Five Festival Events You Won’t Want to Miss in 2013.” For 19 days, three square miles of downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan, becomes an open playing filed where anyone can find a voice in the conversation about what is art and why it matters. Art from around the world pops up in every inch of downtown, and it’s all free and open to the public.

Every year, ArtPrize distributes $560,000 in total cash prizes, making the competition the world’s largest art prize.


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