Scottsdale is looking for a little wiggle room in its next art piece. The city’s Public Art Program is working with famed Jell-O artist Liz Hickok to create a colorful cityscape made entirely out of the jiggly gelatin.
“It looks like jewelry, like glowing jewels, pieces of hot glass right out of the fire. It’s just mesmerizing,” said Public Art director Valerie Vadala Homer. “We were attracted to the beauty and quirkiness of the idea of Jell-O becoming an art form. Children would love this.”
The Scottsdale Public Art Board will have a chance to approve a contract with Hickok in September. If it passes, visitors could see a gelatinous scale model of the city by January, Vadala Homer said.
Hickok gained notoriety for her piece titled “San Francisco in Jell-O,” a cityscape she created to commemorate the centennial of the area’s legendary 1906 earthquake. For just under a week, visitors could examine the city recast in gelatin, and shake it to see the effects of the earthquake.
If Hickok were to create a piece for Scottsdale, it would focus on the Waterfront area, parts of the canal and the park near the Civic Center Plaza, she said. The artist was in town this week to tour the city and look at topographical maps.
“The landscape is a really important part of the identity of the area,” Hickok said. “Camelback Mountain is a real icon.”
Hickok said she got her start in photography, and did a lot of work with scale models of cities. Eventually, she created her own models, and turned to Jell-O for its unusual yet familiar property.
“I can mold it, I can cast it into water forms, I can use it in dry form . . . it’s amazing how versatile it is,” she said. “It’s beautiful.”
Creating a Jell-O city starts with drawings and models. From there, Hickok creates molds into which she pours the Jell-O, and refrigerates them until they set. “I’m an absolute Jell-O expert,” she said.
Usually, the molds last for about five days, but the artist said she was experimenting with preservatives to give it a longer life.
The Jell-O piece represents a larger plan by the Public Art Program to expand temporary art installations. Although the program is known for its signature city artwork, Vadala Homer said temporary pieces create a sense of urgency for the viewing public.