An inside look: The inspiration behind professor’s latest art installation

Mincemoyer works on creating the art installation. Photo Credit: Carin Mincemoyer

Written By Logan Garvey, For The Globe

Throughout her life, Mincemoyer has always worked with her hands on the influence of her parents, both hard working in careers and hobbies. 


“My dad was a diesel mechanic, so he worked with his hands. They were always dirty, and he had lots of tools around that we would borrow,” Mincemoyer continued. “My mom did a lot of crafts when I was a kid. She would crochet and make baskets. I grew up seeing this, so working with my hands and making things just seemed like a very natural thing to do.”


Mincemoyer is a Pittsburgh artist and also a photography and cinema professor at Point Park University. In 2019, she was selected out of a pool of candidates to create an art installation titled, ‘Shy Canopy,” in the Pittsburgh International Airport. 


In her early life, Mincemoyer was always entertaining herself by borrowing her dad’s tools out of the garage to invent and build things out of materials she scrounged up. When it was time for college, she attended art school originally for painting, but once graduated, found that her passions lied more in the area of sculpting. Mincemoyer believes that once she left the structured environment of academia, she instinctively found what was a natural fit for her work as a creative. 


Rachel Rearick, the arts and culture manager for the airport, wanted to find an artist who would bring a sense of calm into the environment, and believes Mincemoyer’s work does just that.


“Shy Canopy really does evoke a sense of one being outdoors and underneath a canopy of trees. As you approach and walk beneath the work, you feel like you’ve been transported to a forest,” Rearick said. “There’s a lot of research that indicates ‘forest bathing’ reduces stress, and I think that through her work, Carin has provided a playful opportunity for passengers and employees to feel like they’re going for a tranquil walk in nature.”     


The art installation was originally planned to be installed earlier this year, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, the date was shifted to this October.


Her vision for the art installation was to bring two elements together: Pittsburgh’s bridges and nature shown throughout Western PA. The piece also uses a term called canopy shyness, which is essentially social distancing for trees. When someone looks up at the tree’s canopy, they will see gaps between the crowns of the trees.


Mincemoyer has always enjoyed showing nature throughout her work, as she has found it to be a very calming escape for herself.


“There are certain activities where you can just lose yourself and lose track of time. You’re completely in the zone and completely focused on that activity, not thinking about anything else. Gardening is one of those things that does that for me,” Mincemoyer reflected. “I have experienced the power of having your hands in the dirt and interacting with nature. It seems like such a simple thing, but it is really powerful.”


As an avid follower of her work, public art consultant Renee Piechocki was grateful to see the sculpture up close in Mincemoyer’s studio before it was installed at the airport. 


“It is perfectly fabricated. Carin is a very thoughtful planner… so I was not surprised to see how good the sculptures looked in person at the airport,”  Piechocki said. “[The airport] is a difficult site with a lot going on visually. Her piece is the perfect scale and adds a lot of interest and beauty to the location.“


Photographer, artist and educator Ivette Spradlin believes the slow movements of the piece are a nice contrast to the often hecticness of the bustle from airport travelers. 


“The piece moves by the flow of air created by the people walking below. The more people walk under it, the more it moves,” Spradlin added. “It feels alive in that way, like a person, gaining energy from the energy that exists around it.”


Mincemoyer is passionate about sculpture, installation and public art, and wanting it to be an inspiring art form for many. Having been recognized with various grants and awards, she has found them to be humbling in her work. 


“The best awards are the ones you’re not expecting. I’ve gotten awards in the mail, and it’s an anonymous donor. The beauty of that is that it could be anybody,” Mincemoyer stated. “My approach is to just be grateful, and just keep in mind whenever I was interacting with anybody that it could have been them. That makes the world feel like a really positive place.”


In the future, Mincemoyer wants to continue her work using engineered forms in her sculptures and hopes to eventually create artwork internationally.