Arts and Humanities Local News

Massive Sculpture Inspired by 1974 Tornado on Display

21c Museum unveils a large sculpture Friday night that was built to fit in its atrium as part of the Louisville Visual Art Festival focusing on glass.

It’s by artist Anne Peabody, who has her own ideas about Wheel of Fortune — and it has nothing to do with a game show. It’s her name for the sculpture she created. It weighs nearly 4000 pounds and has glass bottles and carved wooden objects — birds, tables, toys — mounted on a twisting skeleton that evokes a tornado.

Peabody says the piece came out of witnessing the 1974 tornado when she was six years old.

“All of the toys I’d almost ever wanted landed in my yard and my school blew away,” she says. “So, what was a terrible circumstance for everyone around us was actually one of the great experiences of my life. And it’s the first time I ever remember feeling guilt.”

The sculpture is on display along with more than 50 exhibits in the region featuring art that uses glass as part of the second annual Louisville Visual Arts Festival. The glass art focus come after more regional artists have begun working with glass in recent decades and Louisville has seen several major galleries for glass art open. That has attracted a major conference for professionals working in glass art, which starts next week.

21c Museum  commissioned Louisville-born, New York-based Peabody to create the installation.

Peabody says she’s been working with glass for several years and had specific ideas about its use in this piece, which is is 25 feet long.

“I intended to use glass first because of the sort of kaleidoscope effect that I though it could me,” she says. “In this piece I silvered the insides of about 300 bottles, and the bottles are refuse from my neighborhood in Brooklyn.”

Peabody says she started thinking about Louisville’s 1974 tornado several years ago.

“I sort of felt I was really down on my luck; I had a lot of health problems when I started carving pieces for this about four years ago,” she says. “And so, I was really thinking about luck and one man’s bad luck being another person’s good luck.”

Peabody’s work also includes a piece called Glass Stress that was on exhibit at the 2009 Venice Biennale.

Local News

April 3, 1974 Remembered

April 3 marks the 35th anniversary of the super outbreak of tornados that killed more than 300 people in the U.S. The twisters claimed the lives of more than 70 people in Kentucky, with a death toll of 31 in the Ohio River town of Brandenburg.

WAVE television meteorologist Tom Wills was on duty when the severe weather struck the Louisville area on the afternoon of April 3rd, 1974. He says it was an extraordinarily powerful storm system.

“There have been large tornado outbreaks since, but nothing at all really compares to the magnitude.   The numbers—we were just getting into the infancy of the rating system for tornados, the F1s, twos, threes, fours and fives—the numbers of threes, fours and fives, were just phenomonal, percentage-wise, to the whole outbreak of tornados,” Wills said on WFPL’s State of Affairs program.

The storms left widespread damage across the Louisville area.

Wills says the outbreak spurred improvements to the city’s severe weather alert system.



(Photo of damage in the Louisville suburb of Northfield courtesy of the National Weather Service)




State of Affairs

35 Years Since the 1974 Tornadoes

Thursday, April 2, 2009
35 Years Since the 1974 Tornadoes
It’s one of those where-were-you-when-it-happened moments. Throughout the afternoon and evening of April 3, a super outbreak of 148 tornadoes tore through 13 states and as far north as Ontario, Canada. The twister that touched down in Louisville destroyed part of the fairgrounds, injured 207 people, destroyed or damaged thousands of others. On the eve of the storm’s 35th anniversary, we’ll look back at that day with journalist Glen Bastin and meteorologist Tom Wills, who covered the tornado as it happened. Tune in, and call us with your memories of the storm and its aftermath.

Listen to the Show

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