The Snake at sunset

Shot with iPhone and Hipstamatic app. Click to enlarge.

This is the new sculpture on the wall of Center for the Arts. The “river of light,” designed and installed by Bland Hoke Jr. and friends, wraps around the center’s southwest corner outside the pottery studio.

The sculpture is brushed stainless steel, illuminated from within by four strands of LED lights. Here, the evening sky splashes additional color on the work.

I have been spellbound by this piece since discovering it about a week ago. There is much to admire: the flowing texture, precise metalwork, sinuous curves of the river channels and, finally, the lights, which came on via darkness sensor while I was photographing at sunset Sunday.

Amazingly, this was the scrap material left over from the main piece, a cutout of the river, on display at Jackson Hole Airport. Hoke worked with Terry Chambers of Custom Iron Design and Shane Lindsay on the project, which adorns a wall in the baggage claim area. Afterward, he came up with the idea of reusing the metal outline of the riverbanks and islands and rigging it with lights.

Lindsay used Google Earth for an image of the Snake River in and around Grand Teton National Park, and the metal was cut by laser in Idaho Falls. Hoke rounded and brushed the steel to make the river look like it is flowing. The total cost of both pieces was about $60,000. Center for the Arts only had to pay labor for construction and installation, as the material and cutting already were paid for.

Hanging the leftover metal on the arts center wall was “hilariously serendipitous,” Hoke says. It just happened that the sculpture perfectly fit the space, flowing down the wall by the stairs, over a gas line and under a window. The artists only had to trim about 6 inches.

The 27-year-old Hoke is a graduate student at Parsons School for Design in New York. Among other public art projects he has spearheaded in Jackson are a massive, doughnut-shaped snow shelter on Snow King and communal hammock session on the mountain. He learned metalworking from Jackson artist Ben Roth, as well as Chambers, Leland Johnson and the late Wes Webb.

The Snake sculpture, which he has dubbed “River in Reverse” for its outline, will hang on the center wall “as long as it will last,” he says, which should be 20 years or more. In the future, he may experiment with controlling the lights by sound or some other external input, making the sculpture interactive — a prospect he finds “ridiculously fun.”


Posted under Art, Environment

2 Comments so far

  1. Sara Campbell September 6, 2011 4:19 pm

    Great Article, picture, and video! I would love to have copies to post on our website/social media. Could you send them to me at


  2. yoseph adams September 12, 2011 6:25 pm

    Hey there, was wondering if the Leland you worked with was the same Leland who used to own Left Hand Studios. My name is J.C. I used to work for him years ago and would love to find him. Let me know at thanks alot. p.s. rad sculpture!

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