Struggling to find a suitable substrate for a wall installation at a new hospital, Arizona artist Archie Sutton’s online discovery of Greatmats.com was a pleasant surprise. Sutton, eight years removed from an Air Force career, was facing his biggest artistic challenge since becoming a full-time artist. His project… create a commercial installation on a 12 feet by 20 feet curved wall in the Veteran’s Hall of the new Canyon Vista Medical Center in Sierra Vista, Ariz.
“I wanted to do something that occupied the space with a sense of flow on a static wall,” Sutton said. “I wanted to honor veterans, but also the staff, patients and visitors of the hospital.”
Sutton, who was asked by the hospital art team to provide sample ideas, sketched out a gray silhouette of his “Stars and Stripes” piece on white paper. The rest was an act of faith on behalf of the art team as they entrusted this large project to Sutton on very little information.
Sutton looked at balsa wood, foam and landscaping materials to serve the structural needs of the project and initially settled on horse stall mats. But he quickly realized that option was much too heavy to hang on the wall. That’s when a web search led him to Greatmats.com where he found just what he was looking for.
Impressed by “good options and good prices,” Sutton opted for Pebble Top Foam Gym Floor Tiles to serve the purpose. Flexibility, durability, weight and aesthetics all played important roles in the choice of mats.
Sutton commended Greatmats staff for answering his questions about the product and handling the ordering process in a professional manner. “Tina was great.” he said.
“I wanted my substrate to be black and have a relief from the wall of ¾ inch,” Sutton added. “When I found pebble top foam, it all came together. … (It’s characteristics) gave me peace of mind to know it was archival to last for many years as real-property in a permanent commercial setting.”
Needing the pieces to connect, Sutton used 17 interlocking tiles of the foam gym floor. The mats’ interlocking tabs allowed the piece to attach, unnoticed, to the wall. It also made it possible to move the entire piece in manageable 2 feet by 2 feet sections.
“It provided me the an aesthetic relief off the wall that helped create shadows and the flow I was looking for,” Sutton said. “The mats gave me the ability of conforming the wall sculpture in a seamless fashion to a curved space.”
Sutton cut and polished the tiles and then seamed the interlocking pieces together with a circuit board on site. He then used pale patina’d circuit copper board for the stars and white stripes.
“I left out the blue and red to blend and marry into the existing wall.”
“Doing a flag is tricky,” Sutton said. “We see it every day. Bringing something unique that also is respectful and represents my body of work was my vision.”
After more than 400 hours of work on the project, Sutton’s finished product covered more than 160 square feet (8.8 feet by 18.8 feet) and weighed just 60 pounds. As for his 8 remaining Greatmats tiles… He sent those over to his brother’s restaurant to be used in a walk-in refrigerator.
View a brief slide of Sutton’s sculpture process at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8n8CcGQxO-o