Sean McGinnis Spins Giant Psychedelic Webs, Using Rope

Artist Sean McGinnis takes acid-colored rope and spins it into massive, psychedelic webs that hang ethereally in the woods, in art galleries, and even on the side of buildings.

Sean McGinnis is an American-born, French artist who takes acid-colored rope or string, sometimes as much as six miles of the stuff, and spins it into massive, psychedelic webs that hang ethereally in the woods, in art galleries, and even on the sides of buildings. Some resemble ’90s-era Microsoft screensavers, others kaleidoscopic jellyfish strung up inexplicably between the trees. His sculptures are what you’d get if Spidey turned into a Burning Man freak (but cooler).


Now, McGinnis is trying to raise money to build an extra-massive “Gaudi-esque” sculpture in the middle of nowhere — maybe on a bluff in the Big Sky country of McGinnis’s native Kansas or in a forest in mainland Europe or near a lake in Scotland. When built in 2013, Wind Cathedral will rise nearly 100 feet in the air, a tripped-out, arch-shaped “permanent installation in homage to nature.”

Wind Cathedral differs from most of McGinnis’s sculptures in one important way: He’s designing it in 3-D software. “All of the sculptures before this summer were drawn in my head,” McGinnis tells Co.Design. “Many people asked me if I drew them in 3-D first. I didn’t and was annoyed by the question. However, this June, I took a course in 3Ds Max software and learned that it is a great tool. I can work out many technical, spatial and lighting issues, and visualize the results before ever attacking the string. The string and the real installation pose other technical hurdles that are unavoidable, but working the idea out first in 3-D gives me a head start.”

Each sculpture is made of thousands or, in some cases, tens of thousands of feet of rope or string. McGinnis doesn’t bolt the pieces down or use any fasteners. Instead, he stretches string taut over whatever framework he’s using (branches, a building facade, etc.) and attaches the string to a subtle, but not invisible, rope support structure.

In McGinnis’s telling, the key part of the process is fabricating the sculptures by hand. “Ultimately, they need to be created in reality, otherwise they are too rigid and soulless,” he says. “The variations that come from the hand and from error give them life.”

To learn more about supporting McGinnis’s Wind Cathedral project, go here.

[Images courtesy of Sean McGinnis; hat tip to Yatzer]

About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D.