Flammes d’Illuminacion

Southwest Galvanizing, Inc.

Hot-dip galvanizing was a critical design solution for the final coating durability.

An accomplished artist, Michelle O’Michael is well-known for her large-scale sculptures, including 12 in the Dallas Texas Metroplex. For more than three decades, O’Michael has created iconic, landmark sculptures defining private and public venues. Five of her public art sculptures are monumental, four-story works.

O’Michael and her O’Michael Studios Inc. (OMSI) team are well experienced in designing, fabricating, and installing sculptures for various site parameters, as well as working with a broad range of subcontractors. Together with her colleagues in architecture, engineering, construction landscaping, lighting and IT, her installations span from hanging work, literal designs, to contemporary art. Based on the commissioner’s budget, specific site, audience and intended use, she designs with regard to safety and ease of installation. OMSI’s material choices are durable, finished in low maintenance materials, appropriate to the site and client’s lifespan requirements.

In 2021, O’Michael was commissioned by the City of Arlington to create an architectural enhancement for City Hall. The four Flamme d’Illuminacion sculptures define Arlington’s Cultural Arts District’s festival area. The four, four-story, computerized, light towers demark City Hall, Abrams Street Festival Zone and the Founder’s Park space. The sculptures are the culmination and pinnacle of the seven-year, $28 million renovation of Arlington’s Abrams Street infrastructure and City Hall’s public main entrance architecture.

Each tower is constructed of twelve bands, separated into two layers of six bands paired together with three in a clockwise rotation and the other three counterclockwise. The bands are separated by two-inch spacing made by one-inch round bar spacers. The spacers function as vibration stabilizers but also allowed enough space for an inserted paint gun to thoroughly coat the interior and exterior of the bands. The layers are offset 60-degrees with the layered pairs offset by 120-degrees which give the visual appearance of woven steel.

The three-ton obelisk towers sit atop seven-foot-tall concrete plinths and encase a ten-inch central pipe-mast. The pipe-mast is crowned with a four-spoke ring carrying twelve, full-color spectrum, LED lighting lamps and four stadium area lamps, and topped with the City of Arlington’s Star A logo. The color-programable LED lights can be changed for public events and holidays. Upon their unveiling, the Flamme d’Illuminacion towers were blue for Police week, pink for Breast Cancer Month, and red and gold for Christmas.

Prior to initiation of fabrication, O’Michael consulted with the galvanizer, as it is her practice to use galvanizing for her sculptures that necessitate industrial corrosion protection to extend the wet paint or powder coat finish durability. During the consultation, they discussed the placement and drilling of holes necessary for dipping in the molten zinc as well as the fabrication of stands for both ends of each tower to support them horizontally while in the bath. All the steel pieces were CAD-CAM cut, then hand formed before being welded with independent AWS inspectors at every phase. After galvanizing, the sculptures were finished with a high-tech primer and top-coated with industrial epoxy paint.

All finish work was done while the sculptures laid horizontally in the various shops. Future maintenance takes place in an open-exterior, public space with the sculptures vertically standing, touching sky. With the 40-foot height and complex jacket weave, durability is a prime requirement for Arlington. Hot-dip galvanizing was a critical design solution for the final coating durability.

O’Michael and her OMSI Technical Partner, Stephen Archer, are experts in material exploration, process and technology. OMSI is a 100% woman owned business and O’Michael’s artistic aesthetic springs form the West Texas Chihuahuan Desert punctuated with cacti and steel rigs. She prefers open spaces where objects can breathe and explores the interaction of mass, space, shadow, and volume through quality of line. OMSI’s concepts are propelled by the bold and lyrical use of steel – often with immense physicality in curvilinear form.

Represented by Craighead Green Gallery in Dallas and Heidi Vaughn Fine Arts in Houston, O’Michael’s work is in public, museum, private, international and corporate collections. She exhibits and is collected across the U.S. from New York City to Beverly Hills, internationally in Mexico, United Arab Emirates, Germany and United Kingdom. O’Michael’s Bachelor of Arts degree is from University of Texas at Austin; her Masters in Fine Art is from Houston Christian University under Michael Roque Collins, Jim Edwards and Han Molzberger.

This project was powered by a CIC Pittsburgh Galvanizing furnace.