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Celebrity Cruises: Celebrity Reflection’s Atrium Tree

Like our other Solstice Class ships, Celebrity Reflection will have her own living, suspended tree in a uniquely designed vessel. We spoke with art consultant, Mariangela Capuzzo, Curatorial/Artistic Director at International Corporate Art in Miami, who chose the artist to create the container. Then, we caught up with Bert Rodriguez, the artist himself.

How is the artist chosen who creates the art installation for the tree?

Celebrity Reflection Atrium Tree

We reach out to established artists whose work is conceptually and aesthetically strong and complements both the existing art collection and our brand. First, we establish a curatorial direction, an umbrella, for the selection of the art collection. In this case, the curatorial direction on Reflection explores the “Seductiveness of a Reflection,” where artworks capture and reveal the magical sense of wonder created by Reflection.

How far out from launch do you start the process of selecting the artist?

The process begins a year and a half from the launch.

Where do you search to find the artist?

We have over 20 years of experience in the art world and our international network of artists affords us with a wide range of options to select from. We stay current with the pulse of the art market by traveling to art fairs and exhibitions all over the world.

Why was this artist chosen for Reflection?

Bert Rodriguez’s installation, Reflections, perfectly juxtaposes the conceptual with the magical. His proposal for Reflection was above and beyond what other artists presented.

What made his submission/vision uniquely right for Reflection?

Bert Rodriguez’s stunning installation in the Upper Grand Foyer consists of a tree reflecting upon itself. The tree above is a living, natural tree and below, hanging upside down, is a tree made of cast aluminum and electrical lighting. The combination of both the living and the crafted tree, and its reflective composition, creates a mesmerizing demonstration of grandeur and brilliant engineering. Its scale and magnificent sculptural elegance draws the viewer’s gaze up and down the vertical to ponder not only how this piece was created, but also what it symbolizes.

By using physical reflection, shiny surfaces, and a living tree mirrored by a man-made tree, the notion of accessibility is addressed. The artist’s intent is to allow viewers an easy entry-point into a more complex investigation of their own self-reflection or willingness to learn more about their fundamental essence, purpose and nature.

Bert Rodriguez earned critical acclaim for his appearance at the 2008 Whitney Biennial in New York. He is known for his conceptual and performance-based artwork, subverting art world conventions, poking fun at himself and notions of Celebrity through his provocative oeuvre.

Next, we spoke with Bert Rodriguez, the artist himself, to find out more.

Celebrity Reflection Atrium TreeWhat was your inspiration for the creation of the art piece for the Atrium tree on Reflection?

Well, I basically took the name of the ship, “Reflection,” and started from there. The fact that the ship had included a living tree as a pre-requisite element within each of the Atrium projects also was also a point of departure for me. The first image that came to mind was what it looks like when a tree is mirrored in a still lake and it doubles the tree. I also really liked what that means as a metaphor for self-reflection. The order of all the ship names in this particular fleet seemed to suggest some process of lunar or solar phases. I wanted this piece to include that, as well, as a means of tying all of the ships in the fleet together somehow. So, I took that idea of the tree reflected in the water, but changed the bottom tree so it could have a life as the sun goes down on the ship. The living tree on the top grows and comes to life while the sun is out and the bottom tree, with each of its branch ends housing lights, comes to life as the sun disappears and becomes a sort of ghost chandelier doppelganger of its living reflection above.

What went into the creation process? Please describe for us.

I started out with several really simple sketches of what I imagined it could look like, and then worked with an architect to take my basic idea and refine it into a realistic rendering of what I initially imagined. After several revisions, as well as feedback from engineers and the shipyard, we came up with a final design. It still kept the core elements and themes of my initial concept, but it was also realistically possible given all of the variables that need to be taken into account when creating something for a moving vessel.

Were there any challenges or restrictions you had to deal with?

Creatively or conceptually? Never. But when it came to physically translating those concepts into a workable and stable object that could withstand the constant motion of a moving ship, yes. There were certain fabrication techniques that are common on land that just cannot work on something that is constantly moving and shifting. There were certain materials and paint finishes that I thought the piece could be made of that just weren’t suitable for the highly corrosive quality of ocean air. A lot of adjustments and modifications had to be made to make it right for that environment. Some things just couldn’t be done and the piece itself had to be changed a little. It was a challenge to allow for all those changes, but still find a way to maintain the work’s conceptual integrity. In the end, I think it came out stunning.

What inspired you to become an artist?

It’s been so long now that I’ve been making work that I’m not even sure I remember. It sounds a bit silly and stereotypical, but I think I’ve always been one. I think maybe things changed when I realized that you could make a living being an artist, which happened when I was in high school. I had a really great teacher who was very encouraging and exposed me to the idea that you could be a professional artist. She taught me how to archive and photograph my work, write a C.V., and how galleries and museums functioned within that process. It gave me a great deal of confidence.

How do you feel knowing this piece will be featured in the Atrium of Reflection?

It feels great! Frankly, this is the first work of this kind that I’ve ever made and it was an incredibly humbling and exciting learning experience. It’s opened my practice to a whole new level of possibilities. It’s given me an opportunity to grow and added a completely new approach to making work using materials and solving problems I never would have considered otherwise. It’ll be on Reflection conceivably for years, and it will be a part of so many travelers’ experiences for years to come. I owe many thanks to everyone who worked on this and helped me realize this piece.