Fata Morgana



"Fata Morgana"

Port Everglades / Terminal 21

Artists: Ralph Helmick & Stuart Schechter

Media: painted cast pewter; stainless steel cable; steel

Commissioned by the Broward County Public Art & Design

Number of elements: 2460
Number of cables: 1671

Originally installed: 2001
Reinstalled in new location: 2013


'Fata Morgana', the sculpture's title means an optical illusion of water, also known as mirage. The image of a mid-twentieth century ocean liner and its reflection on the sea is created by more than 25,000 small cast pewter elements hung on nearly 1,700 fine cables with incredible precision to an overhead suspension grid. Artist Ralph Helmick and associate artist Stuart Schecter designed and fabricated this giant three-dimensional pointillist ship sculpture measuring approximately 32 feet high, 16 feet wide and 32 feet long. The intent was to evoke a journey of the mind as well as a literal ocean voyage. The core image would be a hallucinatory cruise ship. Rather than base this form on contemporary liners whose configurations change almost year to year, the artists looked to classic ships from the early 20th century. The result was the creation of a wooden model that fused features of the SS Normandie (1935) and the SS Independence (1951).

This hand built model was laser scanned to create a point cloud data set which the artists manipulated via CAD to achieve a “pointillist” abstraction. Employing custom software developed in their studio, a detailed spreadsheet was finalized, indicating where each of the 25,000 painted pewter elements would be affixed to cables. Spheres and elliptical shapes in warm metallic colors comprise the central upright ship. Horizontally intersecting this form are scores of cool blue and silver pyramidal shapes representing sea level. A mixture of warm and cool metallic colors on ovoid forms creates an “underwater” three-dimensional reflection of the ship. Originally installed in 2001 in the lobby of the terminal, the sculpture was reinstalled in 2013 to adapt to this more central location in the terminal.

Artist Statement

"Fata Morgana: an optical phenomenon that creates the illusion of water, often with inverted reflections of distant objects, and results from distortion of light by alternate layers of hot and cool air. Also called mirage."

Photo Gallery

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Detail of Fata Morgana, a sculpture that is created with small objects hung from wire and resembles the shape of cruise ship.Detail of Fata Morgana, a sculpture that is created with small objects hung from wire and resembles the shape of cruise ship.