The Universe Within

Jessica Angel takes students and visitors on a space adventure
By Casey Marley • Photos by Steve Wood • Video by Bailey Barrow, Ben Johnson, Courtney Lassiter, David Love, Millena Oliveira, and Lauren Smith
Photo of artist Jessica Angel working on her installation; headline: The Universe Within
Jessica Angel takes students and visitors on a space adventure
By Casey Marley • Photos by Steve Wood • Video by Bailey Barrow, Ben Johnson, Courtney Lassiter, David Love, Millena Oliveira, and Lauren Smith
Colombian-born artist Jessica Angel (pictured above) is no stranger to big ideas. But when UAB asked her to reimagine the soaring, angled interior of the Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts (AEIVA) earlier this year, she decided to explore something huge. Like the universe.
Angel’s large-scale, site-specific installations have taken visitors to new dimensions both nationally and internationally. As AEIVA’s first artist in residence, she recently spent 14 weeks in Birmingham creating “Facing the Hyper-Structure.” The mind-bending, eye-warping work “brings together the concept of space” through art, architecture, and science, she explains.


Use your finger or mouse to explore a 360-degree view of Jessica Angel's "Facing the Hyper-Structure." Immerse yourself even further with Google Cardboard and your smartphone. Safari does not support 360 video.


Connecting science and the arts is a recurring theme in Angel’s works. For the AEIVA project, the New York-based artist found inspiration from hours of research into microwave radiation, the theory of relativity, the space-time continuum, and the flexibility of space. She applied her discoveries and imagination to a small-scale model of the building before beginning the full transformation.
Using colorful vinyl and mat board, with a shampoo-water mix as paste, Angel covered floors and walls and climbed to the ceiling. And she wasn’t alone. A team of students from the UAB College of Arts and Sciences Department of Art and Art History worked alongside her as part of a course she led. “It was a kind of internship,” says senior Alex Kulik, an Auburn native focusing on new media. “I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to work with a high-status artist on campus.”


Photo of Angel with her AEIVA modelJessica Angel's mat-board model provided a roadmap for the 14-week project.


“In class, she would tell us about her thought process and research and how she makes connections throughout her work,” adds James Clay, a senior from Alabaster, Alabama, studying new media.
“I’m encouraging them to find their own systems of connection and their own research and how they relate to things they are interested in,” Angel says. “I’m teaching them how I put together my ideas and challenging them to do the same with their own work and their own ideas.”


Photo of student working to build Angel's art installationArt major Zachary Edison was one of several students who helped construct the monumental work.


After class came the work—sometimes in unexpected places. “We put these crazy pixels on the ceiling,” Kulik says. “We got up on a ladder and leaned backward to paste those tiles.”
“It was labor intensive,” Clay adds. Angel “would ask for our input about arranging different elements in the piece and how to incorporate different things.”
But the work paid off, especially on opening night, when more than 500 people visited AEIVA to wander through Angel’s “Hyper-Structure.” Kulik describes that moment as “surreal.” The installation “was lit up with colored lights, and everyone was captivated by it,” she says. “There was so much information, and it was all so beautiful.”


Photo of walls and ceiling covered with colorful vinyl tilesJessica Angel transformed AEIVA's walls, floors, and even the ceiling. The completed installation was on view for four months.


Published August 2017
 
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