|Intervening public places
My interest in the social dimension of artistic production has led me to frequently incorporate art into public spaces, to create many ephemeral site-specifics, mainly in educational and recreational institutions. In 2003, Luminous Gardens was my first large-scale installation in the US, at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden: 100.000 marker flags planted in the lowlands of the Garden, which initiated the Fairchild’s annual program “Art at Fairchild”. Other ephemeral works where created specifically for the Universidad Simon Bolivar (1998, Caracas), the Main Library of the Universidad Central de Venezuela (2001, Caracas), Tropical Park, Miami (2004), the Universidad MonteAvila, Caracas (2009), and the Miller Learning Center, University of Georgia (2011).
From these -and many other- experiences of intervening public spaces, spaces meant for purposes other than the exhibition of art, I was left with the certainty that art manages to profoundly transform such public spaces, turning them into areas that stimulate thought and senses. Art that is integrated in public spaces improves the quality of life of the users of those sites, providing them with a sense of joy and well-being on a dimension that works in various levels: sensorial, playful, intellectual, and even spiritual.
Since 1995, I have designed and implemented multiple permanent works. Examples of these include exterior murals, interior murals, floors, hanging works, three-dimensional installations in high places, and stained glass windows. I have always used appropriate materials for every situation, taking into account factors such as durability, cost, and pertinence: glass mosaic, ceramic, painted acrylic, painted wood, glass, etc. Teams of professionals and workers have completed all of these works under my direction and supervision.
Other examples of these integrations are: a large-scale ceramic wall at a main highway in Caracas, which now benefits around 180.000 people daily as they use the highway; a mosaic-floor at a public square for the community of the Caribbean fishing village of Rio Caribe, in eastern Venezuela; and the artistic treatment of three walls in a private dining room in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida.
My art in public spaces promotes a reconciliation with the environment and fosters “walkability”, the capacity that an urban space has for people to walk in it, for it to call the attention of both pedestrians and drivers. My works increments the scenic value of what tends to be non-places, those gray zones that you can find abundantly in suburban areas of modern cities. Thus, my works form part of the efforts that are being made all over the world to connect the urbanite with his/her daily urban environment, and therefore to promote a more sustainable relationship with the transportation needs of the people and a more intense and fruitful urban navigation.
Finally, my recent work explores the notion of fragmentation as it affects form, space, and color. This I interpret as a symbol of multiplicity. I am interested in families of forms and the repetition of abstract elements, and I resort to primarily vibrant combinations of luminous colors. These choices of visual language allow me to produce images that remind their observers not only of natural elements such as flowers, gardens, woods, and the sea, but also of man-made constructions, like buildings and cities as viewed from above. These familiar, recurring elements in everyone’s lives create a sense of shared identity with the site.
I produce works that seek to transform neutral spaces into unexpected spaces, in order to give joy to the eye, to remind us of the sublime, of the harmonious, images that inspire in us feelings of happiness within a contemporary aesthetic, and enhance the visual and spatial experience that links us with a place.
Patricia Van Dalen, 2012