Lea Anderson sits atop a scissor lift in the Albuquerque Museum, carefully arranging transparent, multicolored pieces of plastic on a gigantic window and gluing them to the glass. Visitors mingle below, and look up and point to her mosaic masterpiece.
The museum selected Anderson to create a temporary large-scale art piece, or installation, in its lobby.
This is the fifth year the museum has invited an artist to work in the lobby and engage with visitors.
“We really like the idea of an artist making an object in front of the public so the public can interact with them, ask them questions and learn more about that creative process,” said Andrew Connors, curator of art for the museum.
Connors added that each year museum staff seeks an artist working in a different style than the artist from the previous year and they try to focus on local artists because of the plethora of talent in New Mexico.
“I think all too often we tend to think that people coming from other places are going to be innately better than the artists that are here,” he said. “But here in Albuquerque we have some of the best artists working in the United States today.”
Anderson, described by Connors as a wonderful combination of painter and sculptor, works with two- and three-dimensional art, and has exhibited throughout New Mexico, the United States and in Thailand.
To create her installation, she first photographed one of her smaller, two-dimensional collage art pieces. Then, on a computer, she blew the image up to 20 feet wide and digitally altered it by changing the colors and using miniature versions of the bigger image to fill in thousands of tiny areas, much like a fractal.
By the end of her project, Anderson will have glued 10,000 pieces of plastic on the museum’s large window.
The inspiration behind her piece is the universe, she said.
How science is combined with the unknown, the mysterious workings of the world and a concept Anderson entirely made up herself: Meridiae, a plural word for meridian.
Anderson explains Meridiae as a portal, or a place of connection between the physical world and unseen cosmological entities.
“I love the idea that everything in the universe is made from the same basic material, but everything in the universe is unique,” she said. “You can (demonstrate) that visually. All of these shapes are made from the same source, but yet they’re all unique. The window is a connector – a connection from this interior world to an exterior one.”
Museum staff sit at a table beneath the scissor lift and voluntarily help with the cutting of the 10,000 plastic pieces.
“I want to make a nod to the museum, because they’re incredibly supportive of the local art community,” Anderson said. She specifically named Connors, who she said makes an effort to connect with all of the local artists in town and visit their exhibitions.
“Artists really are very important in the community,” Connors said. “Too often, people think of art as a luxury, but art really makes life worth living. Artists have selected one of the most impossible things to do: to make a living being creative, and to provoke us and encourage us to see the world differently.”
Anderson is a full-time art instructor at Central New Mexico Community College.
She will work on her installation in the museum until July 26, when it will be completed and will then remain in the lobby for one year.