In her installation Alchemy Tunnel, now at Radiant Space, artist Laurie Shapiro has created a literal and figurative cave of wonders. Using fabric, foil, sequins, and water-based paint, Shaprio’s inventive fantasy environment glitters and beckons. A distinct floral theme dominates the space, which is covered floor to ceiling with images and patterns that include lights and sparkles and sensual fabric.
Shapiro’s signature is the use of floral images and mixed media to subvert a kind of 60s and 70s aesthetic, creating rich, intimate, and highly-Zen art experiences that exude positivity and acceptance. Her color palette here is also highly representative of the artist’s work, incorporating silvers and golds within a vast, soft rainbow of colors that include pinks, blues, and reds among the main visual players.
Viewers slip off their shoes to enter the space, evoking the sensation of entering both fairyland and sacred chamber. There are elements of the fairytale here – a visionary, female-conceived version of the genii’s cave in Aladdin or the magic treasure cave in Ali Baba and The Forty Thieves – in Shapiro’s installation; also significant are elements of personal and spiritual sanctity. Shapiro provides contemplative corners and reflective nooks; the gallery and artist offer events from sound baths to yoga to curated vegan meals during the exhibition’s run.
The imagery and materials throughout the installation – dried flowers, orbs of light, circular and star-shaped painted images of flowers, stars and other celestial bodies, the use of gold leaf, silver reflective foil, and sequins — all create the effect of a repeating meditative mandala. The installation takes as its conceptual starting point elements of Shapiro’s Jewish heritage with sukkot-related images. In that sense, it resembles a large, joyous sukkah, the hut-like structure used by the Israelites in the desert after being freed from slavery in Egypt. The Sukkot holiday, also known as the Feast of Booths, often recreates sukkah, bedecked in flowers, representing both the fragility of all structures and the warm embrace of home.
Visiting Shapiro’s installation serves as a home of sorts, a meditative and healing space. Shapiro has said her own hope for the installation is that it serves as a place for viewers to find “peace and clarity.”
Walking from the front of the gallery to the back, the viewer can see that the installation is comprised of six different panels wrapping from wall to ceiling to the wall on the opposite side, shaping a tunnel or cave. Each panel highlights a different color palette such as red, yellow, green, and the seemingly most predominant blue and purple. The artist uses screen-printed drawn images as well as layers of paint; the bedazzled and embroidered fabric work is also her own. Lighting is accomplished through the use of WiFi-linked bulbs shifting the color perspective throughout the exhibition.
The dense layering and soft look of the fabrics, as well as the flower motif itself throughout, creates a magical sense that one is floating through the space.
Within the greater whole of the installation, Shapiro’s individual images can be viewed as representative of a variety of iconic images: flowered wreaths and leis, amoeba-like creatures, sea-life, ferns, a fecund floral forest, planetary configurations, and undulating openings to other, more spiritual dimensions.
In short, even the smallest aspect of the installation is both transcendental and transformative, inviting viewers into a compelling and blissfully – appropriately – radiant place.
Alchemy Tunnel will tour other cities following the completion of its run at Radiant Space.
All images of the installation courtesy of Radiant Space.
Laurie Shapiro, Alchemy Tunnel, October 5 – November 23, 2019
Radiant Space, 1444 N Sierra Bonita Av., Los Angeles, CA 90046