Multimedia artist Ansen Seale, known primarily for his time-based works of photographic art, has expanded out of the picture frame with a new interactive public art installation commissioned by Bellaire Market H‑E‑B, 5106 Bissonnet Street in Houston, Texas, and curated by The Weingarten Art Group. This captivating work incorporates illuminated acrylic slats that cascade above the store’s main customer escalator that shift through different hues of light. As visitors ascend the escalator, their presence beneath the hanging slats activates a wave of changing colors. In those moments, an ordinary moment in daily life becomes singular and extraordinary. Step inside H-E-B to see this beautiful commission and join in the experience!
San Antonio-based Ansen Seale discusses his process and inspiration for the piece below:
Q: You seem to love exploring the concept of movement and time in your work. Will this installation expound on that theme?
A: Yes, as people move on the stairs or escalator, they activate the piece. In this way, the viewer becomes the creator in a collaborative way.
Q: In addition to creating public art installations, you have often worked in photography over the last decade. How does working in two dimensions versus three change how you interpret your ideas?
A: Many of my photographic images were actually people in motion on escalators, moving sidewalks, running or walking. In this way, “Blue By You” follows directly from that work.
To me, the two media are one in the same. Photography is really a four-dimensional discipline. Even though the third dimension is only implied by perspective and other cues, it is central to the understanding of the image. It’s like saying that a mirror is only two-dimensional. Technically it is, but the way we perceive it is so much more.
In that way, sculpture can also be a four-dimensional medium if you include the aspect of time.
I am fascinated by the idea that what we experience every day may not be reality at all. We know now, for example, that on an atomic level, our bodies contain more space than matter. Our view of the world is hopelessly egocentric. By changing a few simple rules about the way we think a camera should work, I can play with that egocentric notion: “The way I see is the way it is!”
Whether 2D or 3D, time is the real subject of my work. The objects involved are just the “carriers of time” in the same way that a tree bending and swaying carries the idea of wind, even though we can’t see the air.
Q: How do you think this installation piece will affect the space and people moving through H-E-B at Bellaire? What do you hope visitors will experience?
A: I hope that this piece will “lift people up” as they go shopping. I want them to experience some wonder and have a sense of agency — that they are responsible for something beautiful happening.
Q: What was the inspiration that led to the design of this installation piece?
A: There were many technical considerations leading up to this piece and it went through many design iterations. But the idea’s central guiding principle was always the experience of the viewer, and how it would make them feel. Think of a kid with a stick clacking along a picket fence…or maybe the sound of a xylophone. It’s that kind of playful feeling I wanted to evoke.
Q: How can the presence of public art in typically commercial, or simply unexpected, spaces impact the people who frequent those spaces?
A: I think we should take every opportunity to inspire ourselves. That can be difficult in an urban setting but hopefully this piece makes it a bit easier to enjoy an everyday activity like shopping.
Q: Do you feel there is a need for public art in non-traditional spaces, like H-E-B? Do businesses have a role in supporting the arts?
A: Patrons of the arts, and their motivations, have changed through time. Once only the domain of the church and wealthy families, now government and industry are stepping up. Good businesses will take up this challenge, too, just like airports and hospitals have. Business is realizing that the common good is also good for them! Bravo H-E-B!