Barbara S. Custen County of Los Angeles Public Library
Prevailing Affinities is a series of 18 6'x5' shiny white fiberglass and silicone jellyfish, each 70 lbs., suspended from a 40' glass skylight. Jellyfish swim in groups to help safeguard themselves from ocean predators and is one of the reasons why the species has been able to thrive for 700 million years. By reaching out to neighbors and connecting, individuals or families can form a community that also helps to sustain them. Working together creates beauty and endurance. Prevailing Affinities is one of two of my public sculptures installed at the Manhattan Beach Public Library in Manhattan Beach, CA.
Inspired by universal themes, my work is relevant to the community milieu. My process includes a thorough discovery phase, key to the meaningful development of both narrative and form. Prior to designing Prevailing Affinities, I conducted research on the City of Manhattan Beach, exploring the library home, the Manhattan Beach Strand, interviewing stakeholders, local residents and visitors, and meeting with the town's historian. The City of Manhattan Beach, with its beautiful ocean and beach landscapes, provides a place for peaceful contemplation. This community is also a place of warmth and interaction. The setting, much like the library itself, provides an opportunity for people to both connect and disconnect. I could see that the new state-of-the-art public library was inspired by the California light and space artists of the mid-century - a beautiful partnership with my aesthetic. The transparency of the library is a perfect backdrop for the positive and negative space I play with in my sculptures, which is why I made the which is why I made the jellyfish, swimming in families or "blooms" to create patterns against the skylight above.
As the artist and project manager, I thrived worked closely with key personnel and stakeholders including Los Angeles County representatives, local public officials, and library staff. Ongoing communication was critical to understanding the culture of the library and its surrounding community, establishing clear goals, managing expectations, and ensuring that the installation was well integrated into the space. To execute my vision, I coordinated with teams of experts including engineers, fabricators, electricians, lighting specialists, conservators, movers, foundries and others.
I was given a budget and a timeline for project installation and delivered on both.
Manhattan Beach Installation
Two-piece Commissioned Installation
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