Client: Utah Valley University and the State of Utah, Division of Arts and Museums
Location: Provo, UT, United States
Completion date: 2018
Artwork budget: $193,000
Completed in December, 2018. Located in the Noorda Center for the Performing Arts. Dimensions: 16' from ceiling x 30' wide x 14' deep. Materials are handmade glass, stainless steel wire, 3D printed PET, LEDs, steel armature, and custom programming. The sculpture appears to float in the lobby. Virga is a semi-transparent shifting spectacle that transforms with the changing light of the day. During the daylight hours the glass is the dominant material, at night each piece of glass is illuminated.
Virga is inspired by the complex natural phenomenon of light and water vapor and the gestural ridge lines of the Wasatch Range. In meteorology, virga is a shaft of precipitation that falls from a cloud but evaporates before reaching the ground. This observable phenomenon bends light via water particles, appearing as a streak in the sky suggesting rain. At high altitudes the precipitation falls mainly as ice crystals before melting and finally evaporating. Our sculpture aesthetically responds to these clouds that are often visible floating over Utah Valley.
Virga is created with 1650 individually suspended rods in the form of elongated rain drops. The rhythmic layers of glass create varying areas of density and sparsity to form an ethereal cloud as the lens-like ends catch and bend light. Virga is a physically dynamic work, appearing differently depending on the audience’s viewpoint. As the viewer shifts position from outside and within the lobby, the droplets seem as if organized in a linear formation from below and present a complex moiré pattern from the sides and the balconies.
Jenn Figg and Matthew McCormack began collaborating in 2009, after recognizing mutual interests in energy, technology and the environment. They use a variety of materials including glass, textiles, metal, sound, video, and electronics to investigate the connections between ecology, industry, science and identity. This project is a site specific percent for art commission from the State of Utah for Utah Valley University. The artists worked closely with architects Method Studio and Reaveley Engineering. Programming and technical support is provided by Pete Milo at Clearstory Creative in Pittsburgh, PA.
Virga blends seamlessly within the architecture. The armature was designed to be hidden within the joists and behind the ceiling tiles.