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Cosmic Visions at the Promenade

By Ann K. Williams
Staff Writer

August 4 -- Sunlight and starlight came together Thursday afternoon on the Third Street Promenade with the unveiling of a series of dark and vibrant-hued images of earth, the stars and the primal elements of fire
and light called Dark Iris.

The first new banners to span the walk streets in 17 years, Santa Monica artist Lita Albuquerque's paintings on mesh contain a hidden puzzle to entertain visitors as they stroll along, a poem Albuquerque hopes they'll have fun figuring out.

She gave a few clues to reporters at the unveiling.

Artist Lita Albuquerque stands in front of the banners she designed. (Photo by Ann K. Williams)

The earth, Albuquerque said, "is like an iris, grabbing the light from the universe, catching the light from the stars…while here we are, standing on this beautiful bright day."

"The entire series of images is meant to remind us of our capacity to envision and to have vision," she said.

A year in the making, the banners were designed to work with "the notion of promenade, a kind of easy walking back and forth" Albuquerque explained.

"I wanted to align the idea of strolling with a visual sequence that people would 'read' as they walk along the Promenade – a sort of story that could be picked up and 'read' anytime during the sequence."

A Santa Monica native, Albuquerque spent her early years in North Africa, a fact perhaps reflected in her preoccupation with the melding of starscapes and earthscapes and with hieroglyphic-like encoding.

"I was raised in Tunisia, North Africa, and when we immigrated to this country, the first thing my mother did was to take my brother and me to the end of the Santa Monica Pier," Albuquerque recalls, "[she] turned us around, and looking up at the palisades, said 'Look, this is where you were born.'

"Now, having my first public art installation in Santa Monica, on the Promenade, where my children and my husband and I go for entertainment, gives me a wonderful feeling of synchronicity."

Albuquerque, whose installations can be seen in Tokyo, Cairo and at the Los Angeles Cathedral, was selected from more than 50 local artists by the Santa Monica Arts Commission and the Bayside District Corporation.

Her team included studio manager Rochelle Fab, Artist Jon Beasley, who translated the paintings into Digital files, project manager Gabrille Lamirand and All Printing Company of Encino, which printed the banners

Manager Jessica Cusick and Malina Moore of the Santa Monica Cultural Affairs Division and Executive Director Kathleen Rawson and Marketing Manager Marivi Valcourt of the Bayside District Corporation worked with Albuquerque on the project.

Later this year, she and her crew will travel to Antarctica, where, with the help of Santa Monica College Astronomy professor Dr. Simon Balm, they'll install a starscape in front of active Volcano Mount Erebus on the Winter Solstice.

Next year, they'll do the same thing at the North Pole, bracketing the earth with her vision of cosmic interconnectedness. The starscapes are being funded by the National Science Foundation.

For now, Albuquerque wants visitors to the Promenade "to feel the joy of having something different in the mall."

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