"Thin Air," a large-scale installation made of approximately 1000 laser-cut acrylic pieces by Austin artist Beili Liu, will be displayed Jan. 25 – March 9, 2016 in the Wright Gallery, located in the Langford Architecture Center’s Building A on the Texas A&M University College Station campus.
“The laser-cut, white elements resemble organic forms reminiscent of smoke or ripples,” said Liu. “Each form is supported by thin, silver rods standing delicately on the ground at varying heights, with clustering dense areas that fade out into more open spaces.”
Seemingly hovering above ground, she said, the installation posesses a sense of fluidity in the gallery with ghostly white rings, which shift, overlap, presenting a mesmerizing and meditative aura.
In her work, Liu, an associate professor of art at the University of Texas at Austin, employs a wide variety of materials, such as thread, wool, wax, wire, recycled wood, burned paper, adobe, water and salt crystals.
“I think that every material has something to say,” said Liu. “Some decisions for pieces come intuitively and I wait for the moment of surprise.”
In “Stratus,” a recent installation at the Grace Museum in Abilene, Texas, Liu fabricated a large set of polyester film panels that simulated a cloud that might bring rainfall — a welcome event in the West Texas city, which was experiencing drought conditions earlier this year .
Viewers who approached or walked underneath the 25’ x 53’ piece suspended 7’ from the museum floor saw the polyester panels shift, overlap, echo, disguise and reveal intricate graphite markings and texture.
“Most times, above the Texas sky, stratus clouds lighten and dissipate,” said Liu. “The viewer’s walk under the installation then, became a walking prayer for the cloud to darken, and for the much-desired rain to fall.”
Liu has been working with large-scale installations such as “Stratus” and the upcoming Wright Gallery piece for 15 years.
“The theme of my work focuses on cultural and social concerns and universal human experiences,” she said. “My latest body of work looks at fusing the seemingly opposite into one, and seeking the impossible balance between contradicting and confluent forces, like life and death, destruction and rebirth.”
Liu said her work reflects changes she encountered in her youth when her family moved from a small Chinese fishing village to Shenzhen, a bustling Special Economic Zone created by the Chinese government, then to the U.S.
“All these changes influence my work, which addresses these shifts in cultural experiences.”
Her art has been exhibited extensively throughout the U.S., Europe and China, and has earned praise in numerous publications.