Ava Blitz: Beauty and the Beast

"Beauty and the Beast" is a symbol of the natural ecosystem. It has enjoyed varied interpretations by the public: grasses, amoebas, aliens, penguins, cilia, stalagmites, sex, razor clams, a cocktail party. The title refers to my enthusiasm and love for the oddness, humor, mystery, beauty, obsessiveness, color, beastliness, and ambiguity, of forms and systems in the natural world.

"Beauty and the Beast" measures thirty feet in diameter. It contains 117 multiple pieces of human sized sculptures, each five feet tall, set within a three-foot deep pit in the ground. It was built during a two-year residency at Appel Farm Arts & Music Center in rural Elmer, New Jersey. The residency included instruction in casting, carving, mold making, relief and intaglio, and art history. In addition, I worked with community volunteers of all ages: professionals and trades people, excavators, builders, electricians and architects all contributed their time and expertise.

The experience was extraordinary. Participants had the opportunity to learn about art, and to contribute to the building of a major piece of public art in their community. They also enjoyed the sense of pride and ownership such a commitment entails. I remain forever grateful for their dedication in helping to realize this vision, which brought together many paths in my work. It could not have been completed without community and foundation support.

"Beauty and the Beast" is a permanent in-ground installation that was supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, and the Mid-Atlantic Art Foundation. With interactive possibilities and the potential to take on a life of its own, this piece of public art is a combination of sculpture, architecture and landscape design. "Beauty and the Beast" has served as a musical and theatrical performance space, a contemplative place to sit, and a place to jump into and explore. The installation changes dramatically according to time, season, and weather.

Surrounded by activity day and night, light is an integral part of the design. Night lighting creates an eerie glow. Although monumental in scale, dictated in part by the wide-open outdoor space where it is sited, the low profile installation nevertheless remains in harmony with its environment. The majority of this piece is below ground level. In the very flat landscape of southern New Jersey, the horizontal orientation creates a line of color when seen from a distance. The pieces gradually grow as the viewer approaches.

Serendip is a web site devoted to a sort of science education that is playful, exploratory, self-directed, and generative of the new. Among its offerings has been extensive web support for the discovery of unexpected intersections between science and society, science in culture, and science and art. The artistic creations of Ava Blitz are particularly striking representations of the latter.

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Exhibit layout by Ava Blitz and
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