Agnes Chavez - Digital Art and Light
Updated: Jul 23
Meet Agnes Chavez
Owner of STEMarts Lab
A new media artist who designs and builds science-art installations
At the age of five, Agnes Chavez was drawing pictures. She drew detailed pictures of her dolls and toy animals. Her parents were happy to think she would become an artist. Art is important in their Cuban culture. But her parents never pictured Agnes making art from light. They never thought she would explore the same questions that scientists ask.
Early in her art career, Agnes made paintings that hung in galleries. Other artists saw her art. Other artists talked about her art. Her art career was successful and fulfilling. But she wanted to make art that all kinds of people outside of the gallery world would see and interact with. She wanted her art to remind us that we are part of nature. We are responsible to protect it.
“No matter what country you come from, we all share the same subatomic particles and we all come from the stars.”
When Agnes was a traditional artist, she started work with an idea. Now her art starts with a question. What is our place in the universe? Who are we? How can we understand and fix problems we have created on Earth and in space?
Step 2: Research. Agnes goes to a research lab and asks a ton of questions. She wants to know what experiments they are doing. What models do they use to explain what they know? What new questions are born from what they have learned? Agnes’ art projects are all research-based.
Step 3: Agnes chooses digital technology tools that will help her visualize what she has learned. Her art projects often involve students. She likes to work with students from different countries who collaborate with her and each other. As she learns, the students learn. They figure out how to use the technology. They think about the ideas and questions behind the project.
Finally, the project is ready to show at art festivals around the world. Here are some links to some videos showing some of Agnes’ art installations.
(x)Trees – The tree branches “grow” when audience members send texts or tweets. Their messages appear in the forest. Click here or on the photo to see it in action.
Fluidic Data -- Agnes was invited to create an art installation with scientists at CERN in Geneva Switzerland. She spent weeks with the scientists who do experiments at the largest particle collider in the world. The artist and the scientist are both trying to understand the smallest particles that make everything in the universe. Most of the material that we are made of come from dying stars- supernova. Agnes says, “No matter what country you come from, we all share the same subatomic particles and we all come from the stars.” Agnes’ project, “Fluidic Data” is 4 stories tall. It uses lights and water to signal when different kinds of particles are detected in the collider. Click here or on the photo to see the top level of the 40-foot-tall work in action.
The Lakota Cosmology meets Particle Physics - In this video, students learn from a particle physicist from CERN, a Lakota Cultural Specialist and artists to explore the universe in new ways. Then students help build a Lakota tipi. They project their own visions of how science, technology and ecology can combine to keep us in balance with nature. Click here or on the photo to see how students made this project.
All photos courtesy of Agnes Chavez and STEMarts Lab
You can learn more about New Media Art in this book . . .
by Jacky Klein and Suzy Klein
This book has a chapter on art made from light and much, much more. What Is Contemporary Art? opens up the exciting, dynamic and sometimes bewildering world of contemporary art for a young audience, inviting readers to explore, enjoy and question a variety of artworks drawn from the collection of The Museum of Modern Art. Organized thematically by subjects of interest to children--from games and unusual materials to outer space and bizarre beasts--the book features nearly 70 works made over the past 50 years by a range of international artists, from modern icons
. . . and you can see more new media art by watching these videos.
Agnes helped found the PASEO Arts Festival in Taos, NM. This video from 2017, shows work by many artists who make new media, interactive art. (Some are even kids!)
How Jen Lewin makes mesmerizing light sculptures: In this video she describes how she makes large intereactive art sculptures of light.