Contemporary light installation artist Adela Andea premieres piece


Jenna VonHofe

Adela Andea stands beside a piece from her newest installation, "Lux, Lumens, and Candelas," on Saturday evening. The installation will run through March 20 at Women & Their Work Gallery. 

Samantha Grasso

Houston-based artist Adela Andea stood in the center of the gallery with an eager audience amassed in front of her. From the ceiling behind her hung an expanse of plastic magnifying lenses and blue and green lights that were strategically and creatively constructed to create her latest art installation, “Lux, Lumens and Candelas.”

“[This installation] is a new work,” Andea said at the opening. “I haven’t shown this anywhere else. I decided to take some new risks and move on to a new direction with this magnifying plastic.”

Andea, an installation artist, premiered her installation, “Lux, Lumens and Candelas,” Saturday at Women & Their Work, an Austin art organization devoted to educating the public on and promoting the work of contemporary female artists. The installation is scheduled to run until March 20. 

“Andea is an intense and inspired artist,” said Rachel Koper, program director at Women & Their Work. “It is important to host the elusive solo show for ambitious and hardworking artists. As far as I know, we’ve never had underwater LEDs in a sculpture before. Andea’s use of consumer electronics and products all have her hand in them.”

As an installation artist, Andea develops art pieces out of different consumer materials, plastics and technology, using these objects to present and manipulate the central medium of light. 

The creation of the installation is a physical process, Andea said. For over a week, Andea spent time immersing herself in the space, installing and adjusting the different light sources and reflective materials to modify the perception of space in the gallery, and examining the installation from all angles.

“[While installing,] I have to be in the space to sense how it’s going to look,” Andea said. “That space becomes my studio. I have to be there by myself and spend time walking, and start to build.”

Andea earned her bachelor of fine arts in painting from the University of Houston and went on to earn her master’s in new media from the University of North Texas in 2012. She said, while art interested her from a young age, it wasn’t until her undergraduate career that she realized she wasn’t satisfied with 2-D art, and she began the transition to working in 3-D. 

“I was slowly dissatisfied with how the paint looked on the object,” Andea said. “It wasn’t bright enough, it wasn’t controllable enough, and then I just did a sudden switch to light.”

It was at Andea’s senior show for her undergraduate career that she debuted her first light installation. Two days before her show at Blaffer Gallery, she said she decided to go in a different direction with a light installation after her original piece was too heavy to install.

“Without any approval and prior curatorial decision, I just put the lights there,” Andea said. “The curator from Blaffer noticed and he also insisted that I should apply for Lawndale [Art Center] and start my career.”

The materials and technology Andea uses in her installations include pool noodles, LED and compact fluorescent lights, small computer fans, fish tanks and computerized motors. While some parts of the show for “Lux, Lumens and Candelas” were previously created and brought to Women & Their Work, the suspended installation is site-specific, featuring Andea’s latest material experimentation.

“[Lenses] come in different shapes and forms, and getting orders mixed up sometimes gives me ideas,” Andea said. “I do look at what’s on the consumer market and how we have so much of everything. That’s where I found the inspiration — in the large quantities of consumerism.”  

Melita Elmore, audience member at the unveiling, felt that Andea’s incorporation of technology into her work brought contemporary art to the 21st century.   

“A lot of people who are not artists, including myself, would think of artists just being painters, but really all kind of materials can be made into art,” Elmore said. “[Andea] really proves that’s so.”

Andea said that, while being noticed for her work early on gave her a positive confirmation on her use of light, it also made her aware of her responsibility as a light installation artist. 

“When you get attention, there are already people following you as a trend or an inspiration,” Andea said. “It is a huge responsibility when you think of opening a new door. I hope I make a difference. I want everyone to consider [his or her] own work as more important, not just doing something because someone did it and got recognition.”