Albuquerque Journal Illumination Tree Feature

PUBLISHED: Tuesday, April 7, 2015 at 12:02 am

To the casual observer, the mammoth fixture being installed in the Great Hall of the Albuquerque Sunport is a chandelier.

While it does contain bulbs and can be illuminated, the piece is also the latest addition of public art displayed in New Mexico’s largest airport.

Titled “Illumination Tree,” the glass and steel sculpture “seems to grow from the ceiling, suspended in mid-air, defying gravity,” said artist and creator Jezebel Wells.

That’s no small feat. “Illumination Tree” is 14.5 feet in length, 14.5 feet in diameter and weighs about 1,400 pounds. It contains six large steel tree branches with multiple smaller branches that support large stained wavy glass blossoms of different colors. The blossoms are illuminated by 2-watt LED bulbs.

“The organic design combines the earthly life forms with the ethereal sky elements,” said Wells, who operates the Jezebel Studio and Gallery in the East Mountains community of Madrid.

The piece, which took three years to complete, was paid for by a private donor who wanted it placed in the Sunport, she said. Wells designed it specifically for that space after it was approved by Sunport officials, as well as the Albuquerque Arts Board.

The branches of the sculpture are done in an “earth color,” while the blossoms are intended to convey “the colors of a New Mexico sunset,” she explained while overseeing the installation recently.

Artist Jezebel Wells uses a laser to point to areas on her hanging chandelier sculpture. (Dean Hanson/Journal)

In placing the work of art in an airport, it will hopefully resonate with people who have seen the world through the window of an airplane, and have come to appreciate the beauty and majesty of the horizon, “the place where the Earth meets the sky,” Wells said.

“Illumination Tree” becomes part of the 105-piece permanent collection of art located in and around the Sunport, according to Erika Anaya, the facility’s custodian of public art. “The artists we have here, many from throughout New Mexico, represent all mediums,” including paintings, lithographs, photographs, sculptures, wood carvings, pottery, textiles, jewelry and mixed media, she said.

The Sunport is a highly coveted art display space, given that 4 million to 5 million people pass through it each year – visitor numbers that art galleries and most art museums don’t come close to, Anaya said.

“We expose a lot of people to artists,” she said, adding that visitors frequently see the credit labels next to a displayed piece, listing the name of the work, name of the artist, the medium and the year completed, and then go online to learn more about the artists and where to purchase their works.

People also regularly contact Sunport officials, she said, “to enquire if a piece on display is available to purchase,” which they generally are not.

The newest addition from Wells joins an art inventory that includes other notable artists, including Wilson Hurley, R.C. Gorman, Glenna Goodacre, Pablita Velarde, Fritz Scholder, Nancy Kozikowski, Pop Chalee, John Nieto, Liz Anderson, Lincoln Fox and many more.