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Artist behind Pru installation wants everyone to ‘look up’

Cicely Carew's new hanging sculptures are meant to fill viewers with wonder and light.
Cicely Carew's new hanging sculptures are meant to fill viewers with wonder and light.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

For her new art installation at the Prudential Center, Cambridge artist Cicely Carew hopes visitors will “look up” — to both her colorful new sculptures and a future of possibility beyond the pandemic.

“During the winter months, we’re used to looking down and walking very quickly just to one point to another,” said Carew, who unveiled “Ambrosia” Monday at the Pru. “I’m hoping [this installation] reminds people just to look up, look to the light and remember that we’re underneath this giant blanket of possibility.”

The installation, on view through June 30, is the result of a collaboration between Boston Properties, the real estate company that owns the Pru, and public art curators from the nonprofit Now + There. “Ambrosia” consists of eight sculptures suspended over different corners of the space, from Boylston Street to Center Court and over by Huntington Avenue. Each element was constructed from a mix of materials including spray-painted mesh, tulle, and screens.

One of the bouquet-like sculptures from Cicely Carew's "Ambrosia."
One of the bouquet-like sculptures from Cicely Carew's "Ambrosia."David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

When visitors stand under one of the pieces, they’re meant to be bathed in light — it might be turquoise, magenta, or green depending on time of day. “As the light changes, you can see that transformation,” Carew said in a phone interview Monday. “You’re staying in that space of wonder. The inspiration behind the piece was togetherness and centering joy in a time of separation, anxiety, and uncertainty.”

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Carew began work on the site-specific commission in July, amid the loneliness and heartbreak surrounding COVID-19 and grief over the killing of George Floyd. Creating a space where people could meditate on loss was important, she said.

The name “Ambrosia” has little to do with the original Greek “food of the gods” definition, Carew added. “It’s an offering to life. It’s an offering to the creative spirit. It’s an offering and a celebration.”

One of the larger works from Carew's new "Ambrosia" installation.
One of the larger works from Carew's new "Ambrosia" installation.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

The commission has been a blessing for Carew, both personally and professionally. Most of her work had been two-dimensional until now, with her largest project weighing a couple hundred pounds. “Ambrosia” features 3.5 tons of material and spans 2,000 square feet of space. “This thing, which was a wonderful challenge, also kept changing throughout,” Carew said. “The process is very much like trial and error. When things changed I learned to just roll with it.”

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And when visitors walk into the Pru and find themselves bathed in colorful light, Carew hopes they feel the same joy she felt while creating these sculptures. “‘Ambrosia’ is simultaneously a constant play in the air and a moment to pause — to just be with what is and have a moment of meditation,” she said.


Natachi Onwuamaegbu can be reached at natachi.onwuamaegbu@globe.com.