‘Butterfly Effect’ by Merle Axelrad (incorporating Lutradur)

This large suspended sculpture of butterflies was commissioned by Los Angeles County for The Arcadia Mental Health Centre and installed in the main entrance lobby of the outpatients department in 2015.

An artist's impression of a lobby with  hundreds of strands of hand painted Monarch butterflies suspended from the high ceiling.
An impression of the scale of the installation

It measures 10 feet x 16 feet x 12.5 feet and depicts a cluster of approximately 10,000 Monarch butterflies made from hand-painted and silk-screened materials (including Lutradur), hanging from six aluminium eucalyptus branches, 23 feet above floor level.

A symbol of transformation and new beginnings, the artist, Merle Axelrad states on her website that ‘The outpatient mental health clinic is all about change’ and ‘butterflies are the perfect metaphor.’

A large table showing A4 sheets of fabric in the process of being coloured with yellow and orange paint ready to be cut into butterflies.
As a light translucent material, Lutradur provided a perfect medium for butterfly wings.
Large table showing about 16 Monarch butterflies which have been cut out from the previously painted fabric. They have orange wings, bordered with black lines and decorated with white dots.
Monarch butterflies are easily recognisable with their orange colouring, black outlines and white dots on the edges of their wings.

Monarch butterflies are also particularly significant as the clinic is on their flight path as millions fly over 2,000 miles on their journey from the United States and Canada, south to California and Mexico for the winter.

Four strands of butterflies under construction in Merle's studio.
244 strands of butterflies were created in Merle’s studio before being finally assembled in the main sculpture.
A close-up photograph of the finished butterflies as they hang on strands of thread. Some have their wings open, whereas others have their wings closed.
The position and pose (either open or closed) of every butterfly was carefully planned.

Thoughts, written by staff and clients, as well as those involved with the construction of the building and sculpture are printed on more than 700 fabric eucalyptus leaves.

You can see more pictures and hear an interview with Merle discussing the construction and installation of this sculpture by tuning in to Insight at Cap Radio https://www.capradio.org/50520

It must be an enthralling experience to look up and see thousands of butterflies fluttering gently with the slightest movement of air!

by Ruth Morgan | September 4, 2020 | Posted in Lutradur