Step Inside an Otherworldly Psychedelic Cave 1,000 Hours in the Making

Artist Laurie Shapiro’s immersive installation feels alive

In the past year or so, Los Angeles has hosted more than its share of Instagram-ready interactive pop-up experiences. They’re fun enough, but they have a tendency to feel sort of silly and shallow. The artwork Laurie Shapiro installed at Radiant Space in Hollywood last week is just as immersive as any pop-up—but it feels like it was made to be enjoyed rather than photographed.

Stepping inside of Before You Were Born is an otherworldly experience. The installation’s biological shapes feel cozy, welcoming, and alive. To create the installation, which the gallery describes as “a floor-to-ceiling interactive psychedelic textile cave,” Shapiro screen-printed, sewed, and painted individual panels of fabric, and then connected them together. The panels cover the gallery’s walls and ceiling, spilling onto the floor. Custom-designed light fixtures, also made by Shapiro, hang from the ceiling.

“I started making installations like this when I was in college, which was before Instagram,” Shapiro explains. “I was working in all these different mediums, and I wanted to combine them and create these spaces. I then started working with textiles, because you can make an installation big and immersive—and then make it small again by rolling it up.”

Stephen Levey

She spent more than 1,000 hours creating the original version of Before You Were Born, which showed at the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles last spring. At Radiant Space, the installation has been updated to incorporate her latest work, a series of mixed media paintings. She says, “Almost all of the work in here was made in 2017, and the paintings were made since I moved to Los Angeles.”

Even though Before You Were Born wasn’t necessarily designed for selfies, Shapiro understands that people will be compelled to snap away when they’re inside. “None of this is made for Instagram,” she says, “but it is awesome when people take photos of your work or in your work and share them.”

Radiant Space also plans to hold several special events in the installation. So far, the schedule includes a live performance by the band Swimm on Saturday, January 13, at 9 p.m., a sound bath hosted by Shane Thunder of Spirit Metacine on Wednesday, January 17, at 8 p.m., live music by Georgi Kay on Saturday, January 20, at 9 p.m., and live music from McCall Kimball and Honeycraft on Wednesday, January 24, at 8 p.m. The one-room gallery has a limited capacity, and they recommend purchasing tickets in advance.

Before You Were Born, Radiant Space, 1444 N. Sierra Bonita Ave., Hollywood; through Sat., Feb. 23.

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