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The Angels Project -Jill D'Agnenica
Starting on April 29th, 1993 (the first anniversary of the civil unrest in Los Angeles) I began depositing the first of 4687 bright magenta, 12-inch plaster sitting angels around the city of Los Angeles. At regular intervals, volunteers and I randomly distributed the angels on street corners, at bus stops, in front of buildings, beside offramps, and at other locations within the city limits. My intent was to leave these angels throughout the entire city, to be happened upon by motorists and passers-by, and possibly "adopted" by interested parties. Each of the 4687 angels was created from a like mold by me and assistants as an act of personal prayer. The large number of angels (approximately ten per square mile of the city), was imperative for their impact to be felt. The random and chaotic appearance of angels throughout the city was to serve as a catalyst for personal and communal reflection. The experience of seeing an angel (and even more importantly, as word got out, the act of looking for an angel) would remind each person of their place within the City of Angels.
As we left each of the angels (which were numbered), we documented its placement by taking a photograph, inscribing its exact location in a ledger, and marking its general location on a Los Angeles Thomas Bros. Guide. Once home, I transcribed the information onto the Thomas Bros. Los Angeles Geo Finder Program on a P.C., to get an overall picture of the angels' placements. The piece was completed in November of 1994, after angels had appeared in every square mile of Los Angeles.
With the help of an ever growing and eclectic group of volunteers I was able to reach my goal of distributing 400 angels per month. Once a month I would organize an "Angel Run" in which 10 to 20 volunteers would participate. We met at my studio downtown for breakfast and a briefing, and left armed with truckloads of angels, cameras and film, ledgers and maps, to various locations around the city. The volunteers were as diverse as the population of Los Angeles as a whole. They ranged in age from 10 to 70 years old. Some were acquaintances, some were strangers who had heard about the project and wanted to participate. Each team of volunteers became active participants in the art-making process as they chose locations for the angels, engaged people encountered on the streets in dialogue, and documented their experiences through photographs and written word. We all traveled to areas of Los Angeles we had not visited before, thus our knowledge of the city was enhanced. We each conversed with the people we met along the way, (the angels serving as ice-breakers), thus our sense of community was expanded.Every day wearing pink-plaster encrusted clothing, wading through clouds of pink angel dust and fighting with molds and materials, I would despair and think to myself (and often scream out loud) "I'm in angel hell!" And then out on the streets of Los Angeles the pay-off would come: transforming a decaying wall into a sacred site with a row of those angels; communicating across and beyond language barriers with a smile and outstretched hands holding an angel; subversively leaving the angels in places where I wasn't quite sure it was okay to do so; watching a child's face light up at the very unexpected sight of a bright angel in his path, or better yet, watching an adult react with the same child-like enthusiasm; driving past a spot where an angel used to rest and remembering. (One friend, commenting on the pink ones' quick disappearances, told me with a grin, "they are evanescent, just like real angels.") All of these experiences gave me a tremendous rush. I was addicted and obsessed and found renewed energy to go back onto the studio and make more of the little winged ones. For almost two years my every waking thought revolved in some way around the angels and the city they were blessing.
When I conceived the project I had envisioned the angels as symbolically linking the complex city of Los Angeles together, bringing a bit of magic into the everyday lives of its inhabitants. I had expected the press would take notice and begin writing about the appearance of the angels around the city, thus creating the situation where Angelenos would begin looking for angels. All of this came to pass. What I hadn't anticipated was that the project would reach and touch the hearts and imaginations of people from around the country and abroad. The message and intent of the angels, through word of mouth, print and television, was expanded exponentially and thus shared by many more than those who actually happened upon any of the 4687 magenta angels scattered throughout the city for a distinct moment in time.
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