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This Vibrant Art Installation Is Made Up Of More Than 500 Colorful Jars

Local artist Julie Wolfe collected water samples for three years for the installation. Photo courtesy Julie Wolfe.

About three years ago, Julie Wolfe started collecting water samples from across the country. She went to New York, Texas, DC, and Maryland, pouring each sample into a jar then mixing in natural ingredients, like squid ink, sandalwood, beets, and turmeric, as well as chemicals like copper sulfate, crystal violet, and methylene blue. She arranged the jars onto shelves, connected them with tubes, and lit the whole thing from behind.

The resulting installation is a stunning spectrum of color. The chemicals and materials will transform the water, creating a living, breathing artwork and a statement on man’s harmful impact on the environment.

“It’s interesting to see the reaction with these different industrial chemicals and then also with the organic materials,” Wolfe says. “The point is to see how the exhibition changes over time.”

The installation “Green Room” runs from September 11 to December 31 at 1700 L Street NW, an exhibition space operated by Hemphill. It’s the gallery’s third project in the space, but the inside isn’t usually accessible. According to founder George Hemphill, installations are selected based on their ability to impact people as they walk by. Wolfe’s piece does exactly that. “It looks mysterious. It emanates light. It’s super colorful, and it makes an environmental statement,” he says.

On opening night, September 11, between 6 and 8 PM, guests can venture inside for a closer look. Hemphill says the gallery is planning additional events through December, and people can also make appointments to view the space from inside. Besides that, the installation is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week–when viewed from the outside, of course.

One tip: Wolfe suggests visiting after sunset; at night, you can really see the water’s myriad hues.