Ann Veronica Janssens’ Fog Star, which opened to the public last week, is a testimony to the potential appeal of a simple, interesting concept executed precisely and with restraint. In the BMA’s often-overlooked Spring House (a small, temple-like structure designed two centuries ago by Benjamin Henry Latrobe), Janssens has introduced a haze machine and mounted seven bright lights in a pattern on a wall at the far end. In a thin fog, seven beams of light thus coalesce into a star – or break down into a cacophony of swirling beams, depending on where you stand. The result at once delightful and subtle: a piece of eye candy that will please the selfie crowd, but also a coy meditation on space, light, and history.
Janssen, who was born in England in 1956 and is now based in Belgium, has worked with light for years, and has frequently spoken of her desire to prompt viewers to experience familiar surroundings in new ways. Fog Star combines these interests. From a distance, the piece is all flirtation and unresolved promise; partial glimpses of the light bulbs and the pinkish red interior seem calculated to attract attention, without revealing too much. Come closer, though, and the piece rewards you. As you approach the threshold of the spring house’s central door, the seven bulbs are suddenly all visible, and snap into a crisply distinct configuration: an ethereal heptagram, suspended in a mist.
by Kerr Houston