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Butterfly Effect

Merle Axelrad
Artwork Type
Media & Support
acrylic paint, fiberglass, polyester (fiber)
10 ft.x 16 ft.x 12 ft. 6 in.* (3 x 5 x 4 m)
Mental Health
Arcadia Mental Health Center
330 East Live Oak Avenue
Arcadia , CA
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Latitude: -118.021959 - Longitude: 34.108365
Image: Butterfly Effect

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Mirroring the process of change, development and metamorphosis is the focal point of Merle Axelrad’s textile centerpiece for Arcadia Mental Health Center. Butterfly Effect, the title of this artwork, references the idea that big changes can happen as a result of small steps. Some say that a butterfly fluttering its wings on one side of the earth might cause a typhoon on the other side of the planet. This is what’s called a butterfly effect. Similarly, small steps that a person takes in life have the potential to create much larger changes.

To make the artwork, Merle, along with staff and patients explored the idea of metamorphosis and change in their lives through a series of art and writing workshops. Successes and wishes were then incorporated into 1,000 hand painted and printed fabric leaves, which from this distance are meant to be too far to read and will remain the private thoughts of everyone involved. In total there are about 10,000 handmade monarch butterflies assembled in the 244 strands. The accompanying mural weaves together information about monarch migration and lifecycle.

About the Artist

Merle Axelrad's fabric collages are in numerous public, corporate, and private collections including those of the Ritz-Carlton, Kaiser Permanente, the University of California, Davis Medical Center and the California Environmental Protection Agency. In addition, her work has been featured in exhibitions at the Dennos Art Museum in Traverse City, Michigan; the California State Museum in Sacramento; and Entrée Libre in New York City. This is her first three dimensional sculpture. Click here to learn more about the artist.