La Tormenta / The Storm
To create La Tormenta/The Storm and a series of works based on clouds, Manglano-Ovalle teamed with the Department of Atmospheric Sciences (DAS) at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and architect Douglas Garofalo. In 2002, a powerful storm system entered Illinois from Missouri. Using laser and digital technologies, climatologists at DAS tracked the storm as it spread over eighteen miles in length and produced strong atmospheric effects. Their study monitored the system’s fluctuating composition as it responded to internal and external forces over a period of minutes. DAS shared the data with Manglano- Ovalle, who then worked with Garofalo to translate it as a virtual form based on the contours of the storm’s core moments before it erupted. The evocative shapes that resulted were entered into a computer-controlled milling machine that carved molds to create casts for the final piece. When completed, the sculpture consisted of two nearly identical forms composed of cast fiberglass that were assembled and then covered by hand with titanium-alloy foil.
In La Tormenta/The Storm, Manglano-Ovalle has condensed a moment of time and atmospheric space into solid objects. Suspended from the building’s atrium skylight, the sculptures’ shimmering surfaces reflect the shifting qualities of light and air throughout each day. For Manglano-Ovalle, La Tormenta/The Storm is a complex metaphor for the historical waves of immigration into the united States: “All of those waves come with a great deal of hope and a great deal of anxiety. And that’s what a thunderstorm is—it’s one of the most destructive and most productive events. It wreaks havoc, and yet it makes it possible for us to eat and grow food. The piece in a sense reflects its public—they are the storm. La tormenta somos nosotros [we are the storm].”