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CULTURE IN A TIME OF CRISIS

Art installation in Ehden highlights James Webb Space Telescope’s journey deep into space

Art installation in Ehden highlights James Webb Space Telescope’s journey deep into space

The art installation in Ehden. (Courtesy of Alexy Frangieh)

BEIRUT — In the mountainous town of Ehden in northern Lebanon, a local artist with a passion for space exploration has installed an artwork inspired by NASA’s largest optical telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope, whose mission is to unlock the secrets of the universe.

The 43-year-old artist Alexy Frangieh said the objective behind the art installation is to awaken interest in this scientific mission.

The Webb telescope was launched into space in December 2021 and reached its final destination, 1.5 million km from Earth, the following month. The first images produced by the telescope came in last month. The images were described as the deepest and sharpest infrared pictures of the universe taken to date, one of which vividly uncovered a star-forming region called the Carina Nebula.

(Courtesy of Alexy Frangieh)

According to NASA, “Webb will be able to see what the universe looked like around a quarter of a billion years (possibly back to 100 million years) after the Big Bang, when the first stars and galaxies started to form.”

Frangieh’s artwork, named “From a future a long time ago,” was installed on July 12, the same day NASA released the telescope’s first images. The installation, set on an overlook point in the mountains, takes the form of a window pane, surrounded by wooden frames and shutters, in the center of which one golden hexagonal mirror — representing one of the 18 mirrors on the real Webb telescope — is mounted on thin metal bars. The original 18 mirror segments are the heart of the Webb telescope and are responsible for collecting light and seeing faint and faraway celestial objects.

(Courtesy of Alexy Frangieh)

A miniature model of the complete 18-segment primary mirror, made of acrylic sheets and 3D printed plastics, is attached on the side of the Frangieh’s window artwork, above an inscription, “Our journeys in the vastness of outer space are dives in the depth of our inner space, our realm, our collective soul as humans.”

The art installation, which took three months to finish, is a personal initiative by Frangieh, who said his curiosity nurtured a passion for space exploration, driven by the desire to seek out answers about the unknown.

(Courtesy of Alexy Frangieh)

Frangieh said that the scientific endeavor behind the Webb telescope “is something the entire humanity should be proud of and not just the scientists community,” adding that he believes his artwork is a form of language that can help communicate these endeavors to the average person.

“[People] might be more interested to know about the telescope after seeing an art installation inspired by it,” he pointed out.

The artist has created nine space-related artworks, six of which are displayed at various NASA and other space centers in the US. Frangieh told L’Orient Today that NASA had invited him for a private visit at their space center in Maryland after finding pictures of his artwork, which he published on his Instagram page.

(Courtesy of Alexy Frangieh)

The sculpture in Ehden was installed at a spot where the sunrise reflects off of the middle golden mirror symbolizing the “beginning,” according to Frangieh, which is what the Webb telescope is aimed at unveiling as it gazes back in time to when the galaxies were young, to give humanity more clues about the history of the universe.

Frangieh said the artwork has intrigued many of his friends as well as Ehden residents who have stopped by to examine it and ask questions. He added that he is planning on keeping the window on permanent display at the site. 


BEIRUT — In the mountainous town of Ehden in northern Lebanon, a local artist with a passion for space exploration has installed an artwork inspired by NASA’s largest optical telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope, whose mission is to unlock the secrets of the universe. The 43-year-old artist Alexy Frangieh said the objective behind the art installation is to awaken interest in this...