UCI art piece commemorates the efforts of UCI’s face shield project and global pandemic

The face shield project at UC Irvine left behind piles of clear and colorful plastic scraps that were bound for the trash can, but Jesse Colin Jackson, associate dean of research and innovation at UCI’s Claire Trevor School of the Arts (CTSA), came up with a creative plan to turn waste into a meaningful art piece.

In April, UCI Beall Applied Innovation along with partners from CTSA, UCI’s Medical Center, UCI School of Medicine, the Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing, the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and the business community, came together to help construct over 20,000 face shields for UCI healthcare workers during the initial phases of the COVID-19 crisis.

With a highly collaborative team that included campus partners and facilities, Jackson helped design the face shields, was integral in production and led the daily assembly team at the Cove Prototyping Lab, generously supported by Base 11. Base 11 is a nonprofit organization and Cove partner that helps underrepresented groups, like women and minorities, become more involved in the science, technology, engineering and math fields. Through thoughtful construction using plastic material, the face shields utilized both the 3D printers and laser cutting machines within the lab.

Even though the face shield design was efficient, there were still hundreds of clear plastic sheets and colored scraps from the face shield frame left over. Instead of simply trashing the materials, Jackson recycled them into a memorial.

Jesse Colin Jackson, Associate Dean of Research and Innovation at UCI’s Claire Trevor School of the Arts

“I had a pile of the 3D-printed colorful bits that I just started saving because they looked so cool,” said Jackson. “I kept sweeping them into the corner of the room and made sure none were tossed away. I’m generally interested in large quantities of any repeated shape, and as the project went on, we had all this beautiful leftover material. As an artist, I’m often looking for opportunities to make use of waste.”

Jackson intentionally overlapped one hundred clear plastic square sheets using only what was left over from the face shield, which created a translucent wave effect. He then scattered the piles of colorful scraps within the clear sheets, which provided energy to the transparent wave pieces.

From far away, it looks like an energetic sea of colors, but up close Jackson’s clear meaning begins to take shape.

“It’s very densely packed and repetitive, which is meant to evoke the existence of all the people behind all the efforts during the pandemic,” said Jackson. “This artwork, the pattern and materials couldn’t exist in the absence of the face shield project or COVID-19. That labor and energy will now be on display.”

“Twenty Thousand Faces” will be on display at the Cove @ UCI.

Photo credits: Main photo, Jesse Colin Jackson, UCI Claire Trevor School of the Arts

Secondary photo, Julie Kennedy, UCI Beall Applied Innovation