ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A giant snail has been spotted around Albuquerque, but instead of a trail of slime, it’s leaving messages of hope and unity. Brillo the snail is making his way through Albuquerque.
“I wanted to recreate something like that, to create something that was unexpected,” said Ashleigh Abbott, a University of New Mexico student and artist. “That would bring joy, especially to kids, but it also has the effect on adults.”
Abbott made the giant snail puppet out of typical materials like wood and metal, as well as the unusual, like holographic spandex, fuchsia velour and toy parts. The says she was inspired by two international movements: the Royal de Luxe elephant puppet parade in London and the Rainbow Window Connection project, created in Italy when they became a coronavirus epicenter.
“The company Royal de Luxe made these 11-meter tall puppets that roamed the streets, telling the story of a girl coming from space and an elephant and a sultan, meeting them,” said Abbott. “The Rainbow Window Connection Project is something that was started in Italy for kids going through the horrible quarantine epidemic epicenter that was happening there. The rainbows themselves are drawings the kids have done with messages of unity and hope and flattening the curve and stay strong, we’re in it together.”
As families around the world, and now, in Albuquerque, draw rainbows in their windows and on the streets, they can add their rainbows to an interactive map. The map helps give Brillo a destination on where to travel around town.
“This isn’t over yet,” said Abbott. “People still need connection. They still need inspiration.”
Abbott’s art project is a result of a cross-listed Bio Art and Design course at UNM with Andrea Polli and Amy Pilling, combining science and art. She says Brillo is a source of light and happiness, amid a time of grief and uncertainty during the pandemic.
“The science that is behind the snail is about the psychological aspects, using this ritual and delight to alleviate grief,” said Abbott. “It goes into what is call bereavement sciences.”
Brillo the snail is a community-oriented project. Abbott says locals are more than welcome to even take him to their own neighborhoods to spread some positivity or volunteer to help transport him around town for families to see. You can follow Brillo’s adventures online and even read a short story about him.
Abbott, along with the Brillo project, will be featured later this month in the Biodesign Challenge Summit, alongside artists and scientists from around the world. This year’s summit is virtual and will be the second time UNM has participated.