Artist Luke Jerram and Bristol homeless charity 1625 Independent People have joined forces this festive season to highlight the growing number of hidden and invisible homeless people in Bristol.

A haunting glass figure appeared in doorways across the city on 21 December to remind us that hundreds of people are living in temporary, unsafe, insecure housing on borrowed time. They are homeless already – you just can’t see them.

Since 2004, Luke Jerram has been creating Glass Microbiology sculptures as a means to make the abstract into something tangible. By extracting the colour from the imagery and creating jewel-like beautiful sculptures in glass, a complex tension has arisen between the artworks’ beauty and what they represent. Taking the concept of the human virus as his stimulus, Luke Jerram creates beautiful, transparent glassworks that aim to represent the global impact of disease.

“I want people to re-imagine Bristol and think about where we want our city to be in 50 years time. Bristol is our city, and its up to us to change and shape it for the future.”

Luke’s glass sculptures can be found in museums all across the world, including at the The Metropolitan Museum in NYC and the Wellcome Collection in London. In 2010, Luke received the 25th Rakow Award for the series The Corning Museum of Glass in New York.

With street homelessness on the rise again across the country, having fallen for a number of years, Bristol is invited to support the Early Doors campaign from 1625 Independent People. This initiative raises funds to help young people earlier through mediation and advice services which can help them avoid the homelessness route altogether.

A donation of just £15 will provide prevention services compared to £60 per week to provide supported housing services to young people who are already in crisis.

Luke Jerram is known for the ways he highlights the obvious aspects of modern life, society and the digital age we live in — by highlighting our relationship with each other and its ever changing dynamic through our increased reliance on technology and the internet. He also converts space otherwise redundant, and infuses it with meaning through his art installations. Some might be passive, others more interactive – such as his ‘Play Me, I’m Your’s’ piano installation – yet all carry a social message. Luke explains:

“Some artworks I create suit being presented in a museum, whilst others only really come alive in the public domain. For artworks like ‘Play Me I’m Your’s’ and ‘Park and Slide’, the public’s presence is vital, the artworks only really exist when the public interact with them. In this respect, the artworks are a collaboration with the public as well as the cityscape where they’re presented.”

“I’ve begun to realise that art can be created to uplift people and practically make peoples lives better.”

He adds:  “Exploring the boundaries of public verses private space, I also enjoy challenging the perception of where artwork can take place. Projects like the Lullaby and Sky Orchestra deliver a creative experience directly to neighbourhoods and even into people’s bedrooms!”

Since the installation of his glass sculpture project in Bristol, reactions have been surprising, as Luke shares:

“Several people thought there was actually someone entombed inside the glass figure. I heard a few people ask “Is she alright?” One person was angry that the sculpture of a homeless figure was getting so much more attention than real people living on the streets, who are often ignored.”

Luke himself has had first hand experience of the ways in which poverty can impact upon a person’s sense of self, identity and self-esteem:

“After leaving college back in the 90’s, I lived for a few years on the breadline. I became aware of the mental and physical effects of poverty. Having now built a very stable and secure life for myself, I feel able to take risks in the artwork I make, and create art that makes people think and that the public often enjoys.” Luke says.

The life size glass sleeping figure was made by Luke Jerram as part of an Arts Council funded residency at the Glass Hub UK.

For more information on Luke Jerram’s glass work sculptures: