Solar Night by Steven Gutierrez

Solar Night at the Fall In Art and Sol Festival, 2013. Bay City (MI) USA.

Invited article written by Steven Gutierrez.

Imagine a place where visitors can go to sit, relax and feel the sun…a place to sit and relax to enjoy the day. A place of light, of art, and of comfort where the art comes alive with whimsical light colors emanating from the main sculpture. Solar Night is designed with these main goals in mind.

The sculpture will invite people to frolic within the beams, and admire the solar inspired pattern on the ground during the day. In addition, sensors will record the “dancers’” (or walkers’) movements and record the elaborate light show that they create. At night, the sun will light up so that the piece can continue to be enjoyed and the power of solar energy can be displayed. The beams will also light up, but these will light different colors and flicker at different frequencies using the recordings of the day’s participants.

No two light shows will be the same!

Solar Night was the Winner of the Fall In Art and Sol Festival Open Call.

Solar Night, Art and the environment

Solar Night was a work designed for the groundbreaking first international solar art festival titled “Fall In…Art and Sol”. The following was the main focus of the art concept for Solar Night:

The art is contained in this balance of the creator and user. I see it as an analogy of the sun being our life giving element, and us living our life (as performance) as best as we can.

Throughout time, sun worship can be traced to many cultures and expressions of art through dance, paintings, etc. Unfortunately, some have not appreciated what the sun can do for us. They do not appreciate this gift and thus end up hurting the earth instead. Solar Technology is one of those leaps in technology that honors the sun, and in turn, nature. This allows us to live our life in balance and make it easier for people to try to appreciate the sun again. By continuing to demonstrate the beauty of this technology in a sustainable way, solar technology can continue to evolve to a point where any other energy source would become funny.

However, this is just one part of the whole story. The other messages of this art piece are hidden in the more subtle creative process while creating this sculpture.

Specifically, the concept of timed delay. The importance of this is that our actions are not readily visible. If they were, it would be easy to see, for example, how pollution can hurt the environment. Rather, our actions’ effects do not appear until later…even years later. My first attempt in trying to convey this idea was in a leaf-shaped sculpture titled “Do not sit on this Bench”. The bench had a solar panel on the top-seating surface. The idea was that the bench allowed you to rest, but at the expense of blocking its solar energy-collecting surface. Furthermore, the seated visitor would not see this interruption since nothing would happen during the 12-hour day of recording. At night, LEDs in the bench would light up, but twelve hours after the seated person sat, the area under this trigger spot would go dark for the same time frame that the person sat. Thus, at night you can see the shadows replay the seating order and therefore see the delayed affect of “getting in the way” of nature’s photosynthesis process. People were allowed to sit, but the hope was that they would soon realize that living requires a give and take balance with nature.

In the end some of this “art” might be missed by the community or visitors to my sculptures. However, one thing that I have learned so far is that the public is excited about using technology like solar panels in art. This at least begins the dialogue about protecting nature, and ultimately this is what my art is about.

Steven Gutierrez is an artist, engineer, and educator interested in the intersection of art, technology and the environment. His work has been primarily focused on social and environmental issues. The Buddhist principle stating that “we are all connected” can be seen in his life and artwork. Steven hopes to continue experimenting in both the art and engineering fields to help inspire people to see the connection we have with our world. His current research is directed towards finding how technology may be used to help life rather than to destroy it.

Learn more about Steven and his work at:

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