New City, NEW MOON

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NEW MOON diagram by Caitlind r.c. Brown & Wayne Garrett

Last March, the Lexington Art League invited us to Kentucky to participate in a brand new project called “Luminosity.” And so began preparations for NEW MOON, an interactive outdoor moon sculpture soon to be installed in Triangle Park in Lexington, Kentucky.

A sister piece to SOLAR FLARE, NEW MOON is the third in our evolving Celestial Series. While plans for NEW MOON have changed and evolved dramatically since its initial conception, the essentials remain the same: 5,000 – 6,000 ornamental incandescent light bulbs provide a diffusion layer for a very bright, white light. The light itself rotates slowly in response to the people surrounding it. Depending on the specific perspective of each viewer, the light on the surface of the sculpture appears to move through different phases in the moon’s monthly rotation. NEW MOON is about change, time, and the materiality of light. It’s also a simple, beautiful and shiny object that’s familiar to anybody, anywhere in the world.

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But I’m getting ahead of myself – this blog is after all, intended to be a document of processes, ideas, and phases of each light work we create, complete with bumps, bruises, mistakes and miscalculations…

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We arrived in Kentucky during the “polar vortex.” Our first flight (through Chicago) was delayed many hours and then cancelled altogether (a mild disappointment, as it would have been lovely to pop in at Progress Bar and check on CLOUD CEILING and the Progress gang). When we finally made it to Lexington, it was cold and dark. But Becky Alley (Lexington Art League’s Curator) and Kelley Karbowicz (LAL’s Event Coordinator) were there to greet us and introduce us to the city. From that moment on we knew that Lexington would be a surprising and fascinating place to be.

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The Lexington Art League is based out of Loudoun House, a stately old mansion set into a public park off Castlewood Drive. Built in 1850, Loudoun House is officially owned by the City of Lexington, who rent the building to LAL for a nominal fee. Our second Kentucky installation (part of the Luminosity exhibition) will be housed in the Pink Room inside Loudoun House in February.

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In other places, the slogan “Art for Everyone” might seem pandering or insincere, but in our brief experience with Lexington, it’s become increasingly evident that this is a city that believes in the community of art. The type of work supported by LAL isn’t impeded by accessibility – it’s accentuated by it.

Recently, there was a project here called the Lexington Tattoo Project where local artists Kremena Todorova and Kurt Gohde commissioned the creation of a poetic love letter to Lexington, and invited members of the community to tattoo words or passages from the poem onto their bodies. The response was incredible, and hundreds of local people signed up for tattoos, together creating a living rendition of the poem.

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Not every city has this sort of participatory vibe. In fact, from our experience, very few cities have catalyzed the inclusivity and communal interest of Lexington. Perhaps this is why Becky invited us in the first place – CLOUD, in its most pure form was about community, interactivity, and collectivity. NEW MOON began with the same origin – collecting donated burnt out light bulbs to create an interactive piece from beginning to end.

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By the time we even showed up in Lexington, LAL had collected probably around 2,000-3,000 burnt out light bulbs. This is the most burnt out bulbs ever collected for us, with the exception of the first CLOUD project in Calgary (our own home turf!) and we were immensely impressed with the efforts of LAL.

The second awesome thing they did for us was to hook us up with BCTC – Bluegrass Community and Technical College – via Shawn Gannon, a local welding instructor and metal sculptor who is one of the raddest (and fanciest) dudes of all time.

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BCTC has an awesome metal shop, fully equipped with all the necessary metal-working materials to make any sculptor’s wildest dreams come true. Shawn himself has years of experience and a heart of gold. Between the two, LAL placed us into the best hands imaginable.

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Rough diagram of NEW MOON’s sub-frame

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Diagram of NEW MOON’s interior structure

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Over the past few weeks we’ve begun to understand how art and southern hospitality can work together hand-in-hand. Thank you to the LAL team + interns, the BCTC cool cats, and all the awesome Lexingtoners who donated light bulbs. Stay tuned for updates soon!

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