I feel like I haven’t featured any cool recycled lighting projects or artists lately. Fortunately I stumbled across artists Joe O’Connell and Blessing Hancock from Tuscon.
Joe O’Connell founded Creative Machines Inc. in 1995 to design and fabricate interactive exhibits for museums around the world. In 2002 he began making public art.
Blessing Hancock owns Skyrim Studio Inc which focuses on site specific sculpture. She has a BFA in Sculpture and MLA in Landscape Architecture.
The two teamed up originally in 2008 for large-scale commissioned projects. Together in 2013 they created Ballroom Luminoso – a large art installation under an overpass in San Antonio, Texas. Six 4-foot chandeliers made from recycled bicycle parts and color changing LEDs hang under an overpass transforming a forgotten space into one that connects the community.
Accompanying the bicycle parts are carefully carved imagery referencing the community’s agricultural history, strong Hispanic heritage, and burgeoning environmental movement.
“The medallions are a play on the iconography of La Loteria, which has become a touchstone of Hispanic culture. Utilizing traditional tropes like La Escalera (the Ladder), La Rosa (the Rose), and La Sandía (the Watermelon), the piece alludes to the neighborhood’s farming roots and horticultural achievements.”
The artists wanted to shine an intense sharp-edged light uniformly in all directions, as if the light were coming from a single star in the center of each chandelier. At the time there are only a few LED emitters with enough light density to achieve the kind of lighting. The artists had to create large heat sinks that would allow the lighting to cool by convection. The challenge was to create heat sinks that were not too large as to separate the light produced – creating distracting double-edged shadows where the patterns overlapped.
Ballroom Luminoso expresses the artists desire to make work that is meant to thrive in the unpredictable elements of the public rather than inside a sterile gallery. It is located under the I-35 overpass at the intersection of Theo and Malone in San Antonio.
The lights turn on three hours before sunset and then turn off at 2am.
The project was the first to be completed by Public Art San Antonio as part of the 2012-2017 Bond Program.
The Department for Culture and Creative Developmentto (DCCD) commissioned the artists to create a piece that represented the specific neighborhoods surrounding Theo and Malone Avenues instead of the city as a whole.
The piece won SXSW Eco’s Place by Design “Transformative Design Award.”