Library reading room with Erskine’s proprietary solar prisms permanently enclosed in the window’s lacy structure.
The clear window band seen at the top, is a one-foot-high and fifty-foot-wide prism built into the glass.
The energy of the Solar Flux floods the light art installation with endlessly drifting colors.
Lewis Library and Learning Center, Fontana, California
TRACERY RAINBOW, 2008
Materials: Sunlight, library reading room, water-cut-aluminum tracery window panels, flat laser-cut prisms built into the rotunda windows.
Solar Powered Art
In this unique, solar powered art installation, Erskine’s proprietary laser-cut prisms are built into upper windows encircling the rotunda. The entire prism band gathers as much as 2,500 watts of Sunlight to paint the solar powered art installation in the living colors of the rainbow. As the Earth turns, these giant spectrum sweep through the reading room, painting the floor, walls and visitors in the colors of the Sun. When the Sun is directly in the west, the prisms project a twenty by thirty foot double rainbow beam into the front of the Library Atrium, 200 feet away.
The Magic of Islamic Tracery Screens
Library architect, Kate Diamond, FAIA, LEED, borrowed the Library’s exterior tracery screen module from a traditional Mexican tile motif. She repeated the tile motif in one, two and four foot square modules throughout the building exterior. Diamond had fallen in love with Islamic tracery screens when she was an architecture student in Jerusalem, and saw Fontana with its majority hispanic population as an ideal place to use them in America – with a Mexican twist. A long time champion of solar power, Diamond knew Erskine from the solar spectrum light paintings he created for her design of the LAPD Valley Traffic Headquarters, in Los Angeles, and she asked him to create art for her new library. Erskine was delighted. A long time dream was coming true. He had also fallen in love with the Islamic screens he saw at the Taj Mahal and Fatipur Sikri while studying on a Fulbright Grant to India in forty years before. The collaborative chemistry between the two artists sparked this breakthrough sustainable art installation.
Breakthrough Contemporary Art
Even though the serene complexity of Islamic screens has existed for over 1000 years, never before have the colors from the Sun been intentionally mixed into millions of secondary hues, using prisms and perforated screens. Erskine worked for weeks in a one-half-inch-scale library model before discovering the magic pattern he used in the four by eight foot window prisms shown in the installation photographs.
Only with Sunlight
While the upper horizontal band of prisms projects the six basic rainbow colors all the way to the opposite end of the library, the four large screen prisms mix the solar spectrum into millions of newTRACERY RAINBOWcolors, splashing the carpet, the furniture and people in a dreamland of dappled light. The colors and intensity of the lacy patterns vary by the hour and the season. It’s a garden of fresh flowers, changing every day.
Each of the four by eight foot tracery prisms gathers up to 3000 watts of free, renewable solar energy to light this green art installation. And, because of the unique physics of Sunlight, the reality of Erskine’s TRACERY RAINBOW light painting is impossible to duplicate with electric lights.