The City Luminous: Spectral Canopy Variation, a projected light piece by Kerry Laitala Attend

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California Historical Society
678 Mission St
San Francisco CA 94105




Nightly, from dusk until midnight

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  • Near Bart
  • Near Muni
  • Outdoors
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The City Luminous: Spectral Canopy Variation

Optic Flare
May 01, 2015 to Jun 28, 2015

Beginning on March 6 and for the duration of CHS’s exhibition, CITY RISING: SAN FRANCISCO AND THE 1915 WORLD’S FAIR, this series of artist-based, projected-light installations honors the stunning achievements of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915. Six light-based artists will show an after-dark artwork in the CHS gallery’s front and side windows, each running for approximately six weeks. View the installations from Mission Street or Annie Plaza.

The City Luminous: Spectral Canopy Variation by artist Kerry Laitala, pays tribute to the innovative lighting design of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition (PPIE) of 1915. This variation is a pastiche of archival material from the fair intercut with expressionistic images that expand upon these stunning lighting effects. They provide an imaginative view into the past inspired by Walter D’Arcy Ryan, the exposition’s illumination engineer, and the avant-garde dancer Loie Fuller, who raised funds to preserve the Palace of Fine Arts when the fair ended.

The projected light piece features Laura Ackley, author of San Francisco’s Jewel City (Heyday, 2015), as a Star Maiden, an iconic statue by A. Stirling Calder who created 90 Star Maidens for the fair’s Court of the Universe (earlier called the Court of the Sun and Stars). Laitala also collaborated with dancer Jenny Stulberg, who performs a tribute to the spirit of pioneer dancer/choreographer/inventor Loie Fuller.

The City Luminous honors the stunning artistic possibilities of the relatively new technologies of electricity and projected light that were highlighted at the fair: choreographed light shows, a reflective Tower of Jewels, a 48-searchlight machine called the “Great Scintillator.” Together, these extensively used designs created a panoply of lighting illusions. The fair’s lighting effects were highly influential on world’s fairs that came later and paved the way for future light art in the Bay Area from the 1950s to the present day.

Engineers of Illumination is sponsored by the Yerba Buena Community Benefit District.

Laitala’s The City Luminous is funded by a third Special Projects Grant from the Princess Grace Foundation, California Historical Society, and Maurice Kanbar, with archival images provided by the California Historical Society, Donna Ewald Huggins, the Exploratorium, Craig Baldwin, and the Internet Archive. Access to an original Star Maiden was provided by the Oakland Museum of California.

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