2019 commemorates the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the Periodic Table of chemical elements, and the Las Cruces Space Festival is celebrating with ‘Hand Made Light’, a series of site-specific art installations.
‘Hand Made Light’ is the next stage in an evolving series of art installations by Tim Fitzpatrick, as part of his ongoing project ‘Shine: celebrating light’. The project is a science, art and music collaboration led by astronomer Anne-Marie Weijmans of the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of St Andrews.
Tim Fitzpatrick is inspired by the nature of the light of stars and specifically the spectral lines which relate to all of the known elements and which form the basis of our Universe. ‘Hand Made Light’ is the most recent development of Tim Fitzpatrick’s work and it has been specially commissioned for the Las Cruces Space Festival. Three principal works – created in collaboration with local artist and NMSU Graduate, Jeff Erwin – form the commission for the festival and these are: Neon – ‘the biggest neon sign in the world’ (in Las Cruces), ‘We choose to go to the Moon’ (at Kilbourne Hole) and ‘The H-Alpha line’ (at Dripping Springs Nature Area).
Jeff Erwin is a Colorado-based interdisciplinary artist who utilizes scientific research as inspiration for his work. Principally, his work explores the carbon cycle on earth and the life or potential life associated with the element. Most recently, Erwin has begun looking to the emission spectra of elements to guide his color pallet. While working with Tim Fitzpatrick he is exploring the relationship of light and space exploration as they create three distinct works for the Las Cruces Space Festival.
‘Hand Made Light’s first installation will be ‘the biggest neon sign in the world’. Based on the unique arrangement of spectral lines of neon – spectral lines which give the different signatures of all the elements of the Universe – Tim Fitzpatrick and Jeff Erwin plan to create a giant version of neon for the Las Cruces Space Festival on the roof of the old Doña Ana County Courthouse.
Another work of Hand Made Light is at the volcanic crater, Kilbourne Hole. The work takes its inspiration from the Apollo Moon program and in particular the mission of Apollo 12 whose astronauts trained at Kilbourne Hole 50 years ago to the day on the 9th of April 1969. In an engagement with fellow visitors at the former Apollo training site, ‘Hand Made Light’ is a shared reflection of the aspirations which led to man’s flight to the moon. The intervention also draws on the words and sentiments of John F Kennedy when he delivered his now famous speech and pronouncement, “we choose to go to the moon” in September 1962.
The third installation explores the most abundant element in the Universe: hydrogen. The spectral lines of hydrogen take on a great significance in the way that astronomers are able to read and understand the light of the Universe. In the part of the spectrum in which we can see as visible light, hydrogen shows up as having four lines and the first of these is a very strong and clear red. In astronomy this line is known as ‘the H-Alpha line’ – the most fundamental emission line in the world of astrophysics.
At Dripping Springs Nature Area and against the stunning backdrop of the Organ Mountains, Fitzpatrick and Erwin will be running great lengths of red fabric through the cracks of the rocks. As the daylight fades away and the first stars begin to shine, the red H-Alpha line through the fault-lines in the rock will be the last of the color to fade from the earth beneath the sky.
Tim and Jeff will be giving a presentation on ‘Hand Made Light’ on Monday, April 8th. Southwest Expeditions will be providing a guided tour to Kilbourne Hole on April 9th, including lunch and transportation. For more information on the tour, visit swexpeditions.com, call 1-877- 808- 6877 or email firstname.lastname@example.org