Spotlight on Art: Arts Los Altos brings technology to public art | Community

The fifth installation of public art by the privately funded, nonprofit Arts Los Altos takes public art out-of-the-box and away from the usual mural or sculpture.

This exciting new concept is actually two installations, “Inflorescence” and “Luminous Waveforms,” which both stand alone but also interact through the addition of technology.

The dual installation and collaboration is the brainchild of local artists Liz Hickok, multimedia artist and photographer, and the husband-and-wife team of Phil Spitler, who uses technology to formulate and enhance his art, and Victoria Heilweil, photographic artist, educator and exhibit curator.

The installations – scheduled this month – will be situated in the Paseo, the walkway that runs from Third Street next to Akane restaurant out to the Walgreens parking lot.

Hickok and Spitler’s “Inflorescence” is a photographic installation of California poppies and other indigenous wildflowers printed on aluminum and installed with a glowing aura of lights after dark. The title “Inflorescence” refers to the arrangement of a cluster of flowers on a floral axis, and the process of flowering, but also appropriately suggests fluorescence and light. The artists were inspired by California poppies because they are delicate yet resilient survivors that are often the first to return after wildfires, drought and storms.

Hickok altered her photographs using programmatic manipulations to evoke the surreal nature of our current reality. Hickok collaborated with Spitler, who added intelligent lighting to the art as well as an element known as augmented reality (AR) to her photographs. AR allows a still image to come alive as viewers interact with it using their phones or tablets. When the device is pointed at the flowers, three-dimensional layers are added, which allow the image to grow, move and change over time.

There is also an educational component to the AR, enabling users to tap on the flowers to see more information about them.

The second installation, “Luminous Waveforms,” consists of two benches constructed from a 100% sustainable rice hull material. Spitler and Heilweil designed and fabricated the benches. Spitler used software to create a three-dimensional model of each bench that could be viewed and modified from all angles.

Once the design was finalized, they used a computer-controlled robot, commonly known as a CNC machine, to cut slices from the rice hull material. The individual slices were then assembled into the final benches.

The “Inflorescence” and “Luminous Waveform” installations interact through the use of light. Both benches have LED tubes inside that project light outward and harmonize with the light emanating from “Inflorescence.”

The illumination will commence at sunset each evening, and the viewer will be treated to an ever-changing light show that is a subtle wash of color illuminating from within the benches, combined with the lights emanating from the flowers of “Inflorescence.”

“Inflorescence” is a one-year temporary installation. “Luminous Waveforms” has been purchased by Arts Los Altos with generous donations from local residents.

A “Meet the Artists” reception is scheduled 7 p.m. May 6 during First Friday festivities. All are welcome to attend.

Ginny Strock is a Los Altos resident.

Anita Shire

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