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Artist:  Jennifer Steinkamp
Title: Winter Fountains
Date:  November 30, 2017 - March 18, 2018, sunset until midnight
Dimensions:  4 domes, each 26 feet diameter by 13 feet high
Photo Credit:  James Ewing

The entire Benjamin Franklin Parkway is the site for this projection artwork. Four thirteen-foot high domes and sixteen video projectors were placed along the parkway starting near the fountains at Eakins Oval. The domes will serve as metaphorical water fountains.

The inspiration for the artwork comes from my research of the eclectic collections and histories of the vast number of cultural institutions along the parkway: world-class art museums, science institutions, an art school, libraries, churches, a horticultural society and many beautiful fountains and sculptures. These social institutions comprise a wide variety of cultural concerns; I decided to make an artwork inspired by the electrical research of Benjamin Franklin in order to bring these concerns together. He characterized electrical fluid as flowing between positive and negative charges. He also discovered that the lightning in clouds is the same as the static electrical charges. These important discoveries created a huge paradigm shift for science and culture.

The animation is a fanciful interpretation of the formation of electricity in clouds. Within a thundercloud many small particles of dust covered in ice bump into each other as they float through the air. The build up of all of the collisions creates an electrical charge. After a time, the whole cloud fills up with electricity. The animation of electrified ice particles and steam projected on the curved dome surface create an illusionistic depth. The particles are sculpted and hand drawn a bit like pre-civilization cave paintings, perhaps implying some kind of primortial creation theory. The lightning also has a sketch like quality. And of course the watery iciness of the particles refers to the idea of a frozen fountain. If you pick up a piece of ice and observe the way melting water glistens across the surface you will understand the ice in my animation. The overall concept was inspired by the fact that fountains cannot run in the winter because of the freezing temperatures.

The domes are molded from fiberglass embedded with glitter to help refract the light and create a beautiful surface. The large-scale curved projection surface lends itself to perspectival distortions and optical illusions as one walks around the perimeter. The four illuminated domes along the parkway form a glowing night-time constellation within the one-mile long landscape. One should be able to see at least one of the other domes from any location. Each dome will have its own color theme and variation on movement.

Winter Fountains is presented by the Parkway Council celebrating the 100th anniversary of the parkway, curated by Penny Balkin Bach, commissioned by the Association for Public Art (aPA) for Parkway 100, with major support from the William Penn Foundation. The domes were fabricated by Edon Corporation.



Dome locations

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