It is usually rare that Calgary finds any solace from darkness during its long-spanning winter months. On occasion, snow-riddled streets are bathed in a midday sun, but its warmth is only temporary. For artists Caitlind r.c. Brown and Wayne Garrett (CLOUD, Wreck City), the sun has a remarkable quality to bring energy back into a place, hence, their public installation creation: Solar Flare.
Floating mid-air between the walkways of Centre Street and First on Stephen Avenue, the brilliant, self-illuminated metal giant comes alive after sundown. The beauty of the piece is most realized in its rather vulgar public space—a space that Brown calls “visually cluttered.” Commissioned by the Downtown Association, Solar Flare works as a hub for community interaction, as Garrett explains. “With any public piece, especially if you make an event around it, it helps to cross-pollinate the arts community with the larger public, so that you don’t really have to go out of your way to open a gallery thing.”
The glow emitted from this sun is meant to simulate the beauty of the winter sun, a beacon that finds itself paradoxically at home between retail shops lining the streets on either side. Brown enthusiastically points out that projects like this are relationship-heavy; they depend on friends and the larger community to see their fruition and, as far as the concept of this work itself goes, the general public are always involved. “This project is leading viewers to find their own concepts and potentials within the work,” Garrett says. “You are making someone interested in the work in that way.”
For a sun-starved Calgary, Solar Flare is most welcomed in a place constantly littered with artificial light. Brown and Garrett’s public work not only brings a warmth back to the cold and dark downtown core, its greater purpose is to bring emphasis back to the importance of public art — something that Calgary has seen diminish over the past few years.
Solar Flare will be displayed until February 1 between the walkways of Stephen Avenue (Centre and 1st Street) in the downtown core. You can view Brown and Garret’s documented Solar Flare production diary online here: www.solarsunflare.wordpress.com
By Therese Schultz
Photo: Andrew Stirling