Ivan Toth Depeña’s new public art captures the ethereal beauty of light

Artist Ivan Toth Depeña pays tribute to the essence of light and energy in Photon/s, a new concept-driven public art installation in Charlotte, North Carolina. Blending screens and sculptures, the piece is designed to be a permanent beacon for the city’s vibrant cultural landscape.

If you’re walking down the streets of Charlotte in North Carolina, you might have spotted a new fixture by the Duke Energy headquarters. Towering over pedestrians like illuminated metal trees, the new sculptures commissioned by the energy holding company symbolise its contributions to the city and its electric cultural scene.

Inspired by the microscopic particles that make up light itself, Photon/s is the brainchild of Depeña Studio artist Ivan Toth Depeña. Composed of two parts, including the massive groundbreaking sculptural forms with state-of-the-art LED endpoints and a four-story illuminated facade panel, Photon/s is an innovative and beautiful homage to the dynamism of light and energy.

Photon/s is the result of a competitive proposal process. Ivan’s idea was developed by art consultant Lauren Harkey with Hodges Taylor Gallery. After beating off other artists to make the shortlist, Ivan’s proposal was finally chosen, and he set to work bringing it to life.

As a project, Photon/s played into Ivan’s interest in the “quiet profundity” of nature. “I often delve into environmental mechanics and biomimicry, drawing upon the inherent designs and processes of
nature to inform and shape my work,” he explains.

These observations of the natural world form a conceptual foundation for much of Ivan’s work. Previously, his research has touched on everything from the microscopic architecture of cells to the tectonics of geology and the complex systems of cosmology.

“Using this natural inspiration, I begin layering imagery, exploring composition, phenomenon and harmony,” he adds. “By bringing these contrasts into my work, I seek to evoke a sense of wonder and provoke contemplation on the intrinsic connections between space, memory, and perception.”

Indeed, this creative approach would be carried over by Ivan into Photon/s. “The photon, as the smallest particle of light/energy, seemed like an obvious point of departure given the commissioning company Duke Energy,” he says.

“Although it is an essential part of our daily lives, the photon is essentially intangible. I was fascinated by the invisible, making things visible. So it was used as a source of inspiration and not intended to be an exact depiction.”

Thankfully, as an artist who strives to have his work interpreted on a “universal level,” Photon/s did not run into many roadblocks from conception to creation. “Conceptually, there weren’t any constraints,” he reveals. “Pragmatically, safety and long-term maintenance were a priority for us.”

This meant that the beguiling metal structures with their twinkling armatures could proceed as planned. And what’s more, they would interact with a towering screen facade. “The facade is intended to be a backdrop for the entire installation in the open plaza,” Ivan adds. It is intended to frame the sculptures and add to a sense of scale via a sort of forced perspective.”

He adds, “It is made of roughly 50 sheets of perforated metal and backlit with programmed LED nodes. We are really happy that Duke decided to go in this direction with the facade because it really adds to the overall depth and impact of the experience.”

As for how his work is received, Ivan always hopes everyone, from young and old, can take away their own appreciation. “I am most content when complexity is reduced to reveal the spiritual essence of a creative undertaking and meaning is subtly revealed through contemplation of the work,” he concludes.

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