Today I’m happy to introduce Peter Erskine, an American installation artist who specializes in creating Solar Spectrum Environmental Artworks made from pure sunlight. Several of Peter’s works are installed at libraries in California and Oregon. Beyond his projects for libraries, and across the US, Erskine has installed artworks in the ancient Roman Forum, the Rome and Milan railway stations, the Haus der Kulturen der Welt museum in Berlin and sites in the UK and Spain.

See more of Peter’s work at his portfolio website, http://erskinesolarart.net/

Library as Incubator Project (LAIP): What is / has been your relationship to libraries, as an artist, as a reader–however you feel like answering the question.

Peter Erskine (PE): I remember when I was a kid and visited the Wallingford, Conneticut public library Children’s Room, there was a large vitrine with beautiful small stuffed birds sitting on a small leafless bush (maybe 3′ tall) inside its beautiful glass dome. That was more interesting than the books. I also remember always being afraid of the librarian who was always ready to “hush” us when we talked above a whisper. How things have changed. We always had lots of books at home, so as a child 70 years ago, I never used my library card very much. My mom was an avid reader, library board member and head of the new library building committee–after I grew up.  When I was an undergraduate at Yale I remember being appropriately awed when entering the  long apse of Sterling Library’s (fake) gothic interior and enjoying the comfort of the couches in the Linonia and Brothers cushy reading room there.

Now I borrow videos, music and books from both the Corvallis and OSU libraries in town.

I’ve created 4 “permanent” library Solar Spectrum Environmental Art installations, three of which you can see on my website: http://erskinesolarart.net/category/type/libraries/

In this video, Peter reflects on his work in public libraries.

PETER ERSKINE Solar Spectrum Light Art for Public Libraries, www.ErskineSolarArt.net from Peter Erskine on Vimeo.

One recent installation, at the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library, was triggered by a “eureka moment” on the Winter Solstice of 2015. Erskine was on the library’s second floor, when he saw huge window above the lobby, and realized it was an ideal location to insert a Solar Spectrum Environmental Art installation. He rushed down stairs to the circulation desk and asked the name of the director, and where he could find her. Carolyn Rawls was at her desk in her sunlit basememt office. He pitched his idea and showed her the previous library art installations on his website. Carolyn got interested, and within four months had gotten all the city and library board permissions. The final piece was unveiled by three local children on August 25, 2016.

“Three Secrets of the Sun”, Peter Erskine, Corvallis Benton County Public Library, OR. 2016. August 23, 2016, 2:47:37 PM. Materials: Sunlight, laser-cut prisms, library architecture.The colors, and composition of the installation gradually change every minute, every hour and every day with the rotation of the earth, weather and seasons.

“Solar Spectrum Art,” Peter Erskine, 2008, Fontana, California, Lewis Library and Learning Center – Reading Rotunda. Materials: Sunlight, laser-cut prisms, library architecture. The colors, and composition of the installation gradually change every minute, every hour and every day with the rotation of the earth, weather and seasons.

“Sun Painting,” Peter Erskine, 2009, Lafayette Library, Lafayette, California, 9:49 AM, March 23, 2010. Materials: Sunlight, laser cut prisms, mirrors, library architecture. The art changes dramatically with the seasons, time of day and lighting conditions.


LAIP: As an artist, what does your ideal library look or feel like?

PE: Places of silence and light. Libraries are perfect for my art, because they are places of quiet and contemplation. Time slows down in a library. It’s an ideal space for enjoying the slowly-changing colors and patterns.

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