The View from Manayunk

In this collaboration with Greg Dunn, Ph. D., we endeavored to create a painting that would look just as good when lit by daylight, twilight, and the dark.

Greg made an exquisite painting of a local Pennsylvania landmark, the Roxborough Radio Towers. These are a prominent part of the skyline for miles around. Greg painted the towers and hillside in black dye on gold-leaf. The effect is a stark silhouette of the towers and hill contrasted with the soft golden glow emanating from the sky. As twilight fades it can be seen that the towers, both in the painting and reality, are decorated with a series of red lights that slowly fade on and off, each with different frequency, creating a hypnotic quality as they fall in and out of synchrony.

We created these lights by using red LED's coupled to multimode fiber bundles. The fibers poked through pinholes at the locations of the lights, were glued in place, and trimmed flush. Each LED fed a single tower so that all the tower's lights turned on and off together. An encoded Pulse-Width-Modulation was used to create the effect of lights smoothly turning on and off. A micro controller (TI's EZ-430) with buffered outputs was used to actuate the lights.

As the lights dim in the room, the painting gets darker with the gold leaf catching the stray light. The red lights start to emerge from the darkness and create a similar hypnotic effect as is seen in the actual towers.