A new solar-powered sculpture installed Wednesday near the wetlands in Renaissance Park artistically demonstrates how solar power works by illuminating laser-cut sheets of metal designed to replicate a seed pod coming out of a dormant state to form new life.
Alabama artist Deedee Morrison created the 8-by-12 work of art with inspiration from organic forms, particularly the drawings of Ernst Haeckel, a contemporary of Charles Darwin who was also an artist, biologist, naturalist, philosopher, physician and professor who discovered, described, named and illustrated thousands of new species.
"I try to find things that I can mimic in nature and recreate as art," Morrison said.
The Solartech 125W solar panel's sole function is to convert sunlight into usable energy and transfer that energy through the charge controller to the battery bank.
The charge controller scales down the energy produced to the 12 volts needed to charge the batteries. The batteries store the energy to be used until needed.
The two 92AH batteries run the 12 LED floodlights for about 14 hours continuously before needing a recharge.
The 12V-DC LED lights only require 10 watts of power each, which when combined only requires about the equivalent power of a single, 110W lightbulb.
An 18-foot solar tower next to the sculpture can store enough energy to light each of the six panels for 14 continuous hours. On a clear, sunny day, three days' worth of sunshine can be captured and stored to power the piece on cloudy days, according to Morrison.
The color scheme of the sculpture when in full "evening bloom" is meant to mirror the vibrant yellow hues of the sun, Morrison said. An after-dark walk around the art reveals reflections of each of the three alternating designs on the curved metal surfaces.
Creating large-scale works of art out of "masculine" materials such as aluminum, steel and limestone is Morrison's specialty.
"Steel is considered a flat, one-dimensional medium. It is not considered particularly organic because it is not flexible," Morrison said.
Adding nature-inspired designs balances that out.
"The designs in the metal give it a really feminine, delicate component, juxtaposed against the really heavy, very masculine material," she said.
Morrison said the sculpture is also a really beautiful demonstration of the power of the sun and the power of sustainable energy.
Having her work placed in Renaissance Park next to 1.5 acres of wetlands is the perfect place to create opportunities with the public.
"This is really a good setting for the conversation I am trying to create. Hopefully, it will give someone a perspective on why we are here, the origins of life," she said.
Public Art Chattanooga's director, Peggy Townsend, said although Morrison's work was a challenging and complicated installation—being the first solar-powered piece of art in Chattanooga—it also has the potential to be a well-loved piece by the public.
"The park is a beautiful, passive, contemplative place. Her work also lends itself to that. The park is also a sustainable wetlands, so it made a great fit," Townsend said.
"Solar sculptures in the right environment are extremely effective ways to demonstrate how solar energy works and can become an icon of sustainability for a city. The sculpture will be a wonderful addition to Renaissance Park," Morrison said.
“Seed Pod” will be on exhibit for 18 months as part of Public Art Chattanooga's 2012 Biennial Sculpture Exhibition.
Updated @ 3:35 p.m. on 02/16/12 to correct a misspelling.