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Artist creating sculptures ahead of solar eclipse

Savannah-based artist and Savannah College of Art and Design professor Henry Dean is creating a series of outdoor sculptures throughout the U.S.—including one in front of South Hall on the University of Maine at Presque Isle campus—designed to coincide with the upcoming 2024 solar eclipse’s “path of totality.”

Titled Now and then, this “project with a cosmic focus,” which spans from Texas, through Missouri and Indiana, and into Maine, is being created to honor landscapes and proclaims humanity’s relationship with the environment. This northernmost installation connects two locations: one sculpture at UMPI and two more along the Meduxnekeag River, on Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians land in Houlton.

Presque Isle, on the Aroostook River, is located on the edge of the April 8 “zone of totality.” Forty miles south, the Meduxnekeag River in Houlton is at the heart of the passing Moon’s shadow, or umbra. For the Houlton installation, two sculptures will be placed on opposite banks of the Meduxnekeag River, just below the Lowery Road Bridge.

“I’m delighted to be partnering with UMPI, a center for learning in the Northeast, and for their sponsorship of my Now and then project in Maine,” Dean said. “I’m also extremely grateful to have been granted permission by the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians to place sculptures on their land.”

With help from his former student Justin Kuhn, Dean will be installing the works in Presque Isle and Houlton during the first week of classes at UMPI. The process involves the installation of “sculptural rigs” that look like very tall easels and the mounting of panels on wooden struts as well as locally harvested natural wood onto the rigs in a radial starburst. The rigs are designed to let light pass through perforations in their centers, casting various patterns on the ground, depending on the time of day and season.

Dean began planning this project six years ago. In August 2017, he executed a pop-up style installation at a rural location near Elloree, South Carolina. The video time-capture artwork he created, titled Crescent Sun, can be viewed on Vimeo. In the years since, he has scouted locations—including a visit to Houlton in 2022, engaged with teachers, artists and many others in communities across the country, and documented his collaborations.

Dean said his project is about “being inspired by and expressing a wonder for Nature.” It’s also about communicating awareness and appreciation of ecosystems through science and art education.

As Dean explained, the reflective faces of his sculptures are being built to await the coming of the Moon’s shadow on April 8, 2024. Before and after the total solar eclipse, the sculptures will stand as cosmic markers, “proclaiming the cycle of the seasons, honoring place, witnessing the rising and setting of the Sun, and the circling of the Moon.”

All are welcome to visit these art installations and make them a part of the celebration of the upcoming total solar eclipse. For more information about this art installation series, check out @nowandtheneclipse24 on social media.