Erika Blumenfeld

Sky Scrolls: Houston

About the Project

Erika Blumenfeld’s Sky Scrolls is a public artwork that intends to activate the Houston community’s awareness, connection and interaction with our view of the universe under our urban night sky. Looking up at the night sky has sparked awe and wonder, given rise to worldviews, cosmologies and traditions, motivated art and architecture, and awakened philosophy and science across time. As far back as we can see in the material remains of our species’ lineage, cultures have looked to the stars to answer some of the most fundamental human questions, whether to scientifically locate and understand our place in the universe or to reflect on the meaning of our lives. Yet, multiple fields of research have confirmed that artificial light pollution and the loss of our starry night sky is causing significant health risks for humans, wildlife, plants, ecosystems and biodiversity. We evolved within a particular natural day-night cycle, and our wellbeing is physiologically and culturally linked to the natural night. Blumenfeld believes that to achieve sustainability we must enter into a dialogue about those things that threaten our cultural wellbeing, our ecological biodiversity and our environmental health. Extensive research on the vanishing night sky indicates that these three facets of our community’s wellbeing are in peril, and go beyond the tangible, visible effects—the veiling of the night sky also threatens the more intangible aspects of our cultural continuity and traditional knowledge as well. The Sky Scrolls project hopes to initiate a conversation about the night sky as a source of natural and cultural wellbeing by capturing people’s meaningful experiences under the night sky through their personal stories. Our stories are the intangible cultural evidence of what we hold as meaningful in our hearts and minds, and sharing them allows for a kind of social remembering. Blumenfeld began collecting people’s night sky stories in 2013 as the raw material for a new series of works, and this installation in Houston will be the first produced in the Sky Scrolls series. The installation will present 30 personal night-sky stories from the Houston community, embedding into crystal spheres, which will be captured within a “star wall” structure and set on an open greenspace in District D. Stay tuned for more information as the artist continues to unveil her project.

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Experience the Project

District D

Meet the Artist

Erika Blumenfeld (b. 1971, USA) is a transdisciplinary artist whose practice is motivated by the wonder of natural phenomena and the relationship between nature and culture. Blumenfeld approaches her work like an archivist, driven by a passion to trace and collect the evidence and stories of connection across the cosmos. Her non-traditional research-based practice has led her to examine a range of subjects including astronomy, geology, planetary science, ecology, the environment, anthropogenic climate disruption, natural night sky preservation and light in its many forms. Blumenfeld often works in collaboration with scientists and research institutions, including NASA, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, McDonald Observatory, and the South African National Antarctic Program. Blumenfeld is a Guggenheim Fellow, Smithsonian Fellow, and recipient of a Rauschenberg Foundation Artist-in-Residence and Creative Capital Award. She has exhibited widely in the U.S. and abroad, including the Albright Knox Art Gallery; Fondation EDF; New Mexico Museum of Fine Arts; Nevada Museum of Art; Ballroom Marfa; DiverseWorks; Färgfabriken Norr; Galerie der Stadt Mainz; Kunstnernes Hus; Portland Institute for Contemporary Art; Rice University; TATE Modern, among others. Her work is featured in many books including Art and Ecology Now (Thames & Hudson, 2014) and The Polaroid Book (Taschen eds. 2005 & 2008) and resides in many permanent collections such as Albright-Knox Art Gallery; Lannan Foundation; Museum of Fine Arts Houston; New Mexico Museum of Art; Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art as well as University of Texas at Austin (McDonald Observatory Collection) and University College London in Doha, Qatar. She is currently an artist-in-residence and science-principal investigator on a project at NASA Johnson Space Center where she is leading a team to create an online library of 3D virtual models of NASA’s Apollo Moon rocks and Antarctic Meteorites for researchers and the public.