Minneapolis art installation features work of Instructor Aaron Dysart

Minneapolis art installation features work of Instructor Aaron Dysart

September 07, 2017

The artistry of Anoka-Ramsey Community College instructor Aaron Dysart will be featured in “Illuminate the Lock,” a two-part series of artist interpretations using the 49-foot-tall chamber of Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam. “Surface,” an art installation by Dysart, will be featured Sept. 15 - 16, running from 8 to 10:30 pm each night. 

Illuminate the Lock: Surface
Friday, Sept. 15 and Saturday, Sept. 16
8 to 10:30 pm
Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock & Dam
Minneapolis, MN
Free and open to the public

“I love investigating underlying structures that make modern life possible and allowing them to tell their own story,” said Dysart. “With two different light effects, the history of the structure will be told through shifting color and intensity.”

To create “Surface,” Dysart studied years of handwritten data recorded by the Army Corps of Engineers at the lock. He used data from the logbooks as the basis for the light show, translating the pool heights of the Mississippi River and the floods in the lockages into shifting colors and beams of light that are projected into the atmosphere within the lock chamber.

The installation covers about 48 years of recorded history in the famous lock, depicting the history of the Mississippi River here in layers of light. During the installation, each half-second will represent the history of one day, with bursts of fog signaling the passing of each year.

“The first layer of the experience is a bright, captivating visual spectacle, because if the piece isn’t interesting to look at no one will care,” said Dysart. “Multiple beams of light will twirl and shift over the 500-foot length of the lock with colorful floods pulsing from the edges, all while the chamber will be filled with a haze of fog that will catch the light.”   

From a visual standpoint, Dysart was fascinated with the space found at the lock and dam. He added several more layers to the project, which has been three years in the making. The installation allowed him to build upon connections he’d made through the National Park Service and the Mississippi Park Connection.   

“It is enormous, but since you can see it all at once, and it is normally viewed from a distance on the Stone Arch Bridge, it seems small and contained,” said Dysart. “I would sit there knowing it is huge, but feeling like it was small, creating this internal epistemological fight. When I find something that captivates me, especially if it fluctuates in contradictions, I stick with it.”

Dysart said he is proud to count himself among the many instructors at Anoka-Ramsey who are also practicing artists. He also brings his experiences in the art world back to his students, encouraging them to continue to work hard and follow their dreams.

“Being an artist is not easy, but our department teaches from first-hand experience about what it takes to realize your creative dreams,” said Dysart. “There are glorious highs, but there are a lot of struggles. It all takes a lot of work and a lot of time.”

“Illuminate the Lock” is presented by NorthernLights.mn, the Mississippi Park Connection, the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, and as part of Here & There by The Soap Factory, with support from St. Anthony Falls Heritage Board and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The exhibit is free and open to the public.

For more information about the installation, visit http://northern.lights.mn/platform/illuminate-the-lock/.

For more information about the Fine Art Department at Anoka-Ramsey Community College, visit AnokaRamsey.edu/academics/departments-faculty/art/.

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