Category Archives: Life Of An Artist Blog

How I Built It: Old Airplane To Contemporary Light Sculpture That Connects To NASA & Rest of The World

How I Built It: Old Airplane To Contemporary Light Sculpture That Connects To NASA & Rest of The World

by Daric Gill

{Time-Lapse Video of Process Above}

Installed at the Columbus Museum of Art

The Imagination Machine is an interactive sculpture that communicates with NASA, is motion sensitive, tells time, and has a feature that can be remotely controlled from anywhere in the world. It’s made from one of the two wings of a Flying Flea aircraft, strips of individually programmable LEDs, and the brains of a Wi-Fi enabled robot. Part of The Living Machine series, this responsive sculpture takes a look at the emotional intelligence of imagination, as displayed by a robot.

A wooden truss supports the wings, lights, and electrical controls from above. There are two acrylic cases that are packed with brains, power supplies, and sensors to make this sculpture work. In this article, you can explore the build process from start-to-finish.

About The Wing
The plane without the wings attached.

At almost 19 ft long ( ~5.8 m), this wing is one of two pulled from a real bi-plane. The Flying Flea, or (Pou du Ciel literally “Louse of the Sky” in French) is a large family of light homebuilt aircraft. The plane was a generous donation by Mark Curtner in connection with the Historic Grimes Field Airport in Urbana, Ohio. Ohio’s only airport with 3 Museums on Field: The Champaign Aviation Museum, the Grimes Flying Laboratory, & Museum and the restoration wing of the Mid America Flight Museum of Texas.

As you can see from the photos in this article, the wing is segmented into 3 parts (two shorter wing ends + longer middle section). This allows the wings to fold up and inward for tighter storage.

In truth, this wing is actually the ends from one wing and the center from the other. The remaining middle section had some primer on it, rendering it no longer translucent enough that light would pass through. Any pilot will notice that the wing is also flipped upside down, showing the sexier rounded edge to the viewer below.

The Electronics

While the wing itself is split into three parts, the electronics are split down the middle in halves. Each half has a separate Wi-Fi enabled brain, corresponding lights, and electronic hardware. The brain holds around 27 pages of codes that loop over and over. These codes calibrate and get feedback from 4 separate motion sensors, activate Wi-Fi and make frequent requests of data from NASA and a server (called MQTT) that holds any communication until a valid Wi-Fi handshake is made, control various pins (that do anything from trigger a relay switch to direct electricity from a large power supply, to modulating the signals that change each LED on the light strips, to telling time, and more). The main brain is a 2-layered stack consisting of an Hazzah32 micro-controller and Adalogger + RTC board made by a successful female-owned company called Adafruit.

Huzzah32 Feather with ESP32 wi-fi board & Adalogger RTC

This paragraph is jargon-heavy (sorry): The Hazzah32 is an Arduino friendly ESP32-based Feather, made with the official WROOM32 module. At the moment, it is meant for intermediate and above developers, as the documentation can be a little daunting. To its benefit, each of the pins can be hard coded to do several different functions. Truthfully, much of the time working on this project was learning how this new board worked and growing into the shoes worn by such an ambitious project.

The light strips are RGB WS2812b 5050 LEDs (often rebranded as Neopixels ). While the strips look simple, each bright spot is a module comprised of a tiny red, green, and blue LED + a little driver. This means that each color and light bulb has 3 uniquely addressable lights that can be controlled independently. In total, The Imagination Machine has 2,700 individually addressable LED lights and can modulate many colors with ease. I used a reworked version of the adaptable open source FastLed codes.

You’ll notice that I go through several iterations of designs, homemade boards, LED configurations, and layouts. The great size and technical scope of this project was purposely outside my normal comfort range. What you’re seeing is the honest proof that I really came up with the final goal and had to truly learn what I was doing along the way. It was an exciting and deep journey through many unknowns. I’m appreciative of all the new knowledge that was born from so many trials along the way.

The Imagination Machine
June 2019
Medium: Reclaimed airplane wing, LED lights, Wi-Fi enabled Adafruit Hazzah32 micro-controllers, Adafruit Adalogger with Real Time Clock, PIR motion sensors, electronics, and poplar.
226” x 48” x Dimensions Variable

{To see the finished piece in action, click here}


Ginkgo leaves in the rain

Awarded 2019 Individual Excellence Award By Ohio Arts Council

Awarded 2019 Individual Excellence Award By Ohio Arts Council

by Daric Gill

“Absolute: Nostalgia”, Oil paint on reclaimed black walnut. 18 1/2” x 17 5/8”. 11.27.17

It is my great pleasure to announce that the Ohio Arts Council has chosen me as a FY 2019 recipient of the Individual Excellence Award in the field of 2-D visual art. I am so thankful for the support and I am exceptionally proud to be among those of whom have been given this honor.

Aimed at highlighting individual artistic achievement, Individual Excellence Awards recognize the exceptional merit of an Ohio artist’s past body of work and celebrate the creativity and imagination that exemplify the highest level of achievement in a particular artistic discipline.

These awards support artists’ growth and development and recognize their work in Ohio and beyond. Individual Excellence Awards are $5,000.

I am sincerely grateful for the numerous people who work tirelessly to put our creative future first. Their continued support makes it possible to pursue such a fulfilling career. Their efforts are not lost on me and I would like to personally thank those involved. You can find the official press release here.

“Absolute: Position”, Oil paint on reclaimed mahogany pie crust table top. 25 1/2” x 25 1/2”. 8.9.16.
“Absolute: Position”, Oil paint on reclaimed mahogany pie crust table top. 25 1/2” x 25 1/2”. 8.9.16.

How the selections were made: A panel of nationally recognized artists and arts professionals meet to evaluate and score applications in each Individual Excellence Awards discipline. At the panel meeting, panelists review materials from each artist and discuss how well each application satisfies the program’s evaluation criteria. Preliminary scoring rounds narrow the pool of applications. In later rounds, a more in-depth discussion takes place regarding the strongest remaining applications. After all the work has been reviewed, panelists make funding recommendations. The OAC Board reviews the recommendations and makes final funding decisions at a later date.

To those of whom made this possible– truly, thank you!

 

Lolo's Art Gallery. Matanza, Cuba

“ConnectArt”: Preparing For 13th Havana Biennial In Mantanzas, Cuba

“ConnectArt”: Preparing For 13th Havana Biennial In Mantanzas, Cuba

by Daric Gill

“Absolute: Frequency”: Oil on maple panel. 21 1/4” x 30 1/2”. 12.11.18.
“Absolute: Frequency”: Oil on maple panel. 21 1/4” x 30 1/2”. 12.11.18.

In December I announced that my latest painting and I will be traveling to Cuba this spring.  I happily dropped off my painting to be shipped a couple days ago. In a few short weeks, a group of extremely talented American artists and I will head back to Cuba for another spectacular artist exchange. This time, we will be part of something bigger! My artwork is currently slated to go to Lolo Art Gallery in Mantanzas, Cuba. It will be a part of “ConnectArt “, a juried international exhibition that is part of the 13th Havana Biennial (Bienal de la Habana 2019). If you’re not familiar with the Havana Biennial, it is a world-renowned celebration of contemporary and community art. For the first time, the Biennial and other satellite art exhibitions will spread to neighboring cities, like Matanzas.

Lolo's Art Gallery. Matanza, Cuba
My visit to Lolo’s Art Gallery. Matanza, Cuba

As with many international ventures, the final details have incubated and flexing for months. I am extremely proud to announce that there are two types of exhibitions happening in Havana and Matanzas:  the Havana Biennial which is being held in multiple city locations in Cuba and two special exhibitions for Ohio artist (one in Havana and one in Matanzas). My work is included as part of the special exhibitions.

Rachel Valdés, “Reality Project. Blue Cube,” presented in the 2015 edition of Detrás del Muro during the 12th Havana Biennial Courtesy Artpulse Magazine

This April, I will be heading back to my Cuban friends during one of the most exciting times to be there! Not only are the people and culture phenomenal, so too are the artists. All included Biennial cities will become thoroughly alive with artwork, spilling from the walls of galleries and museums, into the streets of each community artwork. I’m particularly excited to see the open-air art exhibition, Detrás del Muro (Behind the Wall), a collection of street installations by 71 artists. This year it extends to the Malecón, a beautiful broadway and seawall which stretches for 5 miles along the coast in Havana. You can read more about Detrás del Muro here.

[ Here’s a look into our last artist exchange to Cuba ]

 

Featured Artist: ARTIST TALK MAGAZINE, Issue 6

Featured Artist: ARTIST TALK MAGAZINE, Issue 6

by Daric Gill

Click here to read article

I’m super excited to announce that Issue 6 of ARTIST TALK MAGAZINE has been published and I am a featured artist with a 6-page spread! ARTIST TALK MAGAZINE is a quarterly magazine, originating from the United Kingdom and features Artists from all across the globe. It is a magazine for everyone and is written by Artists. The main focus of the magazine is to showcase Artists and to give them a chance to share, in more depth, the work they produce. It aims to showcase a wide range of work, inspired by many different influences.

So far, I’ve been really impressed with how slick the online version of the magazine is. You can view it online and purchase a physical copy of any issue here. I’ve already purchased a couple copies for myself and eagerly await their arrival.

Special thanks to Grant Milne who created such an amazing platform for artists!

Sample Page

 


[Watch how I made each piece featured in the magazine below]