My friend Glen contacted me a couple of weeks ago and told me that he had been watching a documentary on the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair and had noticed that the lights from the fair were the same as the lights that I used for the basis for A History of Progress sculpture; Glen and I had first seen the lights at a small hotel in the Catskills while on a snowboarding trip. I always enjoy looking at World’s Fair memorabilia and architecture and after doing some more research I found out some interesting things about the luminaries. They were originally built by Westinghouse and they came in 76 modular configurations, from only four cubes per post to as many as 16, in vibrant colors like red, yellow, violet, coral, olive green, and chartreuse, according to renderings and fair brochures. Each translucent 16″ panel fit into a metal framework, and below them was a sound speaker.
It seems that the lights were sold off after the fair ended and it turns out that some of them ended up at a small honeymoon resort in the Poconos where I grew up called Penn Hills Resort. The resort was on a back road on the way up to Pocono Mountain and in the 1980’s was a decrepit reminder of 1970’s sleaze and romance. It reeked of sadness as if love had over the decades become kitsch. One time a friend and I even went to see another friend of ours do some bad stand up comedy with 2 or 3 hopeful honeymoon couples. Strangely enough I remember how both odd and nostalgic the feeling was of the place as if the promise of a better future had died and that the slowly decaying faux futuristic architectural was somehow symbolic of the failure of the Poconos. It’s doubly strange that I don’t specifically remember those lights but that 25 years later those same faded sun bleached lights, in a different place, would effect me in the same way and I would decide to make a sculpture from it. They say our mind never really forgets what it sees.
Below is a graph showing all of the different configurations of the lights, a photo of the lights at night at the World’s Fair, a photo of them de-installed, a photo of what they look like at Penn Hills and finally the small model that I made.