Jon Morris has been a theater producer, social entrepreneur, champion springboard diver—and an artist, in which last capacity he serves as director of New York-based arts collective The Windmill Factory. Since 2007, he and a band of likeminded collaborators have conceived and crafted a series of elaborate public projects, ranging from a grassy 30-foot-tall slide in the Nevada desert to a multi-media performance piece on themes of atomic destruction.
The group’s newest endeavor is “Reflecting the Stars.” Located just off the shore of Manhattan’s West Side in the Hudson River near Bethune Street, two-hundred seventeen solar-fed LED light capsules, lashed to defunct shipping-pier posts, mimic the natural night sky above light-polluted New York. Users can punch up different constellations using a purpose-built console fixed to the walkway railing. The project was two years in the making, and it made its debut August 31st with a subdued sundown function for some forty-odd attendees scattered on picnic blankets near the riverbank. “It was just a beautiful night,” said Morris.
The event took place one day behind schedule, after Hurricane Irene tore through town and threw the installation equipment of its delicately engineered balance. Charles Renfro of firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro credited Morris for logistical perseverance—including, crucially, the artist’s dedicated “schmoozing” of key leaders in business and government who helped make the project a reality. One of the latter, State Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, was on hand, and she too had praise for “Reflecting the Stars”. “Every child,” she said, “should be able to see the night sky.”