Glowing spheres bring “light painting” to Pittsburgh

Glowing spheres bring “light painting” to Pittsburgh

Three large glowing orbs have come to Schenley Plaza. And for the next six weeks, visitors outfitted with no more than their smart phones will be able to see their faces projected on one of them, larger than life.

The outdoor art installation is called “EXPosure,” and it’s the work of Montreal-based Lucion, which has toured a version of the show internationally. “EXPosure” is the featured attraction of Glowland, an annual festival organized by the Oakland Business Improvement District (OBID).

The largest of the three inflatable vinyl spheres — it’s 15 feet tall — contains a special camera that turns any light directed toward it into a kind of luminescent temporary painting visible on its surface, said Lucion founder Bernard Duguay.

Alternately, visitors in camera range who turn their smart phones or other light sources toward themselves will see their own faces on screen.

“You can do light painting on the globe with any light source,” said Duguay. “And then if you turn the light towards you, then you become the brush, and you appear in the sphere.”

Each image lasts onscreen about five seconds. Duguay added that visitors can create different effects by using different kinds of lights, illuminating different images in rapid succession, or moving around while illuminated, to achieve a sort of stop-motion animated look.

Lucion has toured versions of “EXPosure” to cities around the U.S. and to countries from Colombia and France to Russia and China, Duguay said.

“EXPosure” opened Mon., Nov. 20. It will be active 5-10 p.m. nightly for the run of the festival, which concludes Jan. 2.

OBID launched Glowland last year to emphasize that the neighborhood is home to more than the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC, said OBID spokesperson Mollie Crowe. Last year’s featured attraction in Schenley Plaza was illuminated see-saws.

“The goal is just to get people back into Oakland,” she said.

This year’s festival is six weeks, up from four weeks in 2022. In all, Glowland includes 10 light-themed artworks by local and international artists, spread throughout the two square miles of the Fifth and Forbes corridor in Oakland. Another is Pittsburgh-based Ian Brill’s light installation inside the Pittsburgh Athletic Association building, which will be visible from both outdoors and inside the landmark Fifth Avenue edifice.

Although it takes place around the holidays, Glowland is intended primarily to celebrate light at a time of the year when the sun’s rays are at a premium, Crowe said.

The festival also includes two free community days, on Sat., Dec. 9 (a “winter play day”), and Sat, Dec. 16 (with live music and a drone show).

Ticketed events include the Dec. 1 Glow Ball, at the PAA, and historic walking tours of the area led by Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, daily Dec. 15-17.

For a complete schedule, see here.