Project Year: 2022
Location: Lehigh University Art Galleries, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Invited to create a new body of work as Lehigh University’s Horger Artist-in-Residence (2021-22) in the Department of Art, Architecture and Design, I created an artwork which interrogates Bethlehem’s past and present as a microcosm of America.
Following the city’s founding as “The Bethlehem of North America” by Moravian Christian reformist and utopian settlers in 1741, it later enjoyed an industrial heyday in the late 19th to 20th centuries as the capital of America’s steel industry and then saw a subsequent collapse during the 1980s. Bethlehem, in its layered history, echoes the hopes, histories and values of many North American cities, particularly those in the Rust Belt. My project explores this distinctly American brew of religious utopian fervor, industrial capitalism’s rise and fall, and, finally, its reinvention in catering to the dreams of making it big on the part of casino goers.
The completed artwork is a hybrid video and sculptural installation which juxtaposes and examines Bethlehem’s past and present. The piece comprises a central sculpture centered between two channels of synchronized video. The sculpture is inspired by and is an exact 11’ tall miniature replica of the existing 90-foot-tall brightly lit Bethlehem Star on Bethlehem’s South Mountain, built by the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce in 1937 as a commercially-minded endeavor to brand Bethlehem as The Christmas City. The Star on the hill is brightly lit in “Christmas white” and on a clear evening is visible for 60 miles. The “Star” sculpture in Starstruck has a lighting array that oscillates between “Christmas white” and the multi-color display of a casino “wheel of fortune.”
Starstruck: An American Tale, is also being released as an art monograph from Black Dog Press in London in 2023.