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A conversation between bon vivant Louis St.Lewis and artist Nate Sheaffer on aliens, the power of light, and what’s next (Hint: it involves glitter!)
You never know where new art might surprise you, especially in ever-growing Raleigh. I recently experienced an eyegasm in North Hills. The next time you’re stuck at the corner of Six Forks and Dartmouth Roads feast your eyes at the glowing-pulsating-energizing-visually-intriguing light installation that emerged recently from the fecund mind and complex-multi talents of Raleigh’s own Nate Sheaffer ( www.natesheaffer.com). Located in the “Art Box” on the first floor of the Bank of America Tower, the public art display might not look that exciting during a sunny day, but the freaks come out at night! Sheaffer gathered and transformed 100 vintage street light lenses and totally tricked them out with neon and argon gas. The effect? Magical. (The installation, known as “EyeCentennials,” will be up for one year.) Nate is making quite a name for himself in the art and design world, and when his amazing new studio-gallery GLAS opens this summer at 1053 E. Whitaker Mill Road, eyes will bulge and tongues will wag! I recently ran into Nate at the stoplight and asked him a few questions while I was putting the top down on the z4 and waiting for a green light.
Louis St.Lewis: Your “EyeCentennials”- were you influenced by “War of the Worlds”?
Nate Sheaffer: There’s no doubt that an early fascination with science fiction and alien forms influenced me. It’s taken tremendous will power to keep from making one of my “EyeCentennials” look EXACTLY like the long-necked, probing aliens in that film.
LSL: So, this work is all about sex with aliens then?
NS: Ha! Sure, in a way. It’s really about the interaction of neon’s hot electric sex and the viewer’s eyeballs. In a sense, we’re all bugs, attracted to the light—any light—and sometimes that interaction draws us closer to bright things, possibly dangerous things. The way I animated the 60 pieces in the Bank of America Tower, I considered the attraction of lightning bugs and how they all oscillate differently, but every now and then, they’re all on at once, and maybe that’s when the bug-on-bug action peaks. So, if that’s sex with aliens, then, yeah.
LSL: Most people here in the Triangle probably run across your creations more often than they think. Where are some of the places where you have worked your magic?
NS: Beer lovers will know me from my bike inspired interactive installation at Crank Arm Brewery; the exterior LED lighting at Johnson Lexus that washes the walls with color. The event space at the Rickhouse in Durham. I turned the lobby of the Raleigh Ritz into a lunar landscape with neon rockets and satellites flying overhead, and I’m going to cover a vintage Shoney’s Big Boy statue with silver glitter and turn his hamburger into a spaceship and add that to the space. It’s going to be out of this world.
LSL: It already is!
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