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LEDs and Carved Aluminum Create a Swirling, Reflective Moon

Craig Dorety created this topographically accurate lunar relief from start to finish.
All images courtesy of the artist

An aluminum moon floats at the end of an empty shipping container while multicolored lights swirl around it, amplifying and diminishing the craters and textures that mark its surface. Called A Moon With Many Stars, the installation at Art Market San Francisco is the passion project of Craig Dorety, an artist and engineer.

"The moon doesn't emit its own light. It is a reflective body," Dorety tells The Creators Project. This fact happens to fall in line with his previous works, animated sculptures that explore perception. "I shine lights onto a surface and the viewer is presented with reflected light or indirect light. This technique allows for richer colors in perception, doesn't overwhelm the eye, and lets me introduce shadow (the only way to get black or gray when working with light)."


The relief is made of carved aluminum and lit with rotating, programmed LEDs. Dorety fabricates all the components, owns and operates all the machinery, and hand-solders the electronic components. He says, "It involves computer-aided design and manufacturing, electronics design, microcontroller programming, and a lot of love."

It's topographically accurate, too. The portion we’re privileged to view is a northeastern region of the near side of the moon. The featured craters are Atlas, Franklin, Messala, Geminus, and Cleomedes. NASA sent a laser scanner called LOLA to orbit the moon and this is publicly available data, so Dorety converted that information for the 3D surface of the piece. “From there, I can generate tool-paths (or machine cutting instructions) using computer-aided manufacturing software. Then I load these instruction into the machine controller and hit the 'GO' button.”

There were a few versions before Many Stars. The first incarnation was made a few years back, which was a series of reliefs made out of different types of wood, focusing on different craters. He received a grant for that one, but the new piece was self-funded. "It was something I have been wanting to make for a few years, but didn't have the time," he says. "I wrote an application for its display at Art Market. They accepted, so I scrambled to create it in time." After some smaller, preliminary experiments, he went ahead and completed the full project.


Although Art Market has closed, the piece will again be on display (sans shipping container) at Johansson Projects, a gallery in Oakland. Catch it from June 25 through August 27, along with other new works. For behind the scenes shots of A Moon With Many Stars' creation, see Dorety's Instagram account.


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