July 23, 2019

Artist Grimanesa Amorós installs a mesmerizing light sculpture in Scottsdale, ArizonaBy Michael SlenskePhotography by Scottsdale Public ArtMay 31, 2015

Light Art Illuminates a Canal in the Desert
Grimanesa Amorós’s temporary installation Golden Waters in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Though she’s installed luminous works from Tel Aviv to Times Square, Grimanesa Amorós wasn’t ready for the power of the natural light surrounding her latest commission, Golden Waters, for Scottsdale Public Art. “It was the first time I worked with water and also in the desert,” says Amorós. “It was 117 degrees one day, and it was quite a challenge.”

The Peruvian-born artist started working at five in the morning just before the sun came out until nine at night, when it set, to realize her serpentine light installation. The sculpture features dozens of 162-foot-long LED tubes that appear to float over a canal in Old Town Scottsdale, emanating from a bridge designed by architect and philosopher Paolo Soleri, the man behind the utopian desert village Arcosanti. Oscillating between bright white and golden hues, the site-specific lighting sequence “is like music. When you’re there, it creates a fourth dimension,” says Amorós. “From different angles you see a different piece.”

Light Art Illuminates a Canal in the Desert
The LED lights change colors to cast dazzling reflections on the water.

In an attempt to create a language between the viewer, the natural setting, and the architecture, the tubes egress from Soleri’s gridlike bridge, touch the water at points, and dance across the channel up the sides of the canal banks. They are also meant to reference the architectural ingenuity of Arizona’s canal systems, which were modeled after the 13th-century waterways dug by the Hohokam tribe.

“They had these pre-Incan canals that irrigated the whole desert, so I thought it would be interesting to make the canals visually active,” says Amorós, who also gave a lecture about the history of these engineering marvels. “When I got this opportunity, I didn’t want to just put my work on top of this canal, I wanted to learn about Arizona’s relationship with water and Soleri’s utopian vision. It’s all quite amazing.”

*Through September at 4420 North Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, Arizona; [


Article by Architectural Digest