Jennifer Steinkamp Uses Pixels Rather Than Paint to Evoke Fundamental Grandeur of Nature

Press Release

Jennifer Steinkamp Uses Pixels Rather Than Paint to Evoke Fundamental Grandeur of Nature

Philadelphia, PA – The Parkway Council illuminates Jennifer Steinkamp’s Winter Fountains in four locations along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway at sunset beginning Thursday, November 30, 2017. Commissioned by the Association for Public Art (aPA), the large-scale, site-specific light installation animates the Parkway Museums District through March 18, 2018, as a centerpiece of Parkway 100, the yearlong centennial celebration of the landmark corridor.

“Steinkamp’s installation beautifully draws on the collections of the institutions that line Philadelphia’s great cultural axis. We are especially proud that–thanks to the support of the William Penn Foundation–a major new work of art is a marquee presentation in our once-in-a-century celebration,” says Gail Harrity, president and chief operating officer of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and chairperson for the Parkway 100 Committee.

As a noted artist who has participated in exhibitions around the world and toured with the band U2, Steinkamp studied the historical significance of the city’s grand boulevard and its collections when invited to consider an installation for the Parkway. These investigations led her to reimagine Benjamin Franklin’s experiments into a form of energy little understood in his day – electricity. “Anyone who’s ever observed water melting and glistening on a piece of ice will get my project,” she says.

“Steinkamp is combining drawing and computer animation to reimagine the phenomenon of electricity. She draws us into a mesmerizing universe of her own creation by evoking cycles of ice, sparks, steam, electricity, clouds, and water,” notes Penny Balkin Bach, Executive Director, aPA, and project curator.

Winter Fountains is a technical feat. Sixteen towering projectors project eight different phantasmagoric animations onto four large fiberglass domes. Multi-colored layers of animations evoke tiny dust particles colliding to create lightning or to spark static electricity; others depict water combusting into gas and steam. Asteroid-shaped particles hurl forward in space and liquid droplets contract and expand in different colors, motions and sequences. Imaginative constellations of shapes appear to be coming at the viewer, moving up and down or changing directions randomly.  In one dome, steam seems to rise in disconcertedly real-looking puffs.

Yet an attentive viewer will note sly inconsistencies: jagged bolts of lightning appear to be drawn by hand; showers of tiny spring flowers descend from nowhere; and cave-like paintings are drawn faintly onto particle forms.

Winter Fountains is lit from sunset to midnight during the winter months along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway at:

-Aviator Park at 20th Street
-21st Street between the Rodin Museum and Barnes Foundation
-22nd Street, across from Park Towne Place
-Spring Garden Street near the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Winter Fountains is presented by the Parkway Council, a coalition of cultural and educational institutions, businesses and residences in the vicinity of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.  The Council is dedicated to ensuring the Parkway Museums District realizes its potential as a truly unique cultural destination.

The project was commissioned by the nation’s first nonprofit organization for public art, the Association for Public Art. aPA was involved in the earliest plans for the Parkway and continues to commission, preserve, interpret and promote public art in Philadelphia today.

Winter Fountains is made possible with major support from the William Penn Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Association for Public Art (aPA); The Logan, Philadelphia’s Hotel; and individual donors. In-kind support is provided by Visit Philadelphia, Pennoni, and The Franklin Institute. Partners include the City of Philadelphia and Philadelphia Parks & Recreation.

Parkway 100 is also made possible through the generous leadership support of PECO, PNC Bank, and 6abc.

For more information, the public may visit