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Helio-Chronometer Art or Eyesore?

By Jose B. Rivera

Art or Eye Sore?
East Harlem - November 13, 2004.  Located at East 104th Street at P.S. 72, the Helio-Chronometer (Reloj Solar), Sundail was dedicated on October 1, 2004. Conceptualized by artist Marina Gutierrez and put together by Architect James Cornejo. The Helio-Chronometer was produced by CITYArts.

Below is the Project Details as published by CITYarts:
Picture of the Helio-ChronometerProject Description
As the sun travels the sky, a central indicataor pole (gnomon) casts a moving shadow along an arc-like path.  This shadow path varies from the longest Summer arc, to the middle path representing both Spring and Fall and the briefest arc of the Winter Sun.  Each of the three “Seasonal Arcs” are outlined on the wall in steel cable.  Additional cables, radiating from the central pole, trace key hours.  Six individual “Culture Arcs” are positioned at specific time point on each season track.  Each “Cultural Arc” references distinct and in some cases overlapping cultural traditions and is made from 1/2” sheet aluminum, with a permanent (powder coated) color finish.

To affirm cultural continuity and recall a connection to nature and science in the urban evvironment.  Each “Cultural Arc” contains symbolic and aesthetic elements reflecting the ebb and flow of migration in the local East Harlem population.  With these references we hope to create a visual metaphor connecting the movements of peoples and cultures with the movement of sun and earth.  Inti-huantan, the Native American Quiche word for sundail, literally translated as “sun anchor”.  With the Helio-chronometer we aspire to anchor the present to our diverse and collective heritage.

Cultural Arcs
Pre-Columbian motif with Mexican “papel picado” style arc.
References the ubiquitous popular cut paper art form used for public decorations and decorative flags

Hip hop arrow & Graphic Arc
This arc reflects the dynamic energy of new graphic forms from graffiti to design.

Andean textile snape with Mimbre pottery motif Arc
Combines pre-conquest indigenous motifs from North & South America

Coqui fron with sugar cane ARc
The iconic symbol of Puerto Rico is paired with an emblem of the arcricultural cash crop that fueled the colonial economy of the “new world”.

Rooster with palm frond Arc
An arc of topical palm accompanies a Chinese cut paper style rooster representing sunrise.  The rooster symbol occurs across cultures from the African Diaspora to Eastern European.

Egypitan eye with African arc of Indinkra symbols
The shadow of an Egyptian eye falls across an arc of combined indinkra symbols representing learning from history & freedom from bondage.

We strongly believe that “Helio-Chronometer (Reloj Solar) Sundail, CITYarts’ 253rd project, will become a “Gateway” to East Harlem and signify community rejuvenation and cultural diversity.  The cultural symbols included in the artwork will be integrated into the curriculum of P.S. 72 and the students will be able to futher contribute to the community by fiving guided tours (Tsipi Ben-Haim, CITYarts Executive and Artistic Director)

Many have gazed and wondered, “what is it”. Still others hope it is not a permanent community fixture, and then again, many love it. What do you think?

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