Photo by Dave Warner – The “Night Grass” pop up glass sculpture display in Canal Place.

by Natasha Bender

Rising blades of grass come to life, swaying in the wind, neon light evoking hope in the midst of a very trying year.  These rising blades of grass refer to a new art installation at Canal Place, entitled “Night Grass”. It consists of eighteen neon light sculptures created by artist, Alejandro Siña and commissioned by Daniel Preston.

Preston had originally commissioned these sculptures as part of his idea to expand the Little Falls business district. As part of his waterfront business development plan, Preston had envisioned showcasing these whimsical “light sculptures along the Erie Canal in a natural path leading up to Lock 17, as a way to show the juxtaposition between nature and industry.”

Instead, it was decided to mount Siña’s light sculptures along the Canal Bridge as a safer, more temporary art installation. Two Mohawk Valley Community College students, Cody Rundle and Nang Son were responsible for welding the steel cantilever arms of the sculpture.

Upon entering Canal Place, you can see these graceful works of art installed in a line with arms extending six feet away from the Canal Bridge and the sculptures’ 11-foot height reaching towards the sky.

Photo by Dave Warner – One of the glass sculptures that Daniel Preston has purchased that is on display in the Art Door Gallery window. (Best viewed in the late evening).

You may recognize the neon light artwork if you have visited Elias Saifan’s art studio where you will find two of Siña’s neon light mobile sculptures which were loaned by Preston and installed earlier this year, and are currently still on display.

While speaking with Siña about his source of inspiration for the “Night Grass” sculptures, he said “it went from researching a long time ago the possibility of doing works in the open air that would move with the wind. I started experimenting with different possibilities and that’s the way the design came out.”

Siña also shared that “when you watch the sculptures moving when they are in a line, you can see that they almost take turns to move, they go one after the other.” As I was speaking with him on the phone and watching the sculptures myself, I saw exactly that.

Alejandro Siña, who is recognized for his kinetic and ethereal neon light sculptures, has had his work exhibited in museums, schools, and public venues around the world. He is the proprietor of Sina Lightworks which is based in Boston, Massachusetts, and he has received notoriety over the years for his use of glass, high-frequency voltage, and luminous gas as a means for artistic expression.

Through Siña’s culmination of exploring the use of science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (aka STEAM), he has created high voltage neon sculptures that seem to take on a life of their own.

Siña, who became a professional mentor of Preston, while Preston was attending M.I.T., is a source of inspiration for our children’s futures. And while we may choose to enjoy this beautiful light installation as something that is awe-inspiring and a lovely reason to get out of our homes and take a walk, there may be more to glean from it.

Amidst an unsettled world due to COVID-19, the “Night Grass” light sculptures seem to usher in a season of hope, stimulate creativity, and most importantly can be used to set our children’s minds in motion towards the creation of inventive projects.

As Siña shared, “you start a process of research and development, and sometimes you discover a problem and you end up turning around and doing a new idea that you didn’t have in mind before. It is like a present that you receive.”

In the light of school shutdowns, it’s an opportunity to get out of our homes and enjoy a beautiful art installation, while at the same time demonstrating the rewards of creating projects with STEAM as a present for children and adults alike.