For a sense of scale, note the herd of cattle grazing just above the grid. Click on image for larger view. Photo: Craig Collins

Luminous Earth Grid
©Stuart Williams 1993. All rights reserved.
Solano County, California

(8 football fields in area • 19 kilometers of elec. cable • 200 installers) 
“It emanated a sense of the romantic sublime with its aura of surprise and wonder.” 
— Peter Selz, MoMA New York

“...the most ambitious work of environmental art in the San Francisco Bay Area since
Christo's Running Fence.”
— Allan Temko — Pulitzer Prize-winner, San Francisco Chronicle
 
“Your remarkable work, Luminous Earth Grid, has been featured in the first annual publication of The Economic Power
of Public Art
 (2024)
. Your project has been selected for its outstanding artistic, cultural, and economic impact.
(an email to the artist) 
— CODAworx, Madison, WI

Electrified Grid: Sweeping over an expanse equal to 8 American football fields, 1680 energy-efficient fluorescent lamps form a perfect square grid, conforming to fluid contours of the terrain 80 km (50 miles) north of San Francisco. Said Williams, “I see this installation as a poetic vision of harmony between technology and the environment.” 
5 Years in Planning: Williams launched a rigorous fund raising campaign throughout Northern California, and raised $500,000 (cash and in-kind contributions) to realize the massive project. It was acclaimed by critics around the globe and drew tens of thousands of visitors.

Cosponsored by: New York Foundation for the Arts & Intersection for the Arts, San Francisco

Major Funders: LEF Foundation, St. Helena, CA; Rene and Veronica Di Rosa Foundation, Napa, CA; Sylvania;
Pacific Gas & Electric; Express Lighting Supply; CC Electric; Calistoga Mineral Water; Anheuser Busch
Project Impact: Luminous Earth Grid was highly visible from Interstate 680 which links the San Francisco Bay Area with Sacramento. Thousands of visitors came to the site daily, and 250,000 motorists drove by every 24 hours in full view of the installation. Wide spread critical acclaim came from around the globe along with extensive media attention.

• ALL PHOTOS ©Craig Collins unless noted •
Click on any image for larger view.

Area = 33,445 square meters (360,000 sq. ft.) 

 “It is a very, very beautiful thing… a fusion of nature, technology and art.” 
— Peter Selz, MoMA New York

“The grid covers such a vast area that designing, assembling and powering a project like this is a mammoth task. The finished product however is beautifully impactful, and so is its message.”
— “ERG Media,” London 
Said the artist, “The glowing green grid can be seen as an icon of computer imaging technology, which in this real life incarnation gently melds with the flowing contours of a lovely landscape… a dream-like vision of symbiotic unity.”

Accelerating Media Attention
: Interest in this installation has increased dramatically in the past few years via online publications and social media. Since its realization in 1993, the need for an aggressive transition to clean renewable energy and green technologies has become ever more apparent with our rapidly worsening climate crisis. It seems that today’s urgent environmental challenges have led to rising interest in this project and its underlying message.​​​​​​​
“Our emotional connection to an increasingly technologically dominated life would not be addressed by most artists until years later. This makes the Luminous Earth Grid, by American artist Stuart Williams, all the more remarkable.” 
— iGNANT, Berlin
When people first see photos of Luminous Earth Grid — like the one above in which there is no clear scale reference — they usually assume it’s an image created in Photoshop. They’re often a bit shocked once they realize it’s simply a photograph of an actual installation.
Two student volunteers from the University of California, Davis. 
An installation crew of more than 200 individuals helped fabricate and install the project.
Williams drove 1,930 kilometers (1,200 miles) over two years in search of an ideal site, and spent three years more seeking an array of permits and funding. This site that ultimately became the setting for the project not only captured the iconic beauty of Northern California’s rolling hills, but was also dramatically visible from a major freeway linking San Francisco and the state capitol, Sacramento. This allowed the installation to be seen by multitudes, ​​​​​​​as 250,000 motorists drove by every day.
Because of the project's pristine rural location, with no nearby commercial development or distracting urban light pollution, the Grid seemed to float in a black void as full darkness fell. Photo © Skip Durbin
Here you can get a sense of the full sweep and fluid contours of this quintessential Northern California landscape. During daylight hours the Grid had a subtle presence.
This close up of the 1.2 meter (4 foot) energy-efficient T8 fluorescent lamps shows how they were joined end on end within a protective and flexible section of rubber washing machine hose. Paralleling the lamps, and running just under them, you can see lines of PVC pipe which carried more than 19 kilometers (12 miles) of electrical wiring.
A clear sense of scale is provided by this herd of cattle grazing just above the Grid. 
Virtually invisible in this photo, a solar-powered electric fence surrounded the 732 meter (2400 foot) perimeter of the Grid to keep cattle from grazing within the array of lamps, which could have led to their injury and/or damage to the installation. The fence visible along the bottom of this photo marks the property line of the ranch.
6-Ton Extension Cord: A 760 meter (2500 foot) specialized cable, weighing 5500 kilograms (6 tons), connected to the corner of the Grid and snaked down the hillside to tie into existing power lines. Known as “shore power cable,” it was loaned to the project by the U.S. Naval Shipyards in Vallejo, CA. Solid copper, and the thickness of a man’s forearm, it was valued at $50,000. Its normal use is to link submarines to power when they’re in port for repair. Photo © Leo Nash
TOP HALF of image is NOT CGI
BOTTOM HALF IS CGI

Looking so much like a computer-generated image, the top half of the above image is in fact an aerial photograph of Luminous Earth Grid… totally analog... a time-lapse photo captured on film from a helicopter as it flew 100 meters (330 feet) overhead.  Photo ©Skip Durbin
Analog vs. Digital: Given that Luminous Earth Grid was envisioned, in part, as a concept alluding back to the green “wire frame” grid often employed in computer-imaging technology — for example in sonar mapping to visualize the contours of the ocean floor — the top photo takes on some unique interest. There is something ironic about this shift and blur between analog and digital, and it is in many ways at the root of Williams’ concept.
Luminous Earth Grid was located 80 kilometers (50 miles) northeast of San Francisco.
1,700 waterproof, flexible electrical connectors are prepared, which linked the massive array of 1,680 1.2 meter (4 ft.), energy-efficient fluorescent lamps end on end. The connectors provided protection from rain, and also allowed the linear array of lamps to bend and incrementally match the rolling contours of the terrain. Photo © Stuart Williams.
5 kilometers (3 miles) of PVC conduit cut into 1.2 meter (4 ft.) lengths awaiting transport to the project site.
Photo © Stuart Williams.
More than 10,000 Kilograms of steel hardware, electrical cable, ballasts and energy-efficient lamps had to be trucked to the site. Many dozens of truck loads later, the lengthy on-site installation work commenced. On-site
installation took one month. Photo © Stuart Williams.
Over two months of off-site pre-assembly of thousands of components and on-site installation, nearly 200 individuals from all around the San Franciso Bay Area helped complete this project. Photo © Stuart Williams.
19 kilometers (12 miles) of electrical wiring were required to facilitate the installation. In addition, a 6-ton extension cable was strung down the mountainside and hooked into existing power lines along the freeway to bring power to the grid. That solid copper cable — the diameter of a man’s forearm — was valued at $50,000, and was loaned to the project by the U.S. Naval Shipyards in Vallejo, California. Photo © Stuart Williams.
Three dedicated members of the nearly 200-strong installation crew. 20,000 person hours of labor were required for off-site pre-fabrication, on-site installation, and de-installation. All materials were reclaimed or recycled. 
Photo © Stuart Williams.
This is a shot taken as the installation was being completed just before opening night. Pictured here making final adjustments is Stan Golovich who was a key member of the installation team. This photo is reproduced directly from a newspaper clipping in the San Jose Mercury News. Photo © Meri Simon.
As the grid neared completion, the three lead electricians and the artist gathered for a photo. 
Photo © Nancy Bronstein.
 
A San Francisco television news crew visits the site to interview the artist, and takes him aloft for a bird’s-eye view of the project site, just before the opening day. Photo © Stan Golovich.
Peter Selz was an influential American art historian and museum director. He mailed this postcard to Williams following the artist’s successful installation of Luminous Earth Grid in 1993. Selz was founding father of the UC Berkeley Art Museum and a curator at MoMA in New York. He was also the project director for Christo’s Running Fence. Selz was one of the earliest advocates for Williams’ project and went on to praise it in his review in Art in America. Selz also introduced Williams at the opening of an exhibit of Williams’ preliminary drawings for Luminous Earth Grid at Catharine Clark Gallery in San Francisco in 1992.
The illustration on the front of the postcard shows one of Christo’s 1980s mixed media studies of his yet unrealized Gates project that would finally happen many years later in New York's Central Park in 2005. In his postcard message to Williams, Selz wrote: “Dear Stuart, Here is a project that never happened – and yours did and looked terrific!” It is a prized memento for the artist.
Click on above image for a larger view.
Art in America Review (above)
A journalist at IGNANT (award-winning Berlin online culture magazine) interviews Williams. 
Read the full interview (in English)
ABITARE — published in Milan, Italy — is one of the world's best known architecture and design magazines.
In 2022, Luminous Earth Grid was featured in a large format coffee table book, a co-production of Type 7 (ERG Media, London), L'Art de L'Automobile, Paris & Porsche, Stuttgart. The book focuses on curated stories with a detailed exploration of art, architecture and design. An insightful interview with Williams is both informative and compelling. 
View 8 page photo essay & interview (in English)

In April 2024, Luminous Earth Grid was featured in The Economic Power of Public Art, published by CODAworx,
a leading platform showcasing artists in the public art arena and connecting them with clients. The book presents comprehensive data about the size of the public art economy, which in 2023 surpassed $4.4 billion.
Said the publisher, “Your project has been selected for its outstanding artistic, cultural, and economic impact. 
Artist’s initial concept sketch (#1), done in Los Angeles in 1981.
© Stuart Williams 1981. All rights reserved.
​​​​​​​
Artist’s initial concept sketch (#2), done in Los Angeles in 1981.
© Stuart Williams 1981. All rights reserved.
Back to Top