Save the Trees, Bring Back The Sky Disk

Written By: BC Mazlin

Sometimes it seems like there’s a ‘spell’ over this part of the island. In the air, in the light, in our juxtaposition to the water, it is everywhere. Whatever the cause the effect is quite spectacular, drawing many of the local inhabitants toward various forms of creativity. I am apt to wonder lately, however, if there isn’t call for an art-tervention wherein our municipal ‘undertakings’ might be given a renewed perspective. Considering the abundance of talent this island supports and the fact that the community is filthy with scientists (from the BNL to The Tesla Site and SBU just to name a few), I believe the argument to intervene on behalf of the trees by tapping into local talent has great merit. Read the newspaper and discover quite the controversy over the concept of preserving open spaces. The word on the vine is for another solar array where trees need to be. No one disputes the bottom line, but pause for a “new deal” in our policy of green living and we may find a solution to the issue of brain drain that plagues our community as well. There is a call for artists as much as there is for engineers. Most people want more nature and beauty in their lives. They also want to stream videos onto their large screen TV. With some careful collaboration perhaps we can have our art and cook with it too.

So, how can a solar array be like a sculpture? The answer hangs in the balance between form and function. A place where we might not grow vegetables anymore, but maybe some food for thought. I’ve lived in the east end area of the Long Island for decades and enjoy being a part of the art world here. I have my photography and love my ‘yard’ art. If it alters the space it occupies in an interesting way, then it is a valid form of creativity and therefore can be considered art. I know that what is appealing to another may not necessarily be to me. That being said and strictly to lend some credence to the conversation, the importance of art for “everyman” just might be a bridge, in this case, joining the aesthetic to the practical. Illustrating a marriage, if you will, of form with function.

Judging from recent articles in the local journal it seems we have a new debate raging as to what can become of a farm when the owners decide they want out. I remember one of my first encounters with installation art. Some friends and I snuck onto a field in the dead of night way back in the early 80’s. There was no fear. The old farmer used to chase us off the tomato patch at the back of his property. We would walk through the woods behind our house and there they were all red and ripe for the picking. We topped it off with a food fight. What else do you do with the rotten ones? My friend’s mom would have flipped to see us jump in the pool and wash it all off. This time it was night and pretty dark. In a car we were easier to spot and easier to identify. But we knew it wasn’t as risky since trespassing would be met with a salt gun, not a police cruiser. Man, that smarts!

It was hard to believe that we could just drive up to it and walk in, but we could. And we did just because it was there and too cool to resist. Little did we know about how cool it actually was? Located more to the center of the field with a set of tracks that had been worn into the ground leading up to it, we had to approach it “all stealth” with the headlights off and the radio low. I think it was Pink Floyd, “Dark Side of the Moon” playing which was apropos since the darn thing looked like an upside down flying saucer. We parked on the far side, obscured by the massive structure, and tiptoed around to the “door” of the thing. Once inside we immediately fell silent. I mean completely silent, except for our driver who was still sputtering about his wheels getting impounded. But we were freakin’ mute. The description couldn’t ever give it justice. Because it was a concave “bowl” with mirrors from top to bottom it reflected the image of the sky and nothing else. The night was as clear as bell, the stars vast and plentiful and absolutely everywhere. Looking down gave the sensation of standing in the middle of the Universe. I remember lying on the floor there for hours. The perfect night felt like it went on forever just like space itself, crisp and clear, suspended for a time in the primordial soup from whence we came.

It was obvious from the start something that cool could never last un-policed. We were fortunate to have seen it before it was too late since it was gone before we returned. Who would put it there for everyone, anyway? No doubt a benevolent and far more altruistic individual than anyone we had encountered. And not locked up at night? Are they nuts? Anyone could happen by. Anything could happen to it! And the rumor was that’s exactly what did happen. A rumor, however, is like cancer in the small town arena. It spreads and mutates. I’m really not sure whether The Sky Disk was destroyed by local youth on an adolescent tear or just moved to an alternate location.

One exceptionally starry night begged the question, “What ever happened to The Sky Disk, anyway?” What I found in my subsequent Internet search was a set of films posted by Felix Kohr ( & and made by the artist, Harold Rosenthal, documenting the project upon which the town temporarily stopped production in order to determine the nature of the structure. This was after already giving the go ahead without a more careful review. It was ten times as amazing at night than it was in the light, but for the argument of clean energy this is just an example of what might come from the collaboration of our artists, architects, engineers, scientists and even the farmers for that matter. You know “As Ye Sow, So Shall Ye Reap?”

I get that the technology might not be complete. But do we really want to discover a more aesthetic and practical mode for our energy future ‘post mortem’ so to speak? In the 21st Century it’s not nature vs. progress. The two go hand in hand. That it was different back then is pretty much a given. But these days the more things change the more they change some more. Where the issue would be safety and revenue 20 years ago now it’s about keeping with the rural tenor of the surrounding area and how will it impact traffic, weather, and wildlife. Don’t mess with the Piping Plover, people! How can a mink jacket make an artistic statement about feminine fashion culture? My mom, the owner of said mink, might have a very different answer than I, myself, to such a query. But what if the jacket could hold in heat and run the dishwasher? Keep warm vs. keep warm with the lights on. If the beauty of the project is as appealing to the locals as the nature of it you could most likely get away with putting it anywhere.

It’s not rocket science. But the idea of making a sculpture into a practical machine might come close. What struck me was that, while this particular design may not work to power homes there may be other designs that could. So I did another Internet search. Lo and behold this was no novice idea. Ecofuturist visionaries such as glass artist Sarah Hall have long been including photovoltaic components in their work so it truly was only a matter of time ( I also found a page titled Clean Technica – Of the 11 solar powered sculptures featured, I loved #5 – Energetic Energies by The Japanese architect Akihisi Hirata, which begs the question for future creative use of solar power in cities with a scale model that resembles a cluster of parallelograms; and #7 – Solar Glacier of The SunGlacier Project ( by a team that channels the idea of making ice in the desert into a massive leaf like structure whose top is solar panel and bottom is chilled in a manner that draws moisture from the air. How cool is that? Literally. But don’t take my word for it. Have a look for yourself. Then contact your local policy makers. The future of Long Island, if not the entire planet, just might depend on it.