On a night hike in Australia where the tide comes in more than 14 miles, Jennifer Lewin (EnvDes’97) noticed the water left a creation of flat tidal pools. Fascinated by how the light from the moon shone into the many circles of water, she jumped from puddle to puddle.
Ten years later and now internationally known, Lewin recreated this experience in her award-winning interactive art piece, “The Pool,” which made a big splash at Austin’s spring South by Southwest festival. The annual event celebrates original music, independent films and emerging technologies, attracting 30,621 attendees for the interactive component alone.
Combining high-tech lighting and design, “The Pool” is composed of 106 concentric circular pads that create an artistic space nearly 100 by 100 feet. The pads give off light and color based on movement of people within the “pool.” Each pad creates color with a unique ripple depending on foot placement and pressure when stepped on.
This summer “The Pool,” along with other pieces by Lewin were shown in the CU Art Museum in an exhibit titled “It’s Electric.” Her artwork allows the community to engage and participate in the art, becoming artists themselves.
“The summer exhibits at the university are always more difficult for attendance, but we’ve had a great turnout with ‘It’s Electric,’ ” CU Art Museum interim director Stephen Martonis says. “It is good to have students see the exhibit — not only for students who are interested in art but also those interested in lights, sound and technology.”
Next “The Pool” will travel around the country and internationally. Lewin hopes her piece will breathe life into underutilized urban spaces.
“I want it to be in city parks that are dark where not too many people go,” she says. “I want the art to bring the community into that type of space.”
In addition to media and interactive pieces, Lewin does graphic design, visual branding and architecture. She also did the lighting and interior design in Pearl Street’s restaurant The Kitchen, located on the same block as the former Tom’s Tavern.
She started her artistry as a classically trained ballet dancer. Yet when she was 16, she decided dancing would not be her career.
“I wanted a career that I could do until my 90s,” Lewin jokes. “But after I stopped dancing, I was lost.”
Lewin traveled, studied fine art and even worked for a company building the original computer programs that allow customers to buy airline tickets online until she realized her calling to be an interactive artist in 1998.
“I had that ‘Aha’ moment, finally realizing how I could bring all of these things together with dance, theater, performance, music, computers, sculptures and design,” Lewin says. “I started to imagine painting a picture and building a sculpture-like choreography.”
Photo courtesy Jennifer Lewin