Ask light artist Gerry Hofstetter about connections between the United State and his native Switzerland, and he’ll tell you all about how the first flight by the Wright brothers was marked on a Swiss stopwatch, how a Swiss engineer helped build the Golden Gate Bridge and how in the 1770s, the United States imported so much Swiss embroidery that wealthy Swiss families in those years named their mansions after American places.
Hofstetter loves to share such connections, and he’s on an art tour dedicated to celebrating them. He’ll bring his “50 U.S. Monuments in the Spotlight” tour to Iowa City on Oct. 4.
The tour features Hofstetter and his daughter Celine and their team’s visual light art projected on the sides of monuments, with one monument for each state. In Iowa, they chose the Old Capitol building.
“I selected the building because it stands for the birth of the state, it stands for the vision of the nation,” Hofstetter said. “In this building, there were sessions, meetings, events; it’s an interactive place, where people exchange ideas. That’s a philosophical link to our tour — we are about exchanging ideas.”
They wanted to stop in Iowa City, Hofstetter said, to highlight the town’s dedication to literature as well as to medicine via the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.
“In Iowa, it’s the creativity. It’s the third UNESCO City of Literature — that means writing, reading ... It’s like Switzerland; there are a lot of people in these fields, too,” he said. “And in Switzerland, health care and medical, like children, are the future of the nation.”
He said he sifted through more than 89,000 monuments to select the 50 for his tour, which he has planned to continue through 2020.
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Before arriving in Iowa City, he wasn’t ready to say exactly what he will project on the side of the Old Capitol. After arriving in town, he plans to talk to residents as well as do some visual tests on the building before presenting the final artistic show.
Hofstetter has projected his light art displays around the world, including on the Colosseum in Rome, on icebergs in the Antarctic and on the Sphinx in Egypt. He said he uses light as his artistic medium because it is part of a universal language.
“Everything which takes oxygen or water to live or grow up on our planet — animals, fish, trees, human beings — need light. Without light, our planet would not survive. Light is inside of everybody who lives on the planet.”
Liz Crooks, interim director of the Pentacrest Museums, which include the Old Capitol Museum, said while she doesn’t know which pictures Hofstetter will choose to project, museum staff sent him images that highlight the UI’s role on national and international stages, such as the Van Allen Belt and work from the Writers’ Workshop.
“We’re excited to be able to host an international artist of his caliber, and we really hope it is a celebration of community,” she said. “It’s a really special opportunity for people to be able to come out and experience it as a community.”
He also will take place in a Creative Matters lecture at the museum before the art show.
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l What: Light Art Grand Tour and Creative Matters lecture
l When: Creative Matters lecture 5 p.m., light show 8 to 9 p.m. Oct. 4
l Where: Old Capitol Museum, 21 N. Clinton St., Iowa City
l Details: creativematters.research.uiowa.edu