Sunday, September 27, 2015

New Work: Generation; Folsom Powerhouse

Talkin' About My Generation
Image size 18" x 14" approx-acrylic and painted papers

Folsom Powerhouse 1-5 below

Last week I took a little trip to the Folsom Powerhouse State Park in Folsom. I first learned about the park on the tv show, California's Gold, hosted by the now gone-but-not-forgotten Huell Howser. Because of my interest in water and all of its attendant features and functions, the powerhouse trip made perfect sense.

Though this generation plant is no longer in use, it was once a major source of electricity for the Sacramento area. The American River was dammed (and dammed again with the current Folsom dam) and some of its water was diverted to a channel that was gravity fed to the powerhouse. The distinction for this site is that the plant supplied some of the nation's first high voltage alternating current. Additionally, this plant is one of the oldest in the world to have first supplied this type of water generated power. The distance is notable too since it is about 22 miles to the city of Sacramento which used the electricity to power streetcars and factories.

It was about an hour or so in the car, one way, and as I drove I made note of some of the things that I had seen at the power plant. I originally conceived of a piece that had more to do with all of the little parts of the wheels, generators, and pipes. I was particularly taken with the penstocks, shown in that last photo. They are a series of huge pipes, bent at an angle, that supply the water to the generators that in turn, rotate to help create the electrical output. For some reason, the whole place was fascinating. Spooky too since it is a large brick building from the late 1800's full of massive dark machinery. The generators are particularly scary. The noise must have been ferociously loud. 

As I was driving back home, I pictured a set of opposites: on and off, black/blue and yellow, tall and short. All I really saw was blue, black and yellow-nighttime and daytime. I thought I was going to work with sepia toned hues but that didn't happen. Once in my studio, I pulled out colored papers that I thought were appropriate-blacks and grays (neutrals) and brighter blue and yellow. Seemed like 4-5 values, max. Just two saturated colors max (and opposites). 

I'll save the construction details and pics for a later post, along with what I learned. For now though, the big difference is that I didn't work from a drawing-just some small thumbnails of individual ideas plus the words and descriptions that I jotted down while driving. (I did draw the shapes on the construction paper prior to cutting-I just didn't have a master drawing to work from.) I put the whole thing together by cutting paper shapes to see if they worked. That's a big step for me to visualize something without drawing it, to cut the idea from paper first. I do like having a master drawing though for placement of pieces so I won't skip this step next time. But it was really a very good exercise in construction and design. I tried to take my photo straight on, by the way but it was hard to do it. The lines are really as straight as possible in real life.

OK, hope everyone has had a good weekend so far. Thanks for reading and if anyone has any insight on this piece or process send me an email or leave a comment.


  1. What a fabulous place! Love the photos and love your piece. Great colors!

  2. Very interesting blog with so amazing art work !!!

  3. Wow, Libby, this project has such depth from research to planning to conception. I am impressed with all the thought and effort you gave to this endeavor, and love the different symbols and designs that represent concepts you considered important. I also feel a sense of Matisse's influence whenever I look at it.

    1. Carol,

      Thanks Carol! I was pretty excited when I was making this piece. I liked very much that I took some things that I saw and felt and converted them into colors and symbols. Making the piece slowed me down also which was really a good thing. I ended up being much more connected to the process which I found to be a really good feeling.

      Hoping for some more productive time today. Monday and Tuesday have been sort of a bust...sort of!

      Thanks again for the visit.

  4. This is awesome Libby. Your work really captures the feel of this place. The use of black adds drama and also lends the feeling of the power of this place. Must be very impressive seeing this place. Great photos too. Have a super day.


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