BEACON, 2020-21 Public Art Sculpture by artist Shervone Neckles in partnership with Beam Center
I have always been interested in telling stories of my surroundings. I enjoy the process of research, using materials and information to communicate about history and my lived experiences through my visual and cultural expression. This blending of the material with the sacred and the sciences is my way of forming a connection; continuing a tradition; preserving the memories; and inserting myself, and ancestors into history.
Since 2017, I've been envisioning models of what a more inclusive historical narrative can look like, specifically in New York City. I decided to begin this journey with paying tribute to the existence, knowledge, and labor of the great American inventor and electrical engineer, Lewis Howard Latimer. I developed various proposals and plans for spaces of acknowledgement, public reflection and memorialization that can function as a signifier of his contribution and commitment to improving the quality of life and conditions of everyday Americans.
From 2020-2021, I was able to partner with Beam Center and their Fellows to realize the second iteration of the BEACON Public Art Installation. BEACON is a 12-foot-tall steel, LED interactive sculpture inspired by Lewis H. Latimer's 1881 patent drawing for the electric lamp and 1882 patent for the manufacturing of the carbon filament in the incandescent bulb. The installation is designed to illuminate its immediate surroundings with light based on one's proximity and direct interaction with the structure.
The purpose of BEACON is to illuminate truth. To illuminate the life and legacy of an ancestor and fellow New Yorker, and finally pay Lewis H. Latimer the respect and homage he so rightfully is owed and due. BEACON also represents the light within us. It signifies our true power and radiance by emitting and pulsing light to acknowledge all who are in its presence. The installation requires the active participation of the public to fully function and operate.
Lewis H. Latimer and his wife Mary Wilson Latimer moved to New York from Massachusetts in 1880 and lived in midtown Manhattan, Downtown Brooklyn and Flushing Queens from 1880-1928. BEACON will be installed in two of the three boroughs, which the Latimers resided in New York. BEACON will be on view first in Flushing, Queens where he raised his family from 1902 till his death in 1928, at the Lewis Latimer House Museum from April 9 - August 15, 2021. In Brooklyn, BEACON will be on view Downtown Brooklyn this fall 2021, near his Fort Greene rowhouse residence, where he lived from 1893-1902.