Spotlight on Asia Ward’s Solar Tree



img_6275At night, in the open country or the mountains, when there is a clear sky and a full moon, the landscape becomes flattened, and all details are reduced to simple and distinct layers of neutral colors. My work explores the surreal dimensional shifts of landscape through time and light, and is shaped by my memories and dreams, and by the dark spaces between the layers of medium and representation. My sculptures are models of imagined places made real, referencing the topography of river valleys, moon craters, and underwater environments. I use light and shadows upon layers of metal and plastic in order to distort perspective and depth, and embed movement in select pieces to give my landscapes subtle qualities of life.

I am interested in how environmental models, such as train sets or architectural dioramas – regardless of scale or simplicity – provide a place to pretend, a virtual world which one can temporarily exist. As with these models, I aim to create an immersive environment that parallels natural phenomena without literally interpreting it as such. I devise experiences that mentally and sometimes physically transport participants to new lands of imagination, thus opening within them a non-objective dialogue with their own experience of the “real” world.


Solar Tree Double.jpg

Solar Tree

28’ x 14’ x 14’
Fabricated steel, solar panels, led lights, paint

Describe your creative process:

In order to produce a piece of work, I need a problem to solve or a challenge of some kind. This gives my work a purpose. This would probably put me in the class of design based makers. From there I draw a picture. Then I collaborate with others to get advice, and to get help with development. I create a prototype either in 3D or in a modeling program. I then make sure I have the space and money secured before I move on with the work. From then on it’s production. The final piece gets many small design modifications, based on how people interact with the piece.


Tell me about your project at FSP:

Solar Tree is a stylized version of an oak tree that absorbs energy from the sun using photovoltaics in order to light up at night. Solar Tree was built in the same diorama like fashion as my landscape sculptures, which use a series of separated planes in order to give an illusion of depth. Empty spaces between the planes are essential in the rounding out of the layers, allowing the visitor to fill in the gaps, completing the piece. A visitor can walk through Solar Tree, between the layers, and look up into the layers above. The colors and shapes were inspired by water lilies.

Why did you propose this project for FSP?untitled-design-10

I proposed this work for Franconia because of the location and the great staff and work environment.

How does your project relate to your previous work?

I have been incorporating more solar power into my sculptures, and this project directly relates to that transition. I also have been creating sculptures of landscapes constructed of planes of metal, and Solar Tree has those elements of design as well.

What did the experience of working here offer you?

The chance to dream and build big. To exceed my limits of expectation. To work hard and make mistakes that teach me great lessons. To talk to others about my work often, and to listen.

How did your time at Franconia compare to other residencies?

Franconia has a unique system of internships/artists. Most of the residencies I have been a part of just had artists. I enjoy the mix, it creates a lively, diverse, and vibrant atmosphere.

Where and with whom did you study?

This is not relevant to me, and didn’t make me who I am.

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What did you learn at FSP? // What was your biggest challenge?

The first day, the middle of my project, the final installation. Making sure the PV system is working.


Subscribe to Franconia’s blog and never miss out on a FSP Spotlight interview. Check out earlier 2016 Spotlight installments: Zoran MojsilovEllie Murphy, Lu Xu, David SmithJess Hirsch, Ian Jones, and David B. Smith! We will befeaturing all of our 2016 Fellowship Artists throughout the winter, so stay tuned.


The FSP/Jerome Fellowship Program is made possible, in part, by generous support from the Jerome Foundation. Established in 1997, the FSP/Jerome Fellowship Program supports the creation of new works by emerging visual artists from New York City and Minnesota.


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