Craig Cree Stone - Image Emergence: Promenade of Clouds

Scroll down for large images and information about each sculpture


The five sculptures in this artwork were inspired by the proposed theme of flight, and being up among the clouds, which led to other associations. The common experience of looking at clouds and seeing shapes that resemble animals or faces is related to many other kinds of perception that interest the artist. In addition clouds cast shadows, and cast shadows have been a source of inspiration for much of the artist's past work. Here he saw a chance to do something interesting and innovative with the common Public Art material of stainless steel. By using current computer assisted design and fabrication methods, he could cut shapes into stainless steel panels that would cast shadow images onto the ground.

In order to elevate and tilt the panels so they cast optimal shadows, the poles were designed to imply the illusion that they are ropes holding the clouds down as they try to float upward and break free.

The finish on the stainless steel was completed by the artist using a detailed multilevel grind finish, which creates a cloudlike diffusion, and shifts as the viewer moves around the sculpture. It also provides strikingly different appearances depending on the light: shining brightly in sunlight, in shade revealing the image cut into the panel, and completely different views when lit from below at night. In addition the sculptures are positioned so that they each have their best shadow displayed at different times of the day, and the shadow lengths all change with the seasons, providing a varied changing experience for viewers.

The sculptures are arranged so that viewed from the South they diminish in size, the artist often uses this concept of forced perspective to create an illusion of increased distance. Meanwhile, viewed from the North it creates the illusion that the sculptures are all similar in size.

For more information about the fabrication of the sculptures see Process and Research.


With the requested themes of the future and flight this subject was chosen because it is a new and fascinating technology, as we are at a time when formerly futuristic programs like the Space Shuttle and the Hubble Telescope are being retired. Solar Sails are starting to be used to send spacecraft on missions within the solar system, powered by the solar wind, the stream of charged particles constantly emitted by the sun. It is new, but also timeless in its relation to sailing, one of the oldest methods of travel.

The image is based on existing spacecraft designs with a spiral twist that relates to the other spirals throughout the piece. It is rendered by thousands of holes cut into the steel, relating to another theme of the piece, how images and structures are composed of smaller elements. The way sunlight diffuses as it passes through the holes creates an almost photographic effect, similar to the way photographs are shown via halftone dots or pixels.


This image includes many elements seen in the night sky. The most notable image is the Constellation Cygnus (Latin for swan), an example of how people looked at a pattern of stars and saw within it an image of a swan. People throughout history across many cultures saw similar images in the seemingly random patterns of stars. Many notable nebulae are located in this area, including the North America Nebula. A similar nebula, a stream of stars, can be seen along the right edge. As the sculpture is de singed to cast a shadow on the site, so a pigeon, a regular visitor to the site casts its shadow on the sculpture.

There are three images of Thunderbirds/condors, an Indian symbol often drawn in petroglyphs, an ancient form of public art. Condors are thought to be a source for the mythology of Thunderbirds, since these large birds are carried on the warm front of large storms that bring thunder and lightning. They are an example of an animal that like the shadow images had disappeared from view from many parts of the United States but that have recently began to reappear in the skies of California.

On the left is a spiral galaxy, with the recurring spiral shape composed of individual stars. Look closely and you'll see a space station with its solar panel wings, and an icon for the James Webb Space Telescope, a telescope far more powerful than the Hubble, though its completion is uncertain due to budget cuts.


Birds are another recurring theme, and here we see individual birds making up a flock in the shape of a cloud. In addition the small individual birds form larger images of predator birds. An inspiration was the amazing videos of starling flocks, which display emergent behavior, a new area of science that explains how complex systems can arise out of simple rules governing the actions of its components, from a school of fish, to the stock market.

Time-lapse video: interaction of cast shadow and stained shadow images



Total eclipses are rare spectacular events in the sky, revealing the suns corona. By standing in the shadow of the sculpture, you can create your own eclipse. Again the image is composed of circles cut into the steel. If you look closely at shadows, for instance of leaves of a tree, you will notice overlapping circular shapes. These are caused by the fact the spaces between the leaves act like a pinhole lens, the circles are actually little images of the sun. During a real solar eclipse, the images within the shadow would be crescent shaped, as the moon bites into the sun.


This image was inspired by the classic WPA Mosaic at the North end of the Promenade, visible from the site. The artist often includes references specific to the site, and here the mosaic is relevant because it is another work of Public Art, includes beautifully rendered clouds, and relates to the idea of images emerging from patterns of smaller components like tiles, dots, stars or birds.

The shapes in the panel are based on some tile patterns in the mosaic mural, and then distorted as if the flat cloud has become three dimensional, floating and changing shape as clouds do.

Mosaic type shapes are another pattern that occur many places in nature, from a dragonfly wing, to soap bubbles, to rock formations.