Abandoned, derelict sites are simultaneously awe-inspiring and intimidating. Vermont-based, Irish-born artist Sarah O Donnell taps on these ambivalent feelings in her latest light installation, A Visible Night, which transforms the top floor of the Moran Plant on Burlington’s waterfront into a shimmering spectrum of colours. Named after J.E. Moran, one of the mayors of Burlington, the Moran Plant was a 30-megawatt power plant that was constructed in the 1940s on the city’s waterfront to halt power shortages. After a long and turbulent history involving pollution, it was finally shut down for good in 1986. 

O Donnell’s body of work has always centred on the use of mysterious buildings to explore isolation and the tension between photography and the moving image – this installation only furthers her interest in a spectacular new way. She has installed coloured silks across the windows on the top floor of the plant, drawing comparisons between these billowing textiles and stained glass windows, which were used historically to depict Biblical anecdotes during a time of widespread illiteracy. The natural light that is filtered through the silk sheets allow dancing streams of light into the building, instantly bringing a touch of radiance into an environment that is usually dark and stale. As the building is not safe for visitors, O Donnell has created a video feed from the plant to the Roth Gallery at the Burlington City Arts premises. 

A Visible Light is on until 21 September. 

Burlington City Arts, 135 Church Street, Burlington, Vermont 05401 

Images courtesy of the artist.