Fireflies light up the night in Myriad Botanical Gardens
A public art installation by Nathan Pratt captures the blinking flash of a summertime favorite
Softly blinking fireflies grace the grounds of Myriad Botanical Gardens as part of a metro-wide public art experience celebrating the grand opening of Oklahoma Contemporary. Taking inspiration from the golden flashing light of fireflies on a warm summer night, Oklahoma artist Nathan Pratt has created more than two dozen mixed media fireflies is installed in the Meinders Garden.
The installation taps into the innocence of childhood where the golden haze of a setting sun plays with the enchanting glow of fireflies. It is part of Bright Golden Haze: Reflections, a partnership with Oklahoma Contemporary and funded by a series of grants from Kirkpatrick Family Fund to extend the theme of light from the art center’s inaugural exhibition, Bright Golden Haze.
Pratt has created hundreds of sculptures in numerous mediums during his career. For the Gardens fireflies, he assembled concentric metal tubes that were cut in varying lengths to resemble the gradient shape of the bug. The tail containing a lightbulb is acrylic. There are two sets of wings. One is water jet cut and the other solid metal, hammered into a curve to cover up the inner wing.
Remote control will program the pulsating and intermittent flickers of the tails. Mounts will fit seamlessly into existing foliage in the Gardens and look as natural as their surroundings.
“There is a storybook aesthetic to these fireflies,” Pratt said. “The whimsical rendition communicates the idea of carefree characters that would be just as at home in a Pixar film as they would be in a wooded area.”
Born into a family of artists, Nathan Pratt started making and selling small ceramic sculptures at 10. Over the course of 30 years, he has produced hundreds of sculptures in a variety of mediums including acrylic, aluminum, and bronze, ceramic, concrete, fabric, foam, glass, ice, LED lights, paper, and steel, stone and wood. His continual experimentation with new materials led him into the intersecting spheres of art, engineering, invention, prototyping, fabrication, and diverse manufacturing processes.
After obtaining a marketing degree from the University of Oklahoma, Pratt briefly spent time as an agent with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. He is a prolific inventor and for the last two years has been working to commercialize a product line of tape dispensing tools for artists, painters, and crafters.
For several years he has worked as a teacher, mentor, and administrator in visual arts after-school programs for inner-city youth. Collaborating with his students, Pratt has produced numerous public art exhibits for the Gardens, including the firefly exhibit. As a recent graduate of a city-wide leadership program, he is passionate about public art that strengthens the community and ignites economic development.
Learning about a new medium is one of the most rewarding aspects of being an artist. It is a gift to be able to explore new tools, techniques, and technologies. The malleable nature of light is something I hope to consider more in the future. I am thankful for each opportunity that I have to participate in the creative process.
Did you know?
Fireflies, also known as lightning bugs, are more than just a gorgeous spectacle of nature, they’re also beneficial for our backyard ecosystems. Fireflies and their larvae, sometimes referred to as glowworms, eat garden pests such as slugs, aphids, and cutworms. Some species even pollinate plants.
They are also extremely sensitive to environmental conditions. Their population numbers can tell us about our water quality, insect and landscape diversity and
levels of light pollution.
Fireflies aren’t flies at all! They are actually beetles. They are nocturnal and most have wings, which distinguish them from other luminescent insects of the
same family, commonly known as glowworms.
How can YOU help boost our firefly population?
- Consider leaving a portion of your yard to grow and decompose naturally. Firefly larvae flourish in rotten logs and tree litter and adult fireflies hang out in grassy meadows.
- Incorporate water into your landscape by building a small pond or stream. A firefly’s natural habitat is near still water and marshy areas.
- Turn off outside lights at night. Light pollution can get in the way of firefly communication.
- Share these tips with the people around you.
Why do fireflies GLOW?
Fireflies use light patterns to attract a mate. Male fireflies use a series of quick flashes to impress flightless females in grassy areas. If they like what they see, the females flashback and the two have a twinkly conversation!
Fireflies produce a chemical reaction inside their bodies using a chemical called luciferin that allows them to light up. This type of light production is called bioluminescence.
There exists an incredible firefly phenomenon known as simultaneous bioluminescence. That means that all the fireflies in one area sync up their flashes so they light up at exactly the same time, repeatedly, all night long. Only two firefly species are known to do this – one in Southeast Asia and another in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.