Luminous Ground at CPS

Collaborations, Community, Materiality
Steven Huegli, AIA, Principal
Commissioned under the City of Oakland’s Public Art Program, Ala Ebektar’s hand-made tile mural invites reflection at the College Preparatory School campus.

Drink wine and look at the moon
and think of all the civilizations
the moon has seen passing by

Omar Khayyam
(11th century mathematician, astronomer, and poet)

Visitors wandering through College Preparatory School’s new academic building are surprised to find a piece of the night sky appearing between two classrooms. Commissioned under the City of Oakland’s Public Art Program, Luminous Ground, a mural by artist Ala Ebtekar, reminds us of the potential of art in the public realm to communicate and connect. Ebtekar’s poetic layering of art, science, exploration and contemplation welcomes the broader campus community to engage with the school’s core values. 

Ebtekar’s work tests the sculptural and photographic possibilities of time and space to invite contemplative reflection – looking inward while gazing outward. His process spans time as well, borrowing from ancient means of making and embracing scientific advances. Luminous Ground references earlier traditions of finishing grand domes and palatial ceilings with representations of the heavens – bringing the skies closer to earth. Instead of polychrome tile mosaic found in Iran, Ebtekar turned to a modern production method using negatives of an image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope to create the hand-rolled and hand-glazed porcelain tiles. Fabricated in collaboration with Mosaika and fired 1,800°F, the tiles bear the variation and depth of the handmade yet are incredibly durable. 

Ala Ebtekar Tiles

The completed mural graces an intimate landscaped terrace – a place that invites groups to gather as well as moments of individual retreat. In introducing his proposal to the CPS community, Ebtekar eloquently explained the source of mural’s resonance:

Not long ago, we brought the skies closer to earth by covering the interior of domes and palaces with polychrome tiles, representing heaven looking over man; heaven made from the earth; from clay on the bed of rivers, the soil that embraced layers and layers of organic and non-organic matter that flowed in the rivers over millions and millions of years.

Now, telescopes bring the skies closer to us; but looking at the night sky, with telescope or naked eye, we are unwittingly gazing billions of years back, only assuming we are witnessing the Now. The (GOODS/ERS2 Field) image from the Hubble telescope shatters the illusion as it shows around 7,500 galaxies spanning through more than 12 billion years of cosmic history, shaking the foundations of our anthropocentric history.

Ebtekar Napa Installation - Large
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