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Artificial traveling sun warms hearts in winter

Two Norwegian artists create a giant glowing light sculpture and take it on a road trip through regions that get little or no sun in winter.

Light in the dark: The Traveling Sun hangs on the second floor facade of the Tromso Center for Contemporary Art in Tromso, Norway. Jenny Marie Johnsen

Let there be light. And if it can't be light from the sun, let it be light from a giant LED orb.

Visual artists Lisa Pacini and Christine Istad -- who, living in Norway, know from dark, sunless days -- decided to bring the sun to places that don't see much of it during winter. They created a light sculpture full of LEDs, suspended it from a hanger above a flatbed trailer pulled by a truck, and drove it through Norway, filming onlookers' reactions (spoiler alert: it made people very happy).

Since last year, the pair has covered hundreds of miles with Traveling Sun, which measures almost 10 feet in diameter, and shifts between a range of warm orange, red, and lilac hues.

Most recently, the sun shone as a centerpiece at 100% Norway, an exhibit of contemporary Norwegian products and furniture that shows at the London Design Festival. Starting in October, the sun will spend six months hanging from The Culture House in Rjukan, a small, shady Norwegian valley town that has relied on sunlight beamed from mirrors to get through the long dark winters.

The traveling sun hasn't always had a smooth ride as it traversed the treacherous, icy roads of Norway in winter.

"There were six serious accidents on the way through Majavatn in Nordland alone," the artists report. "At the Polar Circle, the truck was almost blown off the road, and the wind was so strong the PVC canvas was blowing out like a diaphragm."

The structure also made part of its journey by ship, traveling along the Norwegian west coast on an eight-day voyage from Tromso to Kirkenes and finally to Bergen, where it hung an outdoor wall by the USF Verftet, a center for art, film, and music.

Sunshine, or lack thereof, can have a dramatic effect on mood and energy levels, studies have shown. While an LED sculpture probably can't counteract the depression or sluggishness that tend to come with seasonal affective disorder, it does aim to restore at least a semblance of the sun's presence. It's a "Promethean act of great good will, community-mindedness, and not a little whimsical humor," David McCarthy, a professor of art History at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn., says of Traveling Sun.

The artists, appropriately enough, refer to themselves as "sunrunners." See more images of their unusual celestial creation in the gallery above.

(Via It's Nice That)