Upcycling sculptures with an amazing radiance
Truly unique and wonderfully luminous: The artist Dieter Erhard creates upcycled works of art with thousands of leftover pieces of PLEXIGLAS® Fluorescent. The fascinating brilliance of his sculptures enthralls people around the world.
The colorful works of art by Dieter Erhard from Erlangen are famous: “Ein Wal für Kinder” was afloat in the lake at Schloss Bellevue during a summer party hosted by the then-German President Joachim Gauck. His latest work, “Legend”, a luminous recreation of an airplane as a tribute to the American aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart, has enchanted visitors at various light festivals.
Radiance without electric light
Born in Nuremberg in 1961, he moved to Erlangen with his family when he was a child. He studied Art at the Bellas Artes in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. A freelance artist since 1993, many of his projects are a means for him to support children’s projects in Guatemala.
Dieter Erhard’s passion for PLEXIGLAS® Fluorescent began many years ago in Guatemala. During a workshop, one of the participants crafted a stunningly luminescent angel from concrete and this version of the brand acrylic glass, to which high-quality fluorescent dyes are added. He was fascinated by the way the material radiated even when the skies were cloudy.
Upon his return to Germany, Erhard knew he wanted to work with the material. He found what he was looking for at axis GmbH & Co. KG, a polymer processor based in Nuremberg. That was ten years ago. Since then the artist has been using the versatile and easily processed material in his works of art. “PLEXIGLAS® Fluorescent enables extremely positive effects in my work. If you direct a beam of light at the sculptures at night using UV lamps, they shine like angels,” says an enthusiastic Erhard.
Colorful eye-catcher – Buy PLEXIGLAS®
Thanks to high-quality fluorescent dyes, PLEXIGLAS® Fluorescent shines from dawn to dusk and beyond – without requiring any electric light. Its excellent light conductivity creates self-illuminating effects on edges and millings. PLEXIGLAS® is Fluorescent also easy to work with.
Bringing pieces together to create new bodies
In his projects, the artist mainly uses offcuts from series production of the famous round “Cazador-del-sol” suncatchers by light artist René Hildebrand at axis. “I use these intermediate parts, which are actually waste, for upcycling,” says Erhard.
The artist drills holes into the triangular or rectangular PLEXIGLAS® Fluorescent pieces before threading them onto stainless steel rods or, more precisely, having them threaded – Dieter Erhard regularly engages volunteers to help with his colorful artworks. After all, creating the eight-meter-long whales means threading around 20,000 PLEXIGLAS® offcuts and the same number of spacers onto the stainless steel rods.
Spectacular light effects at night...
One of Dieter Erhard’s famous works is “Ein Wal für Kinder,” which has been seen in the lake at Schloss Bellevue in Berlin, the official residence of the German President, for example. Around 20,000 pieces of PLEXIGLAS® Fluorescent create a natural, harmonious color ensemble and attract extraordinary attention in the onlooker.
© Wolfgang Hock
... and by day
Thanks to its special properties, PLEXIGLAS® Fluorescent looks as if it were illuminated even by day – like here in Erhard’s piece “Legend”.
© Dieter Erhard
For his “Ein Wal für Kinder” sculpture, Erhard convinced the warden of Erlangen Prison to allow the inmates to take part in an art project with him. For the “Legend” sculpture, a tribute to American aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart, he was supported by 200 children from Bubenreuth Primary School.
With Erhard’s help, the helpers filled the stainless steel rods with transparent red, green and orange acrylic glass pieces. “It has always worked perfectly,” says Erhard. The children are also immortalized in the plane, with their first names engraved into the PLEXIGLAS® pieces.
Very easy to work with
“Legend” made good use of another property of PLEXIGLAS® Fluorescent: its easy processability. The brand acrylic glass is not only outstanding for drilling or milling, but is also ideal for lasering. In the model of the Lockheed Electra built by Erhard – the artist made some changes to the cockpit – the onlooker sees an image of Amelia Earhart.
Her face was lasered by axis. Felix Szak, member of the axis Executive Board, explains the process: “We dismantle the image into different gray scales. The laser then cuts different depths into the material depending on the color intensity needed. This creates an image with various levels of brightness and a lot of changing tones. Thanks to the laser processing at differing intensities, a clearly recognizable image emerges.”
Light intensifies the effect even further, creating fascinating light images: PLEXIGLAS® Fluorescent absorbs light on the smooth surface and emits it again in concentrated form through the engravings and edges, creating a powerful lighting effect.
"In products from competitors, we have unfortunately noticed that the colors fade and the color effect is reduced."
- Felix Szak
Managing Director of axis GmbH & Co. KG
This special luminescence can be seen permanently in Erhard’s upcycling sculptures. PLEXIGLAS® Fluorescent does not fade despite the effects of UV light, retaining intensive color effects for a very long time. “In products from competitors, we have unfortunately noticed that the colors fade and the color effect is reduced,” describes Szak.
“The material’s durability is very important, especially for my outdoor sculptures,” stresses Erhard – after all, they need to excite visitors wherever they are displayed. The bright “Legend” has already been exhibited in Berlin and Kronach in 2019.
Inspired by a name
How did Erhard come up with the idea for the “Legend” illuminated airplane? “I spend a lot of time in the USA. Whenever I introduce myself with my name, Dieter Erhard, people often ask about Amelia Earhart. The aviation pioneer – the first woman to cross the Atlantic in an aircraft – is very well-known there. I have been having this experience for 20 years now – reason enough to look at aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart in more detail,” reports Erhard.