Fifty years ago, Snow’s iconic Walking Woman sculptures made him an international art star. That was just the start of a rich life full of famous friends, bohemian bacchanals and city-wide scandals. His latest work, a dancing light beam on the Trump tower, is his most flamboyant feat yet
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One afternoon last summer, Michael Snow stood on an upper floor of the Sheraton hotel examining his latest creation from a distance. It was a test run of Lightline, a 65-storey light sculpture he designed for the new Trump hotel. A glowing white spire, made up of thousands of LED lights, snaked up the seam of the tower like a stripe on a marching band uniform. Then it began to move. A blast of light shot up about 20 storeys and flickered in staccato bursts. “It waltzes,” Snow tells me. “The light jumps up and down in a rhythm—buh-bum, buh-bum.” Sometimes the computer-operated animation will flash like a strobe light, or mimic the stop-and-go of traffic, or a rainfall or snow. “The snow is really quite beautiful,” says Snow.
But the sculpture had mechanical problems, and, shortly after the test, it was shut off. It was still out of order as of this February. “Guess they have other things to worry about first,” Snow grumbles, a coy reference to the panes of glass that have been falling off the building.
Of all the works Snow has produced over the years, Lightline is the only one that wasn’t his idea. Eb Zeidler, the architect responsible for the tower—and the Eaton Centre and Ontario Place—called Snow up in 2009 and asked him to devise a light beam on the side of the building. Snow happily accepted and transformed it into a kind of cinema, controlling the movement of the lights with a computer program. That the hotel was named for the tackiest man in North America didn’t faze him. Donald Trump and Snow actually have a lot in common: unshakable ego, wilful disregard for public opinion and a knack for stoking controversy.
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