This sculpture outside CU s Visual Arts Complex was designed to send a beam of light onto the plaza s concrete eye at noon on the winter solstice.

The twin 36-foot-tall sculptures standing at either end of the University of Colorado’s new Visual Arts Complex came to life this week, as their intricate design marked the winter solstice by shining light onto the courtyard between the two buildings.

The sculpture, a permanent public art display installed in September, is a tribute to the solstice and the “return of light” to Boulder on the shortest day of the year, which was Tuesday.

At noon on the winter solstice, the twin poles are designed to cast a spotlight on a mosaic eye made from native sandstone in the courtyard between two parts of the Visual Arts Complex, which opened last semester.

New York artists Kristin Jones and Andrew Ginzel were asked to create a piece of art for the new complex, which houses the CU Art Museum and the university’s art and art history departments.

“The building is all about visuality,” Ginzel said. “We wanted to bring light as a visual aspect into the piece. And Boulder is known for its tirade of sunshine throughout the year, so we wanted to pick up on that solar activity.”

Matt Benjamin, an astronomer at CU’s Fiske Planetarium, said there were reports Monday that the light was approaching the center of the eye, where it was intended to land Tuesday — the winter solstice — but was not visible because of cloudy weather.

Artists and astronomers at CU believe the light still will hit north of the center of the eye today, as the spotlight continues to move in a circular motion throughout the year.

Benjamin said the sculpture is a common practice by ancient cultures that once used similar displays to project migration patterns and time. The most famous example is Stonehenge in England, which marks summer rather then winter solstice.

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