“Light Work / Shadow Play” a Poetry-based City of Dublin 40th Anniversary Public Art Project 

DUBLIN, CA–“Light Work / Shadow Play” is a collaborative artist and youth project incorporating the work of artist Thomasin Dewhurst, the poetry of James Morehead (Poet Laureate – Dublin, CA), Livermore art students, and Dublin’s Eta Carinae, a student-led performing arts group. The installation can be viewed at the City of Dublin Civic Center in front of the clock tower.

“Light Work / Shadow Play” at night

“Light Work / Shadow Play” comprises an outdoor theater which is both a daytime structure and a nighttime shadow puppet theater. The project’s name, in part, is inspired by the poem “shadow’s play” by James Morehead, who is the poet laureate of Dublin, from his book “canvas: poems”. Dewhurst also used Morehead’s poem “At the crossroads” which he was commissioned to write by the City of Dublin to commemorate the 40th anniversary of its incorporation. 

The name “Light Work / Shadow Play” also comes from the Ursula LeGuin’s novel, “The Dispossessed” where, in one of  her created alien languages she describes “work” and “play” as being the same word. “Light Work / Shadow Play” is thirdly inspired by two artists who have been influential in the creative work of Thomasin Dewhurst: Walter Oltmann and  William Kentridge, both of whom give the idea of play a central role in their artistic output. In the “Light Work / Shadow  Play” project the creative work is a playful activity, giving the young artists rein to express their own unique ideas, offering them new experiences in art making, and opportunities to expand their creative skills and imagination.  

The project: 

The “Light Work / Shadow Play” installation takes the form of a theater. It has a backdrop, painted in oils, acrylic and gold leaf on wood and canvas panels, by Thomasin Dewhurst. The backdrop shows a sky and a sun illustrated with ideas from Morehead’s poem “shadow’s play”. It also depicts theater curtains on either side, and a central landscape representing  the Dublin hills in summer. The whole backdrop has a feeling of surreality: looking like reality but having an air of  strangeness or unreality about it. This suggests both the imaginary world of theater and the slightly supernatural tone to the  “shadow’s play” poem. 

The backdrop acts as a set for wooden painted sculptures by the young artists who participated in this project. The  sculptures together create a daytime summer garden which doubles as a shadow puppet display at night. The sculptures are  a gallery display for the students, who worked industriously at developing their drawing, painting, shading, color and  design skills during this project. The work is a collaborative effort, with the individual creations coming together to make a cohesive whole. 


Anamorphism in art is the creation of a distorted, unrecognizable image that, with new vantage points or the addition of  devices such as mirrors or lights, creates an undistorted, recognizable image. 

In “Light Work / Shadow Play” the students art is anamorphic. From simple cut-out shapes (the younger students) to more  elaborate structures (the older students) each artwork is a shadow puppet disguised as a daytime painted scene. During the  day the sculptures depict summer plants and animals that occur in Dublin’s natural environment. At night footlights come on and cast shadows representing Dublin’s nocturnal wildlife. All the sculptures were hand-drawn and painted by the  students, and cut out with a scroll saw from pieces of wood on which they designed their creatures. 

The participants: 

Thomasin Dewhurst 

Thomasin Dewhurst (Livermore artist and owner/educator at Thomasin Dewhurst Fine Art) provides art, art history and  music instruction to Tri-Valley students. In addition to private tuition, she began work, in 2020, with various community  groups, bringing public art opportunities to youth: those who have art experience and those who don’t normally have access to art classes or workshops. With the support of grants from the cities of Livermore, Pleasanton and Dublin, as well as  funding from the Wente Foundation for Arts Education, Livermore Rotarian Foundation, the Pedrozzi Foundation and  private donations, Thomasin Dewhurst Fine Art continues to bring art opportunities to youth of the Tri-Valley community. 

A significant contribution to public art and city beautification has been the Livermore Conversation Pieces project. The  project brought together over 100 young members of The Pedrozzi Foundation, Quest Science Center, JazzLabb/Element  116, Tri-Valley Writers, Del Arroyo 4-H Club, and Thomasin Dewhurst Fine Art, all local community and charity-driven  

youth groups. The young artists and writers of each group created this series of beautiful 3 foot by 7 foot, hand-painted  banners in diversely individual and personal ways. The project encompasses the twin ideas of individuality and  community; giving space for individual voices to speak out, and, at the same time, celebrating collaboration, co-operation  and community. The exhibit opened with a performance by Element 116, a teen jazz ensemble directed by Matt Finders.  Thomasin Dewhurst welcomed those in attendance and invited representatives from community groups to speak, including  Mayor Bob Woerner, LVJUSD Board Trustee Kristie Wang, and astronaut Jose M. Hernandez, whose likeness was  illustrated on one of the banners. 

The project expands this summer, with the launching of a city of Pleasanton Conversation Pieces project funded by the  Pleasanton Cultural Arts Council. 

Thomasin Dewhurst Fine Art students 

The students of Thomasin Dewhurst who participated in the project range from ages 7 years to 16 years. They are  Livermore students who take art and art history with Thomasin at Livermore’s Bothwell Center (part of Livermore Valley  Arts). The students have contributed to a number of public art projects such as murals, banners and display posters, the  Piano in the Plaza project at Dublin’s Persimmon Place, and the Livermore “Conservation Pieces” project. 

The Eta Carinae group 

Eta Carinae is a student led 501 c3 non profit organization founded by Anwesha Ghosh (Dublin High School student) and  Audrija Ghosh (Fallon Middle school student) in 2021. The organization now has 17 members from Dublin, Pleasanton  and Livermore. Students run their projects depending upon their interest and having roles like Project Managers,  Communication specialist, Finance specialist, Blogger and form their team to bring a project to completion. Past projects:  Project pencil – Donating over 1100 books and back to school supplies to Mission elementary school and Marsh  Elementary school in Antioch; Partnered with helptestbayarea and Predicine to assemble test kits to be supplied to DUSD,  PUSD, Piedmont Unified, West Contra Costa USD; One warm coat – Donated jackets and energy bars to the  underprivileged kids of Mission Elementary School; Antioch Hope for Homeless – Donated warm clothes to Tri-Valley  Haven; Livermore Caldor Fire relief – Partnered with Hands4Hope and donated over 500 clothing and food items to Caldor Fire victims).  In a recently concluded Destination Imagination Global tournament (Kansas City, MO) Eta Carinae came 2nd in the Fine  Arts category, Middle School division for their performance depicting emotions of a person suffering from Alzheimer’s  disease and how counseling makes a difference, and received accolades in their skit showing a child suffering from PTSD.

James Morehead

James Morehead is Poet Laureate of Dublin, California. James has published two collections of poetry: “canvas” and “portraits of red and gray”. James’ poem “tethered” was transformed into an award-winning hand drawn animated short film, “gallery” was set to music for baritone and piano, and his poems have appeared in Beyond Words, Wingless Dreamer, Prometheus Dreaming and Prompt Press. He also hosts the Viewless Wings Poetry Podcast which features interviews with poets and artists. “In this second collection of poems, James Morehead’s imagery is vivid, spare and elemental, and it is consistently chosen and arranged to achieve intensely poetic effects. The rhythmic control is impeccable.” – Carmine Di Biase, Distinguished Professor of English, Emeritus – Jacksonville State University

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