Lucid Stead installation by Phillip K Smith III
makes a desert cabin appear transparent

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American artist Phillip K Smith III has added mirrors to the walls of a desert shack in California to create the illusion that you can see right through the building (+ movie).

Lucid Stead installation by Phillip K Smith III gives the illusion of invisibility to a desert cabin
Photograph by Steve King

Entitled Lucid Stead, the installation was created by Phillip K Smith III on a 70-year-old wooden residence within the California High Desert.

Lucid Stead installation by Phillip K Smith III gives the illusion of invisibility to a desert cabin
Photograph by Steve King

Mirrored panels alternate with weather-beaten timber siding panels to create horizontal stripes around the outer walls, allowing narrow sections of the building to seemingly disappear into the vast desert landscape.

Lucid Stead installation by Phillip K Smith III gives the illusion of invisibility to a desert cabin
Photograph by Steve King

"Lucid Stead is about tapping into the quiet and the pace of change of the desert," said Smith. "When you slow down and align yourself with the desert, the project begins to unfold before you. It reveals that it is about light and shadow, reflected light, projected light, and change."

Lucid Stead installation by Phillip K Smith III gives the illusion of invisibility to a desert cabin
Photograph by Steve King

The door and windows of the building are also infilled with mirrors, but after dark they transform into brightly coloured rectangles that subtly change hue, thanks to a system of LED lighting and an Arduino computer system.

Lucid Stead installation by Phillip K Smith III gives the illusion of invisibility to a desert cabin
Photograph by Lance Gerber

"The colour of the door and window openings are set at a pace of change where one might question whether they are actually changing colours," said Smith.

Lucid Stead installation by Phillip K Smith III gives the illusion of invisibility to a desert cabin
Photograph by Lance Gerber

"One might see blue, red, and yellow... and continue to see those colours. But looking down and walking ten feet to a new location reveals that the windows are now orange, purple and green," he added.

Lucid Stead installation by Phillip K Smith III gives the illusion of invisibility to a desert cabin
Photograph by Lance Gerber

White light is projected through the walls of the cabin at night, revealing the diagonal cross bracing that forms the building's interior framework.

Lucid Stead installation by Phillip K Smith III gives the illusion of invisibility to a desert cabin
Photograph by Steve King

Read on for a project description from the artist:


Artist Phillip K Smith, III creates Lucid Stead light installation in Joshua Tree, CA

After the long, dusty, bumpy, anxious trip out into the far edges of Joshua Tree, you open your car door and for the first time experience the quiet of the desert. It's at that point that you realise you are in a place that is highly different than where you just came from.

Lucid Stead installation by Phillip K Smith III gives the illusion of invisibility to a desert cabin
Photograph by Steve King

Lucid Stead is about tapping into the quiet and the pace of change of the desert. When you slow down and align yourself with the desert, the project begins to unfold before you. It reveals that it is about light and shadow, reflected light, projected light, and change.

Lucid Stead installation by Phillip K Smith III gives the illusion of invisibility to a desert cabin
Photograph by Lance Gerber

In much of my work, I like to interact with the movement of the sun so that the artwork is in a constant state of change from sunrise to 9am to noon to 3am to 6pm and into the evening.

Lucid Stead installation by Phillip K Smith III gives the illusion of invisibility to a desert cabin
Photograph by Steve King

With Lucid Stead, the movement of the sun reflects banded reflections of light across the desert landscape, while various cracks and openings reveal themselves within the structure. Even the shifting shadow of the entire structure on the desert floor is as present as the massing of the shack itself, within the raw canvas of the desert.

Lucid Stead installation by Phillip K Smith III gives the illusion of invisibility to a desert cabin
Photograph by Lance Gerber

The desert itself is as used as reflected light…as actual material within this project. It is a medium that is being placed onto the skin of the 70-year old homesteader shack.

Lucid Stead installation by Phillip K Smith III gives the illusion of invisibility to a desert cabin
Photograph by Steve King

The reflections, contained within their crisp, geometric bands and rectangles contrasts with the splintering bone-dry wood siding.

Lucid Stead installation by Phillip K Smith III gives the illusion of invisibility to a desert cabin
Photograph by Lou Mora

This contrast is a commonality in my work, where I often merge highly precise, geometric, zero tolerance forms with material or experience that is highly organic or in a state of change…something that you cannot hold on to... that slips between your fingers.

Lucid Stead installation by Phillip K Smith III gives the illusion of invisibility to a desert cabin
Photograph by Lance Gerber

Projected light emerges at dusk and moves into the evening. The four window openings and the doorway of Lucid Stead all become crisp rectangular fields of colour, floating in the desert night.

Lucid Stead installation by Phillip K Smith III gives the illusion of invisibility to a desert cabin
Photograph by Lance Gerber

White light, projected from the inside of the shack outward, highlights the cracks between the mirrored siding and the wood siding, wrapping the shack in lines of light. This white light reveals, through silhouette, the structure of the shack itself as the 2x4's and diagonal bracing become present on the skin of the shack.

Lucid Stead installation by Phillip K Smith III gives the illusion of invisibility to a desert cabin
Photograph by Lance Gerber

The colour of the door and window openings are set at a pace of change where one might question whether they are actually changing colours. One might see blue, red, and yellow... and continue to see those colours. But looking down and walking ten feet to a new location reveals that the windows are now orange, purple and green.

Lucid Stead installation by Phillip K Smith III gives the illusion of invisibility to a desert cabin
Photograph by Lance Gerber

This questioning of and awareness of change, ultimately, is about the alignment of this project with the pace of change occurring within the desert. Through the process of slowing down and opening yourself to the quiet, only then can you really see and hear in ways that you normally could not.

  • Alvaro

    Nice project, cheesy name.

  • AB

    I can still see it.

  • Rizwan Ahmed

    Looks like a cyber disco house at night!

  • little gramma

    Amazing! Beautiful!

  • Fosterito

    All photos courtesy of the invisible man?

  • Pabeda

    Beautiful cabin, especially by the daylight, which makes the project quite sophisticated.

  • Greenkayak

    It is beautiful, but very much a bird-killer.