As we get ready to deck the halls, we look to an old friend who keeps her Christmas lights up all year round. It's San Francisco, the city of skyscrapers, Victorians and candlelit cafes.
This holiday season she's more brilliant than ever, thanks to a convergence of art called Illuminate SF -- six eco-friendly light-art exhibits that are drawing visitors like moths to a flame.
The seduction starts with the world's largest LED light sculpture on the north side of the Bay Bridge's western span. Best seen from the Embarcadero, artist Leo Villareal has individually programmed 25,000 white lights to create a never-repeating display. Bay Lights is a spectacular complement to the twinkling bulbs that outline each of the five buildings in the Embarcadero Center.
Not far away, at the Civic Center, is artist Ned Kahn's exhibit called Firefly. Outside the new Public Utilities Commission headquarters is a lattice of thousands of tiny hinged panels that look like undulating waves. At night, the movement triggers the flickering of little LED lights that simulate fireflies.
In North Beach, there's an installation called Language of the Birds by Brian Goggin and Dorka Keehn. This is a permanent sculpture in the new pedestrian plaza at Columbus and Broadway that uses books to mimic birds in motion. At night, LED lights embedded in the books create patterns.
A sculpture from the 2010 Burning Man is lighting up the sky at Octavia and Hayes in Hayes Valley. Twenty-four feet tall, this artwork called Future's Past by Kate Raudenbush is a temple-like structure that takes on an eerie green aura at night.
Two other installations are worth noting. Walk north on the Embarcadero and you'll see Peter Hudson's 24-foot-tall zoetrope called Homouroboros on the plaza at Pier 15 near the new Exploratorium. By the de Young Museum, James Turrell's sculpture Three Gems features a view of the sky altered by LED lights that change with the light and the weather conditions.
This convergence of light makes the holidays even more joyous. Never mind the darkness that blankets the Bay before most people sit down for dinner. In the true spirit of Christmas, it is light that holds promise and brings peace to earth and goodwill to all.
For a list of San Francisco events that celebrate with light, see http://www.sanfrancisco.travel/media/San-Francisco-A-city-glowing-with-holiday-activities-and-events.html?cid=#Illuminate.