Eerie and beautiful, the Air#Maze Passive Solar Furnace is comprised of 25 re-cycled tin cans, painted black, that seemingly float in space in a 20 inch by 20 inch box.
“Environmental Art must work,” says artist/inventor Doyle Doss. “As artists, as creative individuals, we must do all we can to make our work actually solve a problem. What we create must make positive impacts on an environment that has been severely damaged. The question for each of us will always remain, ‘Is my work a part of the solution, really, or is it just a re-statement of the problem?’ ”
Tough words, for sure, but Mr. Doss has done just that with his most recent environmental piece, the Air#Maze Passive Solar Furnace.
The box is placed in front of a south facing window, the cans are heated by the sun and warm air flows out from vents at the top. “What I have done with this approach to solar heating is put the metal in the middle between two clear plates,” says Mr. Doss. “Most passive solar boxes have a metal front, a solid back, and there you are. Place it in the window and you are looking at a wall; practical, functional, but not very acceptable in most homes or offices.”
The painted, re-formed tin cans are arranged in a very tight maze-like array inside the box. “There is almost 14 square feet of metal contained within a box less than 3 square feet. That is 5 times more metallic surface area inside the box than the surface area of the box itself,” says Mr. Doss. But what is most striking is that the cans do seem to float in space, and light from the window still enters the room; even the cast shadow eerily moves and changes shape across the floor as the sun traverses the sky. And the best part is that real heat is being produced absolutely free – direct from the sun.
“A lot of folks have misconceptions about solar thermal energy, they think that all they have to do is draw open the curtains and let it in, and they are not entirely wrong. It is just that the actual efficiency of capturing the un-seen infrared depends on black absorption bodies that the sunlight strikes,” says Mr. Doss. “Black bodies are the most efficient in capturing the un-seen infrared. Just place a white something on a table in the sun and a black something next to it. Come back in an hour and put one hand on each . . . the black body will be much warmer.”
“And it is not just the color that matters,” Mr. Doss goes on, “but the makeup of the material plays a part. A black piece of metal will heat up hotter and faster than a black piece of wood or carpet. So it is certainly a good thing to draw open the curtains on a sunny day and let the infrared in, but wood, carpet, furniture have limited ability to capture and hold the infrared. That is why solar window boxes have metal fronts, and why I put 25 re-formed tin cans in the middle of mine.”
What is most interesting about this piece is that at first look, you have no idea of what it is, it is just visually intriguing and oddly attractive. But when its function is explained you see how it could not be anything else but what it is. Mr. Doss, an admirer of the Bauhaus school of design strives for this function and form interrelationship. “I like to believe that when form and function truly join the resulting piece cannot help but be art,” says Mr. Doss. Well he certainly has my vote, these two pieces may not be considered “art” by some, but then as Mr. Doss says, “It is time for art to work. Leonardo did much more than sculpt and paint. And we too need to apply our creative abilities to imagining elegant solutions to the serious problems that confront us.”