Kitchener City Hall, 200 King Street West, Kitchener, Photo: Gordon Hatt.
Windsor artist Lucy Howe’s Wilt II is a streetlight bending toward the ground as though it had slowly gone limp and wilted. Howe conjures for us an animist vision of our urban environment, where streetlamps and street signs are like trees and bushes that, possessing inner organic lives, bend in the wind, reach to the sun, or wilt in the heat.
“With a graceful bow, streetlights gesture over the roads like lazy flowers or blades of grass, playfully bending to street level, while engaging the public in a conversation on infrastructure and sustainability,” writes the artist describing her vision for Wilt II. Standing in contrast to that former icon of progress, the brightly illuminated city skyline, Lucy Howe’s wilting and flickering lamppost may be a reminder that the life of all cities is subject to dwindling resources and limits to growth. At CAFKA’s invitation, Howe responded to the theme of the 2011 exhibition, SURVIVE. RESIST., with an imaginative metaphorical rendering of a city starved of energy.
Lucy Howe, Wilt II (preparatory sketches), 2011.
Wilt II was the successor to Wilt (2009), a drooping yield sign that figuratively recalled a sunflower in need of water.
Lucy Howe, Wilt, 2009. 
To create Wilt II, Howe obtained an aluminum light standard and curved it by making a series of cuts into the hollow shaft to make it pliable. Once bent, the cuts were “healed” with spot welding.  The effect is remarkable. She transformed the solid metal lamp standard into something soft, fluid and malleable.
Photograph: Lucy Howe
The design of Wilt II had the lamp head resting gently on the ground with a weak and flickering light. It was intended to light up at night emitting a dim, pale glow, as though beginning to die. Unfortunately, the placement of the work on shaded corner prevented the solar battery from charging, so no light was generated.
Cuts to the shaft of the standard to make it malleable also compromised its strength. A few days following its initial installation, it was vandalized and the tube snapped at the top of the arch. A few modifications increased the rigidity of the sculpture and there were no further incidents.
Wilt II was enthusiastically embraced by the visitors to the Kitchener downtown. It was the subject of countless double-takes and cell phone photos. Some called the city to report a broken lamp standard. The majority however, saw it for what it was: A playful, if somewhat wistful manipulation of our urban hardware.
This project was made possible with the support of Kitchener-Wilmot Hydro.