SOLAR SIGNS by Beatie Wolfe x Aaron Rose | Interview by Krysti Joméi

Beatie Wolfe & Aaron Rose | Photo by Christopher Chang

SOLAR SIGNS by Beatie Wolfe x Aaron Rose
Interview by Krysti Joméi
Published Issue 124, April 2024

Multidisciplinary artists Beatie Wolfe and Aaron Rose present Solar Signs, an intermedia display of shadow poetry and sun prints. Solar-powered and made from only three ingredients: recycled letters, the sun, and time, the piece captures shadow words revealed as the sun hits the hidden letters, celebrating nature’s art and power to create on its own timescale, in ways that human beings often can’t see or control. This minimalist art piece also serves as a poignant contemplation on sun and shade for those living in urban heat islands exacerbated by the climate crisis.

Beatie and Aaron are launching the project in Denver as a three-part takeover including an exhibition at experimental gallery, Understudy, and a light projection on the iconic downtown clocktower in partnership with the Denver Theatre District, as well as a live art project during this year’s solar eclipse on April 8th. The third major solar eclipse visible in the U.S. in eight years, this one has the longest totality on land for over a decade, making it rare and special. And celebrating it here with Solar Signs is particularly meaningful for both Beatie and Aaron.

Beatie used data from her visit to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Maryland and the National Science Foundation Ice Core Facility in Denver to create her latest work, Smoke and Mirrors. Premiered at this year’s SXSW, the powerful visualization showcased methane data and Big Oil advertisements since the first Earth Day in 1970. Her ties to Colorado date back even further to childhood to a place she frequented and that deeply shaping her — Libre, the world’s longest running sustainable artist “commune” founded and built by legendary sculptor, Linda Fleming.

Filmmaker, author and artist Aaron also has roots running through the Mile High City. His grandmother was connected to the Daniels & Fisher Tower when it still operated Denver’s then crown-jewel department store, Mary-D&F. A full-circle moment for him with Solar Signs’ projection install with Night Lights Denver lighting up the 325-foot tower during the month of April.

I had a chance to catch up with Aaron before he made his way to Denver to chat about his collaborative art process with both Beatie and nature.

How did the idea of Solar Signs come into being?

We had been wanting to collaborate on a creative project for some time, but hadn’t found the opportunity until this wonderful invitation came from Understudy and the Denver Theatre District. We wanted to combine two distinct disciplines that are close to our hearts. For Beatie, the crisis around climate has always been front and center, while my background in street art and visual dissent has formed the foundation of my work. We found that the meeting point between both practices came around public interventions and the idea of shadow graffiti kind of ticked all the boxes for us.

Solar Signs – shadow graffiti

 What’s the significance of the minimal materials you used for your shadow poetry? 

Graffiti is inherently simple when it comes to language, so we wanted the work to reflect that. It was also important that we used the sun as our primary activator. We didn’t want to confuse the concept by adding too much complexity, so a minimalist approach made the most sense to us. 

Solar Signs – shadow poetry by Beatie Wolfe & Aaron Rose

 How was your experience working with the sun and nature’s own timescale? Did it influence the way your art turned out? Pose any challenges? Did you learn anything about your own relationship to time and what you can or cannot see or control as an artist and human on this planet?

This is a wonderful question. Working with the sun’s rays was actually incredibly challenging! When we first came up with the concept for Solar Signs, we thought it would be so simple, but only after we got out in the field and started trying to execute these pieces did we realize how unpredictable nature actually is! In some cases we had to re-execute the video components multiple times to get it right. Clouds, rain, faulty letters and wrong angles all came into play. We learned a lot, but at times it really made us long for traditional art supplies. 

Solar Signs – sun/rain combined prints as evidence of mold.

Part of your April takeover is your partnership with Night Lights Denver to create a light projection art installation of Solar Signs on the city’s iconic Daniels & Fisher Tower. Word is your grandmother used to work in this clocktower. Can you tell us more about that? 

Yes. My family has roots in Denver and my grandmother worked at Daniels and Fisher. She was a comptometer operator, which was a precursor to an adding machine or calculator. When the store had sales they would bring it up to her and she would do the accounting. I’ve heard that it was a really beautiful store back in the day.

Beatie Wolfe x Aaron Rose | Photo by Christopher Chang

All of Beatie’s creations and collaborations in particular intertwine the power of art and science to amplify the urgency of the climate crisis and current state of our planet, dually creating an opportunity for hands-on actionable education for participants. Part of Solar Signs is the contemplation of urban heat islands exacerbated by the climate crisis. Can you expand on this and why this is an important issue for both of you? 

We are interested in both the healing aspects and destructive qualities of the sun. Nature is inherently volatile and we found that an interesting aspect to meditate on. In many ways, the climate crisis is a perfect example of this coming to fruition. Solar Signs invites us to re-imagine the ways we view and interact with the environment.

Solar Signs – Four Sun 

For those of us specifically living in metropolitan cities, what can we do to help combat this issue?

Awareness is key. There are of course things we can do individually to create a more healthy planet for our children, but sometimes just looking at nature through a different lens can be the first step. We are not proposing solutions, but rather creating a glitch in our awareness so that we can understand the climate as a tangible thing that informs almost all aspects of our lives.

Solar Signs – Eclipse Throw

In relation to minimalist art materials used for your shadow poetry in Solar Signs, your latest New York Times featured book, Blackout Poems, is a collection of over 100 poems you wrote in the ’90s on cocktail napkins and inside matchboxes, on shopping bags and scrap paper and in pocket notebooks. How does it feel to have created a vessel to hold all of these pieces together that were sitting in bins and storage units for decades? And what do you hope readers take away from it?

This was a project I started during the pandemic as, like many of us, I had too much time on my hands. As I began transcribing the poems I was horribly embarrassed by them, but as I went on I began to understand that there was a unique honesty in the words. Most poets don’t publish their work until they’ve reached a mature age and I felt that reading the work of a 19-year-old might be beneficial, particularly to young people.

Blackout Poems by Aaron Rose — Photo by Hat & Beard Press

Blackout Poems is also a precursor to a memoir you’re currently penning with an end-of-year release date with Hat & Beard Press again. Can you give us a teaser of what will be inside its pages?

The memoir is called Cosmic Poker and I’m looking at it as sort of a self-help book. Of course, it tells the story of my life, but it’s configured through the lens of the trials and tribulations of a struggling artist. I’ve found that there aren’t enough resources for young, creative people to understand how to build a life and career as an artist. Hopefully this book can help fill that gap.

Solar Signs by Beatie Wolfe x Aaron Rose | Photo by Christopher Chang

What do you wish people will take away from your time and art in Denver?

We hope the greatest takeaway from the installation would be a shift in perspective. It would be wonderful if the viewers began to see evidence of Solar Signs all around them in their daily lives. For the reasons of celebrating the complexity in nature and how beautiful that can be, while also understanding that the power lies with us to make sure we protect it for future generations.

Solar Signs – Eclipse Grid

Any other projects cookin’ this year?

Just trying to finish this book!!!

Don’t miss the Denver Take of Solar Signs:

Solar Signs Exhibition at Understudy Denver

Opening Reception: Friday April 5, 6 p.m.-9 p.m.

Exhibition: April 5 – May 12 | Thursdays-Sundays | 12 p.m.-6 p.m.

Address: 890 C 14th Street, Denver

Eclipse Live Art Project 

*Free Solar Signs Eclipse Glasses*

Monday, April 8, 11 a.m. -2 p.m. | Tivoli Quad: Auraria Campus

Address: 1000 Larimer Street, Denver

Night Lights Denver Projection 

April 1 – 30 | Daniels & Fisher Tower 

Address: 1601 Arapahoe Street, Denver

Learn more at

Aaron Rose x Beatie Wolfe | Photo by Christopher Chang

Aaron Rose

Aaron Rose is an artist, film director, curator and writer. In the early ’90s, he founded the Alleged Gallery in New York, which helped launch the careers of many of today’s top contemporary artists. He directed the feature documentary Beautiful Losers, based on his experiences during that time. He has also made numerous films and commercials for television. As a visual artist, Rose has exhibited internationally and his work is held in both private and public collections. His writings have been published in i-D, Dazed and Confused, ArtForum, Purple, Self Service, Flash Art, Kaleidoscope and numerous exhibition catalogs. Rose is also the founder of Make Something!!, a non-profit art education program for teens which partners renowned creative personalities with young aspiring artists. Learn more at

Beatie Wolfe

“Musical weirdo and visionary” (Vice) Beatie Wolfe has beamed her music into space, been appointed a UN role model for innovation, and held an acclaimed solo exhibition of her ‘world first’ album designs at the Victoria & Albert Museum. Wolfe’s latest projects include a visualization of 800,000 years’ worth of climate data, a collective postcard art demonstration with Mark Mothersbaugh and the world’s first bioplastic record with Michael Stipe and Brian Eno. Learn more at

Head to our Explore section to see past published works in Birdy by Beatie and keep your eyes peeled for more work by these talented artists.