In April 2021, Buster Simpson’s (B.S.Des. ‘66, MFA ‘69) Methanogen Polyptych was unveiled at the San Jose — Santa Clara Regional Wastewater Facility Co-Generation Plant. The public artwork’s seventy-six feet of stainless steel are adorned with laser-pierced methane producing microbes and backlit with LEDs. The microbes themselves help to power the facility, and the LEDs allow the illusion that the audience is peering into the digesters, observing the process as though through an electron microscope.
Simpson, a two-time alumnus of the University of Michigan’s Penny W. Stamps School Of Art & Design, has a long-standing history of industrial and biology-inspired public installations, contributing work to nature centers (Divining, 2020), other wastewater treatment plants (Bio Boulevard & Water Molecule, 2011), and countless sites around the United States. In 2009, Simpson earned the Americans for the Arts Public Art Award for “[Demonstrating] innovative and creative contributions and/or exemplary commitment and leadership in the field of public art.”