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Passion For Light
As a kid, I made Christmas cards for my family, little scenes of houses topped with snow. I glued glitter to the snow-and that was magic, too, because the snow that I had painted reflected light, just like real snow. Everybody in my family liked the cards.
Later, in art school, I learned how to paint and draw light and shadow, a very important skill for creating volume in a two-dimensional world. And this is, today, what I still teach. The skill to make light and show creates a dimension that synthesizes three-dimensional volume. We are all hard-wired to see this third dimension in a two-dimensional illusion. This is the way we see.
I took a job as an assistant in a lighting showroom. It was just going to be a temporary thing, while I got my studio together, but I discovered that it really interested me and eventually, I took a test to become a Lighting Specialist. I liked advising clients on lighting options and the whole retailing aspect.
I began to see that light was important in my work as an artist. If I sculpted the figure of a horse, it was important to me how light illuminated the three-dimensional object. When I painted, I discovered that light infused two-dimensional surfaces in two ways: one, when light and shadow using light colors and dark colors, was depicted and two, when by just using colors themselves I could transition for light to dark and depict light and shadow that way. Then all of the stuff from art history, the grids, the painting of light and shadow to depict space came up in my memory and I began to paint that way. The effects were amazing.
HISTORY OF DEPICTED LIGHT
Light and shadow was not always what art was about. In many cultures today and in Western Civilization from primitive to medieval times, depicting volume and dimension was not important. Icons, religious images that were drawn or painted did not need a depth of space. Flat, iconic symbols of religious deities and figures representing social concepts and spiritual inspirations did not need space, light and shadow
In the Renaissance, artists began creating space built on perspective and light and shadow. They built large glass panes, framed and often on wheels. On the glass surface they drew a grid. They wheeled the grid up to what they wanted to paint, a landscape, a group of figures or one figure and they worked from a quadrant (a specific grid space.) They had to sit very still and not move very much, or their vision of looking through the glass grid and their subject matter could change.
Artists like Michelangelo, DaVinci and Albrecht Durer, who used this grid, began to see how the objects they were looking at, receded into space-that is, in the distance, things got smaller by very exact increments. That recession of objects into distant space would become an actual mathematical calculation. It was a great blending of science and art-so typical of the knowledge dynamics of the Renaissance.
This drawing and painting of illusion of the third dimension using a grid to locate objects in space and transfer them to a two-dimensional plane became the way we see things today. We look at magazines, videos, movies, apps, and with this new visual data we never question our visual alliance with the third dimension illusion. And we react consciously and subconsciously to this illusion. A horror film might give us a fright deep enough to influence our behavior for, perhaps the rest of our lives. Or a pleasant scene in a movie, a magazine or a website online might stimulate and enhance certain memories that soothe and calm us. We are, indeed, believers of the illusion and are very absorptive to what we see.
Over thirty years of teaching art, working as a lighting specialist and an artist, I began to see that light is a very personal thing – a driver of my own artistic endeavors. I see, through teaching and retailing interactions, that all of us are very much influenced by the quality of light. I can see, even though I haven’t researched this in a scientific way, that light affects us much more than we think. The qualities of light in a workplace do influence our work habits. In our homes, our lighting does play a major part of how we interact with our environment. I know this from years of consulting and recommending lighting solutions and receiving positive feedback from my clients.
The way we perceive happenings in our own lives, and specifically, aging are influenced by illumination. I think that early on in our own development as human beings, the rising and setting of the sun was very important spiritually and logically. Many cultures: Stonehenge, the Peruvian Indians, developed their cultures around the rising and setting of the sun. Artificial lighting has transitioned us, expanded us into a time zone where we can work more, but also create more. It has, also, demystified the sun’s rule of our lives because we have created our own illumination. This has been a major cultural change as well.
Now that I am 70 years old, I see that light in its many manifestations has guided me along my course of existence. When I was building my artwork for a degree show at Pratt Institute, making shapes carved out of old doors, I sprayed the crevices of those constructs with iridescent paint and played black lights on my structures. What I wanted to show is that those iconic figures, so medieval in form, and carved out of the doors were backlit by light that was very contemporary. There was a spiritual quality there that was medieval, a kind of reverse church window where the light was coming out of the church, rather coming in from the outside.
Since then, my artistic endeavors have been guided into many areas: collage, printmaking, oil, painting, water color, acrylic painting, mixed media, quilts, artistic apparel and more. In each research of the materials and the techniques and skills required to master those areas, light has always been behind those projects.
My feeling is that light is also a life-generating factor that imbues each of us with a primal, spiritual force and that we are only too comfortable with it. But if we sit, just for twenty minutes, in any given corner of a room and watch the light on any given objects, we will begin to see how this incredible phenomenon can affect our lives. And perhaps, what will be revealed is the concept of light perception has proven, through many definitions of light in many languages, defining inspiration, spiritual contact, realization, and visualization that progresses creative thought and action.
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