By Chris Jeffrey
Sept. 1 – Sept. 26, 2012
This installation is part of a planned state-wide project to fill vacant store fronts in Vermont downtowns with light and color. Empty storefronts are not uncommon in Vermont towns, and can make their communities look gloomy and even desolate. But the spacious, often historically significant buildings also present a unique opportunity to blend art and architecture, light and dark, emptiness and richness.
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Light Studio J
P.O. Box 243
Montpelier, VT 05601
The installation is comprised of an array of off-the-shelf fluorescent light bulbs, incorporated into the interior architecture of the vacant structure. While commonly maligned, when fitted with colored sleeves fluorescent bulbs cast a beautiful and encompassing light.
The purpose of the installation is to draw attention to, and in the process transform, what is normally experienced as a dark presence on the street, an empty space that is mostly ignored but which projects an underlying air of gloom and foreboding, particularly at night. The installation is not meant to exist separately from the space. That is, it’s not a stand-alone sculpture that just happens to be housed in the space. The space is not an art gallery. The installation is meant to become a part of the space, to define it, to articulate and draw attention to the architectural elements within it. Thus the blue lights take up the floor area, delineating and illuminating the volume of the space from the ground up. Yellow and green lights rise at an angle from the floor and connect with the walls, emphasizing the verticality of the high-ceilinged space. The yellow and green lights at the far end of the space define its perceived limits, while the red lights set horizontally on a shelf three quarters of the way up the far wall suggest that the perceived limits are illusory, that there is more there than first meets the eye. The lights are timed to turn on and off at varying intervals so that different elements are highlighted at different times, and so that the space can be experienced in multiple ways.
While the installation exists within the space and is a part of it, at the same time it also is intended to transform its environment and, in the process, the viewer’s perception of that environment. So while it’s not simply a light sculpture sitting within the space, it has sculptural elements that are distinct from the architecture in which it exists. Sculptural intention is expressed in the ways that the lights are displayed, at different levels and angles, in different color combinations, juxtaposing symmetry with randomness. Time becomes an element of the installation, as different lights go on and off at varying intervals. Light and color become sculptural elements through the way in which they reflect off the different architectural components and the bulbs’ white fixtures and supports, creating subtle but distinct patterns. Light and color shine on the walls, floors and ceiling, illuminating the holes, the scuffs, the dirt that’s present in a vacant building, while at the same time bathing the space with sublime color. The installation elevates the space, and the viewer’s perception of it, beyond the day-to-day reality of an empty building, while at the same time fully embracing the fact that it exists within that empty building.
THANK YOU to the following people who helped greatly in making this installation possible:
Jesse Jacobs of Montpelier Property Management, who generously donated the use of the space, and who is an ardent supporter of public art in central Vermont;
My great friend Debbie, who once again schlepped a bunch of my stuff around;
And Susan, for being an endless source of support, challenge and inspiration.