Explorations in Light

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Did you know that the newly reopened Exploratorium – beautifully redesigned at San Francisco’s waterfront pier 15 – has over 50 exhibits alone specifically on LIGHT?

Exploratorium shots

Among these wonderful exhibits, you’ll find a fascinating exploration of light by artist Bob Miller, creator of the “Light Walk” experience (as well as numerous other exhibits there) – in addition to his online series of short talks/essays about light and images. One essay’s intro on differing aspects of light begins with this apt description;

“You can be light-hearted, light headed, light-fingered, or light on your feet. You can make light of things, bring secrets to light, or hide your light under a bushel. You can be quick as a flash, moving at lightning speed. You can seek the bright lights or trip the light fantastic. You can see the light and achieve enlightenment – or you can be completely in the dark.”

Check out more here: http://www.exploratorium.edu/sln/light_walk/

I also enjoyed his brief comments about how light works during an eclipse –http://www.exploratorium.edu/sln/light_walk/lw_page_4.html – this will be the subject of Amy Murray’s upcoming collaborative piece for the show…


Altered Paintings – Silver Lining

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show card
satorial improvements to hare by artist, Emily Bonnes

What do you get when you give 90 artists a mass-produced thrift store piece of art and ask them to breathe new life into it? Redux Studio and Gallery in Alameda posed just such a question, the results of which will be on display next month. I have submitted my entry which – of course, having the subject of light as its focus – is titled Silver Lining.

Redux is organized around the principles of creative reuse, and its efforts help fund St. Vincent de Paul of Alameda County’s important social programs. This project represents the larger purpose of Redux, illustrating how interesting ideas can support a larger social mission and dialogue. The Altered Paintings Projects demonstrate that great things are possible when communities come together. I am thrilled to be participating along with another 50/50 LIGHT collaborator, lighting designer Gil Stancourt.

Opening reception for Altered Paintings 2 – Friday, April 11th 6pm – 9pm

@ Redux Studios & Gallery, 2315 Lincoln Avenue, Alameda, 510-865-1109.

Monday – Sunday 11:00am-6:30pm  www.facebook.com/ReduxStudiosandGallery

The Power of We

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Over the past few months we’ve begun work on a number of the collaborative pieces that will become part of the 50/50 LIGHT gallery show this October. A recurring theme in the conversations as we’ve worked is this; the collaborators have been sharing their project with other friends, and it has become an ad hoc vehicle for community building.

mask detailOne collaborator tells me that each of her friends and neighbors have made a habit of stopping by and contributing ideas and/or input, and it has influenced elements of her design and expanded her awareness of the piece. She looks forward each week to them seeing and weighing in on its evolution, and the meaty discussions that ensue.

It thrills me to hear this; to hear about the excitement the project is generating, and the ever-expanding ripples it’s creating throughout the different communities.

We’re in an age where it’s become more popular to self promote, compete, and get as much of a leg up as possible over the next guy rather than to work collaboratively. It’s important to realize the importance of working together to build real and lasting strength in our communities . Bringing ourselves into new, unusual, and unexpected combinations, building something that becomes greater than the sum of its individual parts, this is the goal well worth pursuing.

As the wonderful Japanese writer, Ryunosuke Satoro, said “Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.


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pastel stick colors

Color = Light.

Visible light, that is. All colors known to man can be found in the visible spectrum of light. On the longest wavelength/lowest frequency/lowest energy end we have RED, spanning across to the shortest wavelength/highest frequency/highest energy end with VIOLET (along with orange, yellow, green and blue in between).  So, radio waves (plus infrared and microwave) have the least energy, and gamma rays (plus UV and X-rays) have the most energy, which is part of what makes them so dangerous to humans. The whole range of frequencies and energies is called the electromagnetic spectrum.

light spectrum

Visible light occupies only one-thousandth of a percent of this spectrum.

Humankind’s attempts to recreate color in the natural world date back as far as our oldest civilizations, the early Paleolithic period, aprox 350,000 BC – where the first pigments, or pure color in powdered form, were suspended in a medium to make paint.

cave painting

“The world in which we live is teeming with color: the sky, earth, water, and fire all have distinct colors. From time immemorial, we who delight in such perceptions have tried to reproduce these colors in our day-to-day surroundings. What could be more normal? For color is the child of light, the source of all life on earth. The challenge in finding materials capable of producing lasting colors in the world around us has preoccupied humankind from prehistory to the present day. ” quote from Colors: The Story of Dyes and Pigments by Francois Delamare & Bernard Guineau


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Seung Mo Park

Many artists have been the inspiration for a number of the featured pieces being created for the upcoming 50/50LIGHT project. One of the most subtle yet profoundly striking examples is the work of Korean artist, Seung Mo Park. His transcendent pieces exemplify a most-admired technique in the formation of art: coalescing simple, utilitarian materials with visionary talent and ingenuity to create the sublime.

The end result astronomically exceeds the sum of its humble parts.

Seung Mo Park works with layer upon layer of flat stainless steel mesh sheets. Painstakingly cutting away thousands of individual wires to reveal an underlying image, he transforms something fundamentally 2D into something 3D – an illusion with great depth and presence. Most are personal, haunting and reflective, others slyly dynamic. All are breathtaking.   

www.thisiscolossal.com/2012/04/ephemeral-portraits-cut-from-layers-of-wire-mesh-by-seung-mo-park (Be sure to watch the step-by-step video documenting his process.)

Nina Katchadourian, Lavatory Self-Portrait in the Flemish Style #11, 2011

Another visionary of illusion and subtlety is artist Nina Khachadorian.  Nina came to my attention as a family friend of my in-laws – who recommended I see her fascinating show here in San Francisco at the Catharine Clark Gallery in 2012 titled “Seat Assignment”. The show – produced over the span of 70 airline flights – features a multitude of self-portraits created only with A.) materials readily available to passengers on commercial airplanes – mainly bathroom paper goods; and B.) her cell phone camera.

The results are deceptively convincing works that – at first glance – appear to be reflections of 15th century Flemish portrait subjects. But look more closely…



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Chinese Lanterns

Chinese Lantern Festival  The Chinese Lantern Festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the first month of the lunar calendar, marking the last day of the lunar New Year celebration. During the Lantern Festival, children go out at night to temples carrying paper lanterns and they solve riddles on the lanterns. In ancient times, the lanterns were fairly simple, and only the emperor and noblemen had large ornate ones. In modern times though, lanterns have been embellished with many complex designs, often made in the shape of animals.

The lanterns are almost always red to symbolize good fortune, and they symbolize the people letting go of their past selves and getting new ones, which they will let go of again the next year.

porto Venere

Festa della Madonna Bianca  In 1399, the plague was sweeping through the small seaside village of Porto Venere (just south of the Cinque Terre) in French-occupied Italy. In desperation, a villager by the name of Lucciardo began begging a painting of the Virgin Mary for release from this terrible disease when suddenly a miraculous event occurred: the colors of the painting began to glow. Just as suddenly, the plague mysteriously vanished.

Witnessing this strange phenomenon, the villagers attributed the disappearance of the plague to the Virgin Mary, and transported the painting to safety in the nearby Church of San Lorenzo. Thus began the devotion of the faithful to Our Lady Madonna Bianca, patron saint of the community, named for her glowing skin in the painting.

Every year since, on August 17th, the villagers celebrate with a torchlight procession through town, lighting thousands of candles along the streets leading up to the Gothic Church of San Pietro and covering the cliffs below.

diwaliDiwali  Also called the “festival of lights”, it is an    ancient Hindu festival celebrated each autumn. The festival spiritually signifies the    victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil, & hope over despair.

Festival preparations and rituals typically last five days, but the main festival night of Diwali coincides with the darkest, new moon of the Hindu lunisolar month Kartik. In the Gregorian calendar, Diwali night falls between mid-October and mid-November.

In the days leading up to Diwali night, people clean, renovate and decorate their homes. On Diwali night itself Hindus dress up in new clothes or their best outfits, they light diyas (lamps and candles) inside and outside their homes and participate in family puja (prayers), typically to Lakshmi – the goddess of wealth and prosperity. Puja are followed by fireworks and a family feast including mithai (sweets) and gifts are exchanged between family members and close friends.


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Over the years, I’ve admired encaustic paintings but knew very little about the actual process. Last spring, as the seeds of the 50/50 LIGHT project were just being planted, I was introduced to the encaustic technique by my friend Jessica Abbott Williams – owner of Brushstrokes Studio in West Berkeley, CA – who hosted a series of classes first with artist Susan Brady, followed later by artist Barbara Maricle.

Group encaustic shot

Encaustics proved to be one of the rare mediums that a beginner could attempt and achieve incredible results with almost immediately. It also has the potential for incredible depth of technique, and can be quite complicated and complex. The work that resulted from this class was a marvel to all of us who participated.

The word encaustic comes from the Greek word enkaustikos meaning ‘to burn in’, and the element of heated wax is a requirement for a painting to be called encaustic. The earliest known examples of this technique date back to the 1st century BC.

Romano- Egyptian Fayun mummy portrait encaustic panel paintings, 1st century BC
Romano- Egyptian Fayun mummy portrait encaustic panel paintings, 1st century BC

Encaustic painting, also known as hot wax painting, utilizes heated beeswax with the addition of colored pigments. The heated liquid is applied to a hard porous surface (necessary to bind the wax) – usually prepared wood, although canvas or other materials are also often used – to which multiple layers are then applied to build up the desired effect.

The wax can be worked in a multitude of ways to create an endless array of effects: metal tools, special brushes and/or other manipulatives can shape or texture the surface before the wax cools; or heated metal tools can manipulate the wax further once it has cooled on the surface. Historically, the wax was only able to be worked quickly and initially, as each layer was being applied. In modern times, though, tools such as heat lamps, heat guns, wax pens, and other methods of applying heat have allowed artists to extend the amount of time they have to work the materials.

Because the wax is the binder for the pigment, in addition to painting, encaustics can also be sculptural. 3D materials can be encased or collaged onto the surfaces, or into layers using the encaustic medium to adhere objects.

Aspects of Light

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illumination ~ refraction ~ reflection ~ luminosity ~ incandescence ~ glow

it’s effect on color vibrations ~ saturation ~ full spectrum ~ translucence

energy ~ connection to heat ~ embers ~ scintillation ~ combustion ~ prism

weightlessness ~ light as a feather ~ hummingbird ~ diaphanous ~ waves

hardness vs softness ~ contrast vs diffusion ~ glare ~ blur ~ scattering

light at the end of the tunnel ~ speed of light ~ light of my life ~ glimmer

the gloaming ~ Delft licht ~ by the light of the moon ~ shadows and light

aurora borealis ~ rainbow ~ eclipse ~ mirage ~ fireflies ~ bioluminescence 

light vs dark…


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A yearlong exploration of LIGHT.

In the year between October 2013 – October 2014 a group of 25 artists, led by Deb Durant, will work to create 50 pieces of artwork all focusing on the concept of LIGHT. This common thread interrelates all of the artwork pieces via each artists’ chosen aspect of light: be it literal, physical, temporal, metaphorical…

The groups’ collective works represent numerous differing media – metalsmithing, lighting, photography, written word, painting, glass, encaustics, ceramics, and textiles. The collaborators are all artists whom Deb has worked with over the past decades.

The goal, simply put: to amass an artistic collection that represents a unique community of artists. This particular compilation stems from the many creative associations formed and developed over the years by artist Deb Durant as she explored, struggled with, and finally forged an artistic career of her own. It’s a revelation of decades of work, in contact with and inspired by these talented artists. It’s also a reflection of the ways in which individuals can deeply affect you, and how they can mold your creativity.

The aim of this show is also to mark the celebration of life at 50; a momentous and deeply fruitful time in most artists lives, as they shed the insecurities of youth and embrace a sense of growing professional maturity and freedom. Often it marks a time of hitting your stride, an opportunity for sinking your teeth into the meat of your endeavors, prompting a renewed sense of ‘I’m really just getting started…’

This project will culminate in a gallery show in San Francisco this October – (to coincide with Deb’s 50th birthday) where all 50 pieces will be on display.

We welcome you to the celebration!