Friday, February 17, 2012

Revealing the Power of Art With Light (part 1)


Flipping the switch up into the "ON" position, I then stood back a couple of paces and looked upon the art on the wall with renewed appreciation. The colors were now vibrant- almost dazzling. The range of contrast, from the deepest shadows to the bright white clouds was amazing. Subtle nuances as well as the strong statements of the underlying composition were now fully evident and no longer in question. Yes, the light switch is certainly an important component of the proper presentation of a work of art.

Several years ago, I had been invited to show in a unique venue that I had not been to before. The clientele that came to the show was fairly knowledgeable about art, and I was looking forward to not only showing my work there, but probably making some important sales as well. The hall in which I was displaying seemed reasonably well lit, the other artists' booths looked pretty good, and my own presentation of my work was inviting. People seemed to genuinely like my work, but in the end, I made absolutely no sales.

In talking with a friend later (he is a photographer and his wife is a painter) I mentioned that I thought I could probably have made some good sales if only my presentation had been stronger- perhaps with some good lighting. He made me promise then and there that I would put together a good lighting setup before my next show. Of course I found myself scrambling the last three days before that show arrived, to put into effect my new lighting system– I wasn't about to be confronted by my friend when he showed up at the show and asked: "So where's your new lighting system you promised to build?"

When I finally got the system designed, engineered, components purchased, and installed, I lit the lights in my booth (temporarily set up in my front yard) and then began to hang photographs. From the very first piece of art hung, I was asking myself: "Why, in the world, didn't I do this earlier?" Clearly, the art would now be able to speak for itself, and probably sell itself.

Photograph on wall, properly lit with good broadband spot-lighting
I believe that many folks (probably the vast majority) who greatly appreciate and value art works have little appreciation for the value of proper lighting. Someone may spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on remarkable pieces, only to relegate them to some dark wall in their home where the true value of the work can never come to light. On the one hand, it is, indeed, important to make sure that art is placed well away from where it might encounter the harsh UV light that is a component of natural sunlight. Ultraviolet is a certain destroyer of fine artwork, and can reduce its lifetime from generations to mere years. But on the other hand, simply leaving it alone in the dark is kind of like leaving a bottle of fine, exquisite wine to gather dust in the cellar– wine is MEANT TO BE DRUNK, not just stored– and fine art is MEANT TO BE APPRECIATED, not just protected!

Photograph on wall, illuminated with only existing room lighting
When purchasing fine art, one should invest at least a portion of their art budget in decent lighting. It is simply insane to spend $5000 on a wonderful painting and then light it with a 75 cent, 60 watt standard bulb in a table lamp over in the corner– or even worse, a two-dollar compact fluorescent in the same fixture. This would be kind of like having the President of the United States (substitute your important dignitary of choice) visit you for dinner, then feeding him or her a baloney sandwich, and finally having them wash it down with a glass of Koolaid®.

There are many fine (and relatively inexpensive) options available for lighting artwork which I will explore in a follow-on post. 

Don't let your art languish– let it be luminous! 

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