As people spin the wheel below, the light above shifts. Inside this lunar globe of steel and 5,000 light bulbs (burnt and new alike) a mirrored LED plate rotates, casting both shadow and light. Depending on your perspective, artists (featured in Make: Vol. 33) Caitlind r. c. Brown and Wayne Garrett’s New Moon looks as though it’s waxing or waning.
“New Moon explores the whimsical and alluring nature of the moon, drawing on the familiarity of moonlight to all people,” Brown said of the work.
“By allowing viewers to see the moon at once in all phases of its cycle, the work emphasizes the personal relationship between each person and this celestial body, freeing the moon from time itself.”
The installation, which took a month and a half to finish, builds off of their previous work creating illuminated clouds out of light bulbs. Local volunteers and welding students and teachers from the Bluegrass Community and Technical College assisted with the construction and all the light bulbs were donated.
The nature of the work — which is both large and heavy, and nerve-wrackingly fragile — made it an especially challenging piece to finish. There were shattered bulbs, misaligned pieces, and the artists and their volunteers worked through the night to finish it before its opening reception.
“Perhaps our biggest epiphany while building New Moon was re-discovering the value of darkness, and its reciprocal relationship with light. This theme has been a recurring interest over the past year” said Brown.
Since working on New Moon, Brown and Garrett have been asking questions (literally) about the nature of darkness and people’s relationship to it. Their first interviewees were blindfolded (to experience artificial darkness), but later conversations took place more casually. They asked people about how they are affected by darkness and by living in places that are extremely dark in the winter. From these interviews the artists developed The Deep Dark and Night Blind.
The Deep Dark is a series of illuminated doorways along a 600-foot trail through the woods first set up at the Banff Centre in Banff, Canada (near Calgary), and later to Dawson City, Canada (a small, isolated town in the Yukon). Each of the 12 doorways is designed to project light in a single direction, so that a person walking towards one will move quickly from the light of the doorway to the darkness of the night beyond. “Human eyes will overcompensate for each state,” Brown explains, “and the viewer is temporarily night-blinded.” One can imagine how this might affect a person walking this path.
At the apex of winter, Dawson City can get as few as four hours of sunlight, and the sun stays so low to the horizon that the surrounding hills keeps the town in a perpetual shadow. One of the things the Brown and Garrett discovered in their interviews was that Dawson City residents didn’t think it got all that dark. Long dusks, starry skies — no, not that dark at all. This made the artists consider a new idea. “We became interested in the idea of darkness being lessened by total submersion – and the opposing thought that man-made separation from our surrounding environment actually makes the darkness darker,” Brown said. Out of this line of thought came Night Blind. This artwork is the illuminated frame of a house with a spinning window of light at its center.
Both of these light sculptures appear almost painfully bright in photographs, but this brightness works to highlight the darkness of the surrounding environment. Showing dualism, however, is not the end goal of Brown and Garrett’s work. “Dualism, like anything else, is an excellent entry-point to complexity. Dualism is iconic. Dualism elicits strong opinions from the viewer. But ultimately, we realize – and we think our viewers do too – that thinking of the world through a series of dualities is false. Sometimes duality unlocks multiplicity.”