For a while now, I have been researching the effects of artificial light on our environment, from migration disruption, to sleep deprivation. This notion that light is “good “ is a defining theme in our culture running unbridled throughout our landscapes. Yet all of this light is consuming our energy and disrupting our bodies, like the way blue light inhibits the production of melatonin. There is also a heavy impact on the environment as pollinating insects can’t fulfill their nightly duties, nocturnal animals scurry out from their homes exposed, and migrating birds fatally crash into buildings, just to name a few of these issues.
I myself live in a very urban setting with tons of street lights glaring, not just on the street below, but all around, in people’s windows, and up into the night sky. My neighbors have motion censored spot lights in their back yards to scare off any criminals that might be lurking. And I myself sleep with a sleep mask to keep the light from an endless stream of emergency vehicles from disturbing my sleep. And then I wondered. Will our nights eventually look like our days? Will the sunlight that touches our natural and unnatural environments no longer be contrasted by the dark? Will we continue to fight those scary things that lurk in the night with more and more artificial light until we banish the dark completely?
And so this most recent body of work has stemmed from this notion, not of light and dark, but of light and more light. As a dog owner, I walk my neighborhood several times per day, and while out, I have been picking pieces of the urban flora from my neighbors yards. When I began this body of work, I gave myself a couple constraints. One is that the urban flora is cast in sterling silver and somehow manipulated after casting. The other is that the gold components are fabricated and imposed into the silver for a clean, almost manufactured effect. I used 14k yellow gold (instead of a high karat gold) to keep the contrast with the silver low. I wanted it to follow this concept that, someday, our nights will be so lacking in contrast that we might not be able to see the difference between midday and midnight.
Last week I spent a couple hours driving around Seattle on a crisp fall day with my windows down and my heater up. I was taking in the sights and smells of the city as I documented my short journey. But my day didn’t start with the city, It began in a search for the changing colors of fall. I immediately found myself bored of the idea and driving further into the city instead of away. As I drove, I noticed a pop of color and took a photo, kept driving, and then snapped another, and another. My aimless wandering for fall colors had become an intense search for color studies all over the city. Sometimes it’s amazing to see what happens when you sit back and let the creative process lead the way, and color is the thing that happened to me that day.
One of my favorite things about spring right now is taking a closer look at the details of how plants grow. There are repeating shapes and overlapping patterns that make my math side giddy. And yet, I have so much reverence and quiet interest in these building blocks of life. It takes a surprising amount of quiet and stillness to take a macro photo like this one, and every time the wind blows my patience is tested. But I keep going back because I always see something new. It feels like this level of awareness somehow will make me a better artist. Even if it doesn’t, I feel like I am becoming a more curious and compassionate human being.
One of my favorite things about fall in the Pacific Northwest is the fog. I am typically an early riser, loving the calm of the morning. But on the mornings when I look out and see fog, I lose all sense of calm, dragging my partner from bed with more enthusiasm than he is ready for. I just want to be first to our front row view of this magical haze.
If the fog is really thick and it doesn’t look like the sun is burning it away too quickly, we make coffee to-go to help with the shock of the cold morning air. But most mornings, there isn’t time. We rush down to Lake Washington as fast as we can to catch a glimpse of the thick fog hanging over the lake, gently lifting and dissipating with the rise of the sun.
When the show over and the sun is hanging in the sky, we drift home to start our day.
The Washington Post recently posted this Article about the health effect of LED lights. It is exciting to see that the conversation around nighttime artificial light is picking up momentum. This article focuses in on Seattle, the city in which I live, and the discussion around how bright our new LED street lights are. Some critics argue these LEDs are without health risks unless there is long exposer, but isn’t that what we are talking about with a street light that will have a 15 year shelf life?
And of course we have to make the focus about immediate health concerns, because issues that this intense type of light poses on the environment is much too abstract and far in the future to worry about it right now. The article touches lightly on this point, but maneuvers quickly through it.