The Power of Light

When my parents decided to move out of the house I grew up in, I was not only sad because it felt like I was losing a part of myself, but I also came to learn that I had never really known the extent of who they were stylistically. My childhood home was very traditional in nature and although we had modern furniture in it, I never realized the extent of how modern and eclectic my parent’s tastes were.

They moved into a house with tall vaulted white ceilings, open hardwood floors, and modern angled furniture. The little pops of color on the wall are created by my father’s photographs and watercolors they have proudly displayed on every wall.

Recently, I heard rumblings of these “cool LED” lights that my dad had bought off the internet and was going to install in their living room. Would they be bright enough, was my first thought. The light in the room tends to pour through the massive windows. If nothing else, it would be great at night. I couldn’t wait to see them as my dad was also excited they came with a remote that controlled them.

As we sat in the living room, the lighting, scrolling through its infinite colors, replaced the television. On every cycle, my mom would point out her favorite color by stating “I love the purple the best”. She repeated this sentiment no less than 10 times every time it cycled into that deep purply-blue color (also my favorite), until I finally said, “I know mom.” To which she replied to me, “Well it is!!”

And then it hit me. She was experiencing the simple and inherent magic you can feel when in a completely immersive environment. I had also experienced this when I first started at Bartha and was at my first show. The set was all white, and I didn’t quite know how it was all going to work, as it didn’t look like hardly anything at all. And when the show began, the lights in the room went off, and the stage came to life with endless colors and projections. It’s hard to explain that day what I felt and how my brain started to reel at the endless possibilities these shows could have through the manipulation of light, color and sound. It was a feeling that connected with me on a different level.

As a designer and artist, I’m always trying to re-capture that mysterious intimate connection that can be made: not only for our clients, but also for myself. After all, it is the environment that carries and amplifies the message. Artists and Architects have always known this. The ones that I find most invigorating are the ones who utilize and transform light. Light has that silent way of being dynamically evocative.

Chapel of Nôtre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp, France, by Architect Le Corbusier is one such example. A striking natural light show occurs inside the sculptural building through the small punched out windows.

Another great example of capturing the natural beauty of light and color is in Tom Fruin’s piece, Kolonihavehus.

While the events we work on are not permanent, but rather transient in nature, the same ideas and principles apply. Bring life into what you do and make it exciting. Harness your message in multiple engaging ways. Ways that can also be silently powerful like the utilization of light on a well designed set. Don’t underestimate the power that a well-executed immersive environment can bring to your show. Sometimes the message can also be found in the things that go unspoken.

⁠— Jessica Ingraham, Art Director

Jessica graduated in 2003 from OSU with a BFA in Art and Technology and graduated in 2005 from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago with a MFA in Art and Technology. She has been involved in such notable projects as The Crown Fountain in Chicago’s Millennium Park, and has worked as Art Director and lead stage designer for Bartha for the past 5 1/2 years.