Using LED Light to Create Artwork

Portland art gallery creates sculptural LED art.

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Artwork created with Light
Oh! So Pretty by Dave Meeker. Photo by Randall Whitehead.

The idea of light as art is not new. There was Dan Flavin who used fluorescent lighting and there is James Turrell who uses natural light.  Plus, there is plenty of neon art, but the idea of using LEDs as the source of illumination in an art piece is new to me.

I went to see a gallery show in Portland, Oregon.The artist is Dave Meeker. His light sculptures are quite alluring. You can’t help but be drawn in by them. They remind me of Mondrian paintings with their grid layout and the color blocking.  Yet, I believe that they fall into a category all their own.

The artist uses cool color LEDs, then incorporates theatrical gel material to create these intricate overlays of color. Some of the sculptures are quite strong and visually arresting, while others use a more subtle color palette to evoke the seasons. At least, that’s how I felt. Art should be open to interpretation. Successful art provokes an emotion. We don’t need to be told how we feel when experiencing a piece of art.  That is the beauty of it. And it doesn’t always have to be good feelings. It could be despair … or even anger. 

The sculpture on the left reminded me of spring. I saw at daffodils, tulips, lilacs and irises. The light sculpture on their right was very commanding. It uses deep saturated blues with a swatch of crimson red. Even though the sculptures were related in style they each have their own visual presence.

Left: Escape into Beauty. Right: Getting Warmer. Art by Dave Meeker, photo by Randall Whitehead.
Left: Escape into Beauty. Right: Getting Warmer. Art by Dave Meeker, photo by Randall Whitehead.

Look at how the artist uses overlays of color to create a patterning which has a surprising amount of depth and complexity.  Even the negative spaces have their own sense of place within the sculpture.

Here is what Dave Meeker has to say about his work, “I want people to take a moment to daydream. Put their phones down and focus on not focusing. Take the long view that leads to clearer insight and better understanding. Ladders is an exhibition about casting light on dark times. Here, in winter, with a stiff political breeze adding to the chill, these pieces offer an escape hatch. I’m proposing an escape into beauty. Leave the dark behind; let your eyes adjust to the color and intensity of the light. Ladders can take us to a higher vantage by extending reach and offering new sight lines. The climb may not be easy, but we are up to it. I’m asking viewers to escape with me by letting light, color, beauty lead the way. Together we can help each other climb out of this dark alien place. Let’s get going.”

Laddie with a Pladdie. Artist: Dave Meeker. Photo: Randall Whitehead
Laddie with a Pladdie. Artist: Dave Meeker. Photo: Randall Whitehead

The sculptures only sit only three inches off the wall, but the sense of depth feels much greater.  I found the pieces to be quite entrancing. It is thrilling to think that something as utilitarian as LED’s can be transformed into art.  I look forward to seeing more from this artist. 

Fire Escape. Artist: Dave Meeker. Photo: Randall Whitehead
Fire Escape. Artist: Dave Meeker. Photo: Randall Whitehead


Randall Whitehead headshot

Randall Whitehead, IALD, is a professional lighting designer and author. His books include "Residential Lighting, A Practical Guide." Whitehead has worked on projects worldwide, appeared on the Discovery Channel, HGTV and CNN, and he is regular guest on Martha Stewart Living Radio. Visit his website for more information on books, upcoming seminars and the latest lighting trends.

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