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Light in art is a concept that threads through our experience as artists as well as throughout our lives from the moment of birth.

My solo art exhibition of twenty five large scale paintings, The Map and the Territory, at the Marjorie Evans Gallery in Carmel, California contained a surreal surprise.

Full Circle: From Shadows to Nuances in a Power Failure

Life truly imitated art when half an hour into the reception as daylight was fading the lights went out!

A tree in the Carmel Forest fell on a power line, answering the question, ‘What happens when a tree falls in the woods and nobody is there to hear it?”

What unfolded for the next half hour in the darkness made the night unforgettable and reminded me of my long, circuitous art journey.

Years ago, I was a radiologist.

I found radiology to be very visual, logical and linear. It was about shadows on films and recognizing patterns.

Soon, though, I realized that radiology was too constraining for my temperament and I turned to psychiatry which I found to be more relational, intuitive, and creative.

From Shadows To Nuances

Changing direction from radiology to psychiatry, though seemingly unrelated on the surface, was in fact simply moving ‘from shadows to nuances’ as John Shillito a neurosurgeon and eminence grise at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston told me at the time.

This stepping into the mystery, allowing ambiguity, and experiencing ‘not knowing’ was similar to my new experience of painting at the time. As my study of psychiatry deepened, my painting journey took off.

The night the lights failed, it occurred to me and my partner, physicist Dr. Bruce Sawhill, that radiology requires a great deal of electrical power and furthermore every branch of medicine with the exception of psychiatry requires power and machines.

Experiencing the suddenly darkened exhibition was reminiscent of reading x rays in the darkened, subterranean catacombs of the radiology department.

Gallery visitors spontaneously produced their cell phones from coats, pockets and purses. Clusters of viewers joined together to shed their lights onto the exhibition. Pondering paintings with these tiny lights felt similar to doctors attempting to divine the ineffable inner workings of the human body with xrays. Each beam of light illuminated only parts of the body of the painting, and that imperfectly.

I realized that a few dozen cell phones cast a surprising amount of light!

It was like the Middle Ages where people used candlelight to discern the images before them in the dark vaults of the cathedral.

The inventiveness, imagination, and creative problem solving of the viewers was a delight to behold as the art became participatory and came full circle as art imitated life.

At that moment, I began to see the disparate strands of my life knit together.

I began to see the power of light threading through life in both spiritual and secular texts across time: Let there be light. Light of my life. Don’t hide your light behind a bush.

After this experience, I asked Bruce to research how to light a studio space that’s dingy and dark…the typical bedroom many artists use for their art

Bruce found out how the British Museum and the  Vatican light their spaces and translated it for the rest of us. He’s come up with a solution that has transformed two of my studios from shadowy to spectacularly Refawash in light.

Bruce has a brand new course, Light Your Studio Like A Pro   where he shows you how to transform even the darkest space into a light filled room using the same technology as the pros in museums.

Check it out HERE.




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