Jeff Bartlett

“Merging the prowess of a master technician with the instincts of a poet” Linda Shapiro, City Pages, Artist of the Year citation

I truly “hear” my lights when I program them, recognizing rhythms, phrasing, tonality, and resonances. Light is a medium that should...

  • mold, shape, paint, and sculpt space, physically and emotionally
  • reveal and enhance inner aspects — story, intent, mood, tone — of the work being lit
  • create nuanced layers of intensity, color, and texture with expressive powers of their own

Photo by Ed Bock

Photo by Ed Bock

An award-winning stage lighting designer specializing in dance, I’ve collaborated with scores of artists in hundreds of performances over more than three decades. I wish to do with buildings what I have long done with dancers: use the expressive power of light to create evocative worlds in which they live and tell their stories; to reveal and transform their physical appearance, emotional qualities, inner mysteries.

For me, a building is a living breathing entity. The curve of a turret lifts toward the heavens and dissolves into the clouds. An edge of an arch is illuminated, and ushers you through an irresistible portal. A pool of darkness becomes a cauldron of color, then another and another till it fades again to stillness. My lighting animates architecture with color and movement, revealing existing beauty while adding additional layers of visual drama.

I compose the visual environment through techniques such as selective illumination; carefully-crafted use of color; direction/angle, size, distribution and textured (broken) light; variations in intensity…all programmed to shift over time.

A key aspect of my artistry is the way I program change: my individual approach to orchestrating the display into a coherent sequence of images — a moving light painting — carried forward by an internal logic and dramatic arc (abstract though they may be).

For example, many color-changing architectural installations are programmed through “effects.” Fixtures are given a looped series of fade commands; the resulting “pictures” emerge from the aggregated loops. My approach by contrast is firmly rooted in the theatrical cue-based model: pictures are the central point of programming. Individual looks are carefully constructed; the dynamic interplay comes as one cue fades into another. For me the cue-based model, while infinitely more time-consuming, gives much more precise and sophisticated control over the progression of images.

Three-dimensional form is also critical to my work. My particular interest lies not in lighting flat surfaces, but rather in “shape-shifting buildings” through a dynamic interplay of color and shadow. As light intersects form from an array of angles, physical appearance morphs and an apparently “permanent” façade can be seen to stretch and bend.

Light should engage and inspire the public by adding a new layer of visual experience to our night-time urban landscape.

Full Resume