Monday, 28 October 2019 10:32

Head Toward the Light: Saugatuck Center for the Arts welcomes viewer participation with ‘Luminescence’

Written by  Megan Sarnacki
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"Umbra" by Simon Alexander-Adams at 'Luminescence.' "Umbra" by Simon Alexander-Adams at 'Luminescence.' Courtesy Photo

Most exhibitions enforce a strict NO TOUCHING policy. Saugatuck Center for the Arts is challenging the idea with Luminescence, an interactive installation that encourages viewers to become active participants.

“We wanted to incorporate the idea of play and how we interact with artwork,” said Whitney Valentine, exhibition and education manager for Saugatuck Center for the Arts. “Instead of keeping your hands in your pockets and just looking at art, we really wanted to expand the typical viewing experience and push those art-viewing boundaries away.”

Luminescence, the SCA’s first light-infused exhibit, is built around the work of artists Simon Alexander-Adams, Patrick Ethen, Annica Cuppetelli and Cristobal Mendoza. With at least two works from each on display, this technology-based art installation expands our definitions of how people view and play with art.

Alexander-Adams’ “Umbra” is one example of how participants’ presence activates the artwork on display. With this piece, viewers can construct the virtual projection by moving objects onto illuminated surfaces.

“You can pick up different items and then your emotions are relayed on the large projector,” Valentine said. “Even with multiple viewers at once, we can both be manipulating the artwork, but the visual installation will be projected (as one piece).”

Luminescence isn’t only featured indoors. Outside of the arts center, the entire garden area has been transformed into a massive installation of painted lumber, built to resemble one continuous and active line. Constructed by Jeremy Barnett and Jason Maracani, “Playful Spaces” will stick around through March, traveling throughout the SCA’s indoor and outdoor spaces.

“Imagine it crashing down into the ground and coming back up and resurfacing,” Valentine said. “They’re really creating a playful energy, so it will look like its moving or alive.”

“Playful Spaces” also has a control panel where viewers can manipulate the light showcased. Valentine recommends seeing this outdoor exhibition at night, when the contrast of light and dark will be most vivid.

Saugatuck Center for the Arts’ motivation for playing with art comes from wanting to develop strong relationships throughout
the community.

“Art is a vehicle for all kinds of things; for change, for learning and for building community,” Valentine said. “Art is a means for connection. A 2-year-old and an 80-year-old can enjoy a piece of artwork in here and talk about it without any barriers.”

Though exhibitions often focus on artists based on the west side of the state, Valentine felt it was time to showcase what east side artists such as Alexander-Adams, Ethen, Cuppetelli, and Mendoza can offer West Michigan schools and communities.

“You can create a lot of beautiful analogies with light and luminosity,” Valentine said.

“These artists have such an influence in Detroit right now that we wanted to give them the spotlight and get them in front of young students.”

Free tours and STEAM programs are available for all local schools, clubs, and nonprofit groups. Alexander-Adams and Ethen will be in town at the exhibit for a week in December for a sort of mini-residency, working on special school programming including classroom visits and exhibit tours.

“It’s a good way to really give students exposure to working creatively,” Valentine said. “There are not many opportunities to meet creatives like that. So that’s the role that the arts center is playing, where we can be a connector that places working creatives into classrooms.”

Saugatuck Center for the Arts
400 Culver St., Saugatuck
Oct. 18 – Dec. 20


Meet the Artists

Annica Cuppetelli and Cristobal Mendoza started collaborating as the Detroit-based Cuppetelli and Mendoza in 2010. Their work explores the elements of physicality and digital technology. Their installations aim to create sensual, immersive and dynamic experiences.

Patrick Ethen is a light artist and designer, currently on a residency with Texture Detroit. His work explores the intersection of technology and humanity, how analog and digital systems connect, and the process of mesmerization. Ethen uses physical objects and light in his work to display true visceral experiences that impact viewers on an emotional level.

Simon Alexander-Adams is a multimedia artist and designer in Detroit, specializing in the areas of music, visual arts, and technology. Inspired by nature and organic textures, his work includes real-time generative art, interactive installations, and audiovisual performances.

Jeremy Barnett and Jason Maracani both are educators and set designers. They’ve designed numerous sets for the nonprofit theater company Mason Street Warehouse at Saugatuck Center for the Art. They aim to collaborate on large-scale installations of organic forms created from unexpected materials.

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