“There’s a certain Slant of light” is the first line of a poem of the same name written by American poet and writer Emily Dickinson back in 1861. The poem likens winter sunlight to cathedral music and considers the spiritual effects of the light. Light has been a theme throughout history for poets, writers and artists, and Peruvian-American artist Grimanesa Amorós has taken this theme to an experiential level. More than using light to illuminate her work, light is her main medium, which she controls through a complicated and intricate proprietary computer system that allows her to choreograph rays of light in various color hues to hypnotic music. This interdisciplinary artist is known for her large-scale light sculpture installations that incorporate elements from sculpture, video, drawings, printing and technology to create site-specific installations that engage architecture and captivate viewers. Amorós’s ephemeral and transcendent works reflect her Peruvian heritage and the communities where the artwork lives, and aims to bring communities together and build a bridge between the past, present and future.
Portrait by Tatijana Shoan
AS IF: Do you remember your first work that made you say, I am an artist?
Grimanesa Amorós: Yes, I remember it correctly. I was ten years old, and I used to stay up very late creating maps because my dream was to visit all the continents. My mother realized that I was staying up very late at night, creating, so she put me into classes to learn how to oil paint. The first piece I did was a landscape of mountains and clouds.
Do you still have that painting?
I do! I actually gave it as a present to my sister.
You started working as an artist using paint, it evolved into sculpture and paper making that you still use in your work. The evolution continued into what we see today with light. Tell me how light became your main medium.
In 2000, I traveled to Iceland and saw the natural phenomena of the Northern Lights; this experience forever changed me. I had my camera next to me and decided to experience the moment not through the lens of a camera, but by soaking it in and I was mesmerized by the beauty. There can be a detachment through the camera, and I wanted to live the moment immediately and be engulfed by it. That's how I began my exploration with light. My fascination with light stems from how it evolves by the second, and light has no master; it simply is.
Light is ephemeral, and I love the fact that every person can connect to it—people have a relationship and attachment to light. I am fascinated by the speed of light. There are many elements, qualities, and characteristics of light that make it so enchanting. I became obsessed with light, and that is the reason I started working with it.