Lights Off! An Argument Against Artificial Lighting

A series of installations, drawings, sculpture, and photographs.

“I see the light. I fear the light. I weaken the light.”

Plantlife, when interrupted by the works of man, suffers and struggles. It’s been said that the No. 1 pollutant impacting human life is artificial light—but the toll it takes on plant life is considerable.

Trees and plants depend on light—its quality and its intensity, and the dance between its presence and lack during a 24-hour photoperiod. Research out of Purdue University shows that a tree doesn’t care if the light comes from the sun or from artificial sources. All that matters are wavelength, brightness, and length.

As a modern-day urban gardener, I’m plugged in and information beams its way to me the courtesy of the internet. But I also take things into my own hands, intuitively constructing situations to depict tragedy in the rawest way, to engage the viewer in discussion, discovery, and solution.

My current work, “Lights Off! An Argument Against Artificial Lighting ” exists in the frisson between these two impulses—between scientific knowledge and the raw, organic way I learn by doing. It also explicitly examines how plant life is impeded by human artifice.

Over the last seven years living in the Little River and North Miami areas of Miami, I noticed areca palms failing and fading into sickly yellow, dying under the lash of artificial light. As an entry to discovery, I installed three 4’ by 2’ by 2’ vitrines with open tops in my yard. I meant to observe earth’s simple cycle of decomposition, watching organic debris interacting with random, found, man-made objects.

Each has drainage holes drilled in the bottom and is filled with garden stones. Another layer is constructed of shredded paperwork from a previous job at an art and performance nonprofit—poetically repurposed from some other subject that lured my attention. I then introduced natural debris like dried seedpods, leaves, branches and vines. Human works intruded too, in the form of broken glass, nails, and discarded bits of metal. Plants live and malinger in these created environments.

One chamber is filled only with inorganic material—a discarded garden hose, a broken hula hoop, a wooden retail prop. This chamber, in particular, represents zero growth—the product of street lighting rather than sunshine.

Each chamber creates a microcosm, a piece of land or property I own and control. My lifelong habit of gardening, personally and professionally, is reflected in the way I explore the questions that intrigue me. The artworks are a mélange of organic forms produced by nature, as well as what organically develops into the design for experimentation. Mixing. Matching. Activism.