Drawn to Light

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“Drawn to Light”; Rice paper, Bees wax, Paper butterflies with poetry, Sufi poetry books; 30´ W x 35´H

This site-specific installation for the Fullerton Art Museum in San Bernadino, California consisted of covering the windows of the museum’s lobby with a very thin layer of overlapping pieces of rice paper cut in various sizes to resemble the pages of books. This layer of rice paper was then coated with multiple layers of melted bees wax, creating a “stained” (glass) look as the bees wax dried in driplets. Covering the windows, at random locations, were 3000 paper butterflies that had been cut out of pages of Sufi poetry. Each butterfly was dipped in melted bees wax, and depending on the length of time they were left in the wax, they burned and discolored to varying degrees. In addition, there were a number of Sufi poetry books provided on a low table next to the windows and, several of these books had a hole cut into them in the same shape as the butterflies on the windows.

This piece was composed in such a way that it could be approached, interpreted and understood on several layers, yet all the layers would also be related within one larger whole. Architecturally, a corner in a building is defined as a place where the ceiling, floor and the walls come together. Similarly, “taking up a corner” (in Sufism) metaphorically implies bringing and gathering all of ones (dispersed) forces, and focusing them onto one single point/ corner. This point in relation to the human being could be understood as the “corner stone” of one´s existence/ the heart. The poetry books have also gathered in this corner just as the words had gathered in the hearts of the mystics who wrote them. Here, the poems as words of inspiration have taken up wings, and as butterflies are pursuing a journey towards the light beyond the windows, just in the same way that actual butterflies/ moths are drawn to sources of light.

Another approach to this installation could be taken by examining the poetic interpretation of the windows. Windows in architecture are openings through which one can see the light. This light however is colored by the glass that is used in the window, and for us to see the light without any color or shade we would need to go beyond the glass and the window. Similarly, books/ text and language can be seen as windows showing us glimpses of the light of knowledge. These windows too, are tinted and stained with (subjective) words and language which in a sense alters our perception, understanding and experience of the actual “light”. Words (beyond the realm of information), can, at best, inspire a notion of longing for knowledge, but do not contain the knowledge. For one to see the light, one would need to clean the stains off the glass and to even go beyond the window, if one yearns to experience what the light truly is.