A thin but deafening azure pierces the forest; a chorus of coral rings dance on the water’s edge; a bed of tangerine rondure bloom in the dew of dawn—light artist Barry Underwood doesn’t simply toss neon lights into the woods and photograph them; he carefully folds the glimmer into the nooks of each unspoiled landscape, convincing them to reveal their mysterious undertones.
To produce his captivating outdoor light installation series Scenes, Underwood carefully planned and assembled each of his displays onsite using a rainbow of LEDs and other luminescent material. Each piece was usually constructed, shot, and disassembled within a day’s time, allowing him to capture the intended temporary lightscape overnight.
But Underwood encourages the viewer to peer beyond the visual artifice. Within each tailored aura, he examines the colliding worlds of industrial production and the natural resources that our commodities are molded from. To support his project with authentic intonation, he researches the particular social and historical impact that each photographed location has on the surrounding ecosystem.
It was in 2007 though during his residency at the Banff Center for the Arts in Canada when he developed a more serious concern for the environment. Banff’s strong environmental awareness program caused Underwood to shift his attention towards such issues as pollution, land use, and climate change. Inspired further by the philosophy of conservationist John Muir, Underwood began to sculpt his installations towards a greater goal.
A subsequent series of artist residencies afforded him the time and space to reflect, research and develop his approach. One of his inspirations came from an artist-in-residence program at the Center for Land Use Interpretation in Utah near the Bonneville Salt Flats, where he became “increasingly aware of the ecological fragility of the salt flats and the desert ecosystem as a whole,” Underwood candidly told GARAKAMI.
Underwood current series Scenes is on display at the Sous Les Etoiles Gallery in NYC until July 12, 2014. His upcoming project titled Attractive Nuisance will further explore the effect of nonrenewable resource extraction on the surrounding ecological systems, with inspiration spanning from Alberta, Canada, to Florida’s Mangroves in Biscayne National Park, to the Louisiana Gulf region. Whether through profound stills of allegorical landscapes or illuminating public art installations, Underwood’s creations highlight the conscious balance necessary to sustain both human innovation and our only support system, nature.
Photos shown here with express written consent by Barry Underwood