Lightswitch and HYBYCOZO explore interplay of light and sculpture at The Paine Art Center and Gardens

Light has a unique ability to move us in unexpected ways and nowhere will you find that more true than at The Nature of Light: An Exploration After Dark at The Paine Art Center and Gardens, in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The new immersive nighttime experience—created by visual design practice Lightswitch in partnership with art sculpture studio HYBYCOZO and the Paine—uses a host of Elation Professional fixtures in a number of evocative and transformative outdoor environments.

For nearly a decade, HYBYCOZO and Lightswitch have partnered on art installations and experiences but The Nature of Light: An Exploration After Dark is their first collaboration on a major large-scale exhibition. The Nature of Light features a collection of carefully curated experiences throughout the estate and grounds, spectacularly lit indoor and outdoor environments that incorporate more than 50 unique sculptures.

Light, art and nature

The project began when Aaron Sherer, Executive Director at the Paine, approached Lightswitch Principal John Featherstone with an interesting idea. Familiar with Lightswitch’s work on Illumination–Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum in Illinois, Sherer wanted to highlight the Paine’s Tudor-style mansion and beautiful botanical gardens in a unique way yet wanted something different from the annual holiday-centered light installations. His vision was to create an exclusive, one-off experience centered around light, art and nature in a way that celebrated the Paine’s grounds.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and beloved by the community, the English-inspired country estate is just over 3 acres in size. The modest size of the grounds allowed Lightswitch to create a compact, intimate and wholly exceptional outdoor experience. The design firm had the opportunity to explore the lighting of the inside of the mansion as well.

Landscape and mansion illumination

The garden designs are essentially a number of outdoor “rooms.” Like the Paine mansion’s rooms and galleries, the gardens are designed to create a variety of intimate and grand settings. The Nature of Light allows visitors to revel in the play of color and texture on native Wisconsin trees and shrubs and celebrate the inherent beauty of geometric form and pattern, light and shadow. Here, Lightswitch has illuminated the landscape—flora, trees, arbor, and water features—along with large-scale geometric works of art by HYBYCOZO, using a mix of Arena Q7 Zoom™ LED PAR lights, Seven PAR 7IP™ LED PAR wash luminaires, and Proteus Rayzor 760™ LED wash effects fixtures.

The mansion itself is lit using SixBar 1000IP™ linear LED bars while spread around the building are five Proteus Excaliburs™, ultra-narrow 0.8-degree power beam lights that Featherstone uses to project dense beams of vertical light into the sky. “The Excaliburs echo and extend the form of the five historic chimneys of the building,” he explains. At a formal garden at the end of the guests’ journey, Proteus Hybrid™ moving heads provide a sky beam show by describing patterns into the night sky while at another part of the property Colour 5 Profile™ ellipsoidals outfitted with gobos created with HYBYCOZO turn the ceiling of a tent into a giant kaleidoscope. Intelligent Lighting Creations (ILC) supplied all of the Elation lighting for The Nature of Light.

Inside, the mansion is furnished with period pieces and is staged so authentically it feels as if the family has just left. Here, the design team lit the rooms “as if some kind of mad scientist lighting guru lived in the mansion” according to Featherstone. In one room, very narrow frequency LED fixtures create a monochrome look that strips all the color out of the room while in another area light is used to explore gender stereotypes, and much more. “There are lots of interesting ways that we’re inviting people to explore the way they see things,” Featherstone concludes.

The Nature of Light: An Exploration After Dark runs at The Paine Art Center and Gardens in Oshkosh until October 30, 2022.

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