Dylan Mortimer · Illuminate

The title of Dylan Mortimer’s installation, Illuminate, may be understood as a direction to the visitor, who must interact with the artworks to bring them to life with light. The gallery walls bear three large, simply designed abstract compositions – one blue, one gold, one silver – in circular or partially circular formats, their surfaces studded with Christmas lights (and, in one case, frosted white globe bulbs).

By approaching any of the three works closely, the visitor will trip a motion sensor that activates the lights. The viewer may then back up and enjoy this captivating Las Vegas-style spectacle, or – the urge seems almost irresistible – turn around and ask a friend to take his or her photo against the visually enchanting backdrop he or she has activated. After sixty seconds, the lights will go dark again.

While Mortimer’s installation may be enjoyed simply for its solicitation of visitor interaction and the undeniable visual pleasure it provides, the artist also invites recognition of deeper meaning by identifying the three artworks as haloes. Throughout the history of art and in many major world religions, including those of pagan Greece and Rome as well as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Christianity, holy persons have been represented with haloes, sometimes surrounding the entire body – the effect that Mortimer creates through his large wall-mounted works that encircle the visitor with light.

Referencing his exhibition, Mortimer states, "Illuminate is a site-specific installation that investigates the idea of the halo. For thousands of years, and in a variety of cultures, artists have rendered images of certain people with auras or halos - some form of light emanating from the body. The perception being that certain people have obtained a spiritual status that glows...that is put on display for others to see. Illuminate is an installation that features three wall mounted halos, and asks the question - how does one ‘earn’ a halo? What exactly causes one to be rendered in art history with a halo? The halos in this installation are each interactive - they have motion sensors and only light up when someone draws near to them. The viewer turns on the halo. In this sense, the halo is not activated until someone desires to do so. Thus, anyone can be a source of light - or Illuminate - if they so desire.”

Dylan Mortimer currently lives and works in Kansas City, Missouri. He received a BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute and an MFA from the School of Visual Arts, New York, New York. He has exhibited widely in Kansas City as well as nationally. Mortimer received the Americans for the Arts 2011 Public Art Network Year in Review Award, and in 2009, he was the recipient of Kansas City’s Charlotte Street Foundation award.