Connected \\ December 21, 2020
A foot candle is a unit of measurement for light intensity and refers to the amount of lumen per square foot. The limit for Made It was 5. An indoor retail store is in the 20s and daylight is 1000. Photo by Kathy Tarantola/PEM.
Scott refers to Made It: The Women Who Revolutionized Fashion as an extremely challenging project to light. (Currently on view at PEM through March 14, 2021). The close proximity of the mannequins, their poses and the platforms on which they are installed cast shadows and reflections in every direction. Very low light levels were necessary for preservation of the fabrics, which added to the complexity. Scott, Karen and Anna labored for 10 days to responsibly reveal the beauty of the ensembles while balancing the practical needs of a public space.
The Salem Witch Trials 1692. Photo by Kathy Tarantola/PEM.
The South Asian Art Gallery displays brightly colored paintings and three dimensional objects. Photo by Kathy Tarantola/PEM.
Other current exhibits such as The Salem Witch Trials 1692 and the newly installed South Asian Art gallery contain various object types requiring different approaches to lighting. Witch Trials displays paintings next to 328-year-old documents from the Phillips Library creating a complicated situation. Paintings pop with a higher intensity, which is detrimental to paper. The close proximity shown in the photo demands the expertise of sophisticated professionals who take the time to present and care for each object impacted by their work.
These two paintings by the artist Biren De appear illuminated from within due to the deliberate focus on the areas of the objects that give the sense of light. Photo by Angela Segalla. Left: Biren De, August ’78, 1978. Oil on canvas. Gift of the Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection, 2001. E301031. Right: Biren De, August '81, 1981. Oil on canvas. Gift of the Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection, 2001. E301030.
Today is the winter solstice. The darkest day of the darkest year many of us have ever endured. Due to the pandemic, it feels darker. People around the world experience the pain of loss and related uncertainty in a myriad of ways. PEM has too. Yet strength, determination and generosity endure and the staff at PEM have charged through numerous obstacles to offer the museum collection to a broad audience. We published a new guide to the collection, held countless online programs and installed six new exhibitions, four of which were created and designed during quarantine. Karen, Scott and the entire staff have given all of the light they have with the hope that it provides some of what the community and world needs.
Even now, we know that tomorrow the days will grow longer, new possibilities will present themselves, and PEM will be undeterred by circumstance. As civil and human rights activist Ella Baker reminds us, “Give light and people will find the way.”