Project Example: Sculpting with Light

AD 160: Physical Structures

Project Example: Sculpting with Light

Title of Project

Sculpting with Light

Methods and Concepts

Space: 2D/3D, volume, light, potential energy (thermal), entropy
planar/volumetric interpretation


Figure-ground, color (HSB), expressive color, shape (geometric, organic, rectilinear, curvilinear), gradient


Create a sculpture utilizing a mixture of colored translucent and opaque materials and an electric light source. Consider structures of light such as gradients of light across surface and cast shadows. The area of evaluation should be the projection of light on a surface, not the sculpture itself, the light energy becomes the emphasis.


Electric light – shop light, lamp, socket; low temperature light bulb – low wattage or fluorescent; translucent and opaque materials such as tissue paper, construction paper, poster board, illustration board, vellum, acrylic sheets, plexiglass; scissors and xacto knife; tape and adhesive; armature material such as pipe cleaners, wooden dowels, and wire; white projection surface such as foamcore or illustration board

Physical processes

1. Create a white projection surface. It can be a surface (such as illustration board) on a table, cove of bent substrate, a corner of 2 or 3 intersecting surfaces, or even a cube without one face.
2. Create a basic armature around the light source, a cube works fine. Keep in mind the size of the cube and the heat of the bulb… the materials should not be too close to the bulb to avoid burning.
3. Use cut shapes of various materials to design how light comes through the armature. Opaque materials will cast shadows, translucent materials will allow light diffuse light, and colored materials will shift the hue of the light.
4. The armature can be developed beyond a cube as necessary.
5. Modify the sculpture to take advantage of the projection surface – how do the shapes created by light change when light is cast on a flat surface versus a curved surface? The emphasis of the design should be on how light can create gradients (loss of energy) and how shadows create figures (lack of energy).

Critique approach

Self and group critique – Since only a few sculptures can be active at once, group around each. The creator should describe what he/she feels was successful in the interpretation of light energy (beyond “I liked it”). The group may comment to support or refute the statements made by the creator.

Return to the Project Examples