Barry Underwood: Light Artist

Barry Underwood is a light artist who lives in Cleveland, Ohio. Aside from being an artist, Underwood is an associate professor in the Photo & Video Department at the Cleveland Institute of Art. At Indiana University Northwest in Gary, Underwood majored in theater and worked as a tech director for a year. Despite being offered a full-time position, Underwood went back to school to study photography at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. Once he graduated, he worked at Interlochen Arts Academy, where he found his art form by combining two things that he loved, photography and theater.

            Underwood is inspired by many mediums of art including land art, landscape photography, cinema, and painting. He was especially influenced by early theatrical training and methods of staged photography and set design. He views the land he’s using to create a piece as a set designer would view their stage. Underwood is particularly interested in the connection between man-made landscapes patterns and their cultural norms, as most of his recent works are in nature. Through his art, he is able to create both familiar yet surreal images. The familiarity comes from the Earth and the scenic locations of his art, yet the surrealism comes from the dynamic light he adds.

            One quote that describes what drives him well is “…curiosity about the ecological and social history of specific places drives my work.” Prior to making a piece, he immerses himself into the location and explores the social and ecological histories that have shaped the land. In addition, he researches local agricultural, industrial, and recreational use of the land. His work has focused on the impact that humans have on land, and how we’ve changed it.

            Based on the research that he does; each piece of art is location-specific. If needed, Underwood builds structures with rope and metal to create the path in which the light will follow. Underwood uses LED lights and luminescent materials such as fluorescent marking tape. To capture the picture, Underwood using a variety of different photographic techniques. Depending on his vision, the film can be exposed for anywhere between fifteen minutes and five hours. In addition, his prints use color negative film, which is best for true to life color. His work has been shown at the Sous Les Etoiles Gallery in New York City, and is in the Elton John Photo Collection, among others.

Cornfield, Sirna’s Farm (Diptych), 2013
Edgewater (Diptych), 2013
Headlands (outcrop), 2011
MOCA 8, 2012

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