How to light sculpture
Photons, Albedo, and Refraction -- How to Light My Work  

As you know, my artwork is light sculpture. It is by definition something that hangs on the wall and plays with light -- ambient, or direct light from light bulbs. This is stating the obvious, but it's important that the viewer/owner understand that BOTH of these states are considered when I am making markings on the metal surface. The strength of the piece is how it functions in all conditions.   

I'll speak about the work briefly, but if you want just bulb recommendations, skip down a few paragraphs.  

Ambient light on the surface is subtle -- the play of greens from a summer backyard, the wash of blues on a sunlit day, the tonalities in the work from the other artwork or furnishings in the room, the other lights in the room or from down the hall, a candle, the moon, even the sparkle of city lights, depending where you live. Skylights, a pool reflecting moving light, a television. The color of the shirt you are wearing. All of this is mixed and sent back to your eyes. I am controlling this reflection, and your world is my partner.  

Direct light is a totally different ballgame. This is the realm of precision and possibility, drama and dynamics. From the artist's perspective, you must shine a dedicated light at my work. I have been doing this long enough that the 2" diameter halogen bulbs called MR-16s were the state of the art over twenty years ago when I started this exploration. I still employ these bulbs in the gallery. And, many of my pieces are strongest in this clean and simple white light. But the newest bulbs on the market? Kaboom.  

The new bulbs on the market are technical masterpieces using 1/5th the energy and lasting the rest of your life. There are now LED bulbs that can shift anywhere from the warmth of an incandescent bulb (2700K color temperature) to daylight (6500K) and anything in between. It's fun to shine both ends of this spectrum on the same piece with a couple of bulbs. Although you are seeing only "white" light, there is a subtle golden warmth and brilliant chrome gleaming all at once. These same bulbs dim to almost nothing. I recommend using the largest, strongest bulbs available with your lighting just to have the greatest range. Make it bright even on a sunny day, if you like.  

These bulbs also have all the colors around a color wheel. They can be fully saturated with the color or color mixed with white light at the same time. They are fully dimmable in color mode as well. And they have a cycling program built-in where they will change continuously at a rate of change that is controllable. The bulbs are addressed with an inexpensive battery powered remote, which can control four separate bulbs individually. And the remote is only for changing what the bulbs are doing. When one walks in the room, simply hit the light switch to turn them on or off.  

As for the popular light bulbs on the market with big ad campaigns, Phillips Hue are expensive, decent bulbs, as are Lifx bulbs. These are controllable with your phone. There are bulbs available that receive direction via WiFi or Bluetooth. There are myriad cheap bulbs (<$15) on the web that come with a tiny remote. These are fun and work but generally don't offer a decent white setting AND none of these bulbs are bright enough. They are generally under five watts and their brightness under 400 lumens. After extensive testing, none of these (if you will pardon the phrase) hold a candle to the bulbs I like.  

MiLight or its affiliate MiBoxer offers bulbs in 9 watt, 15 watt or 25 watt. These are solidly constructed exterior spotlights. The lumens range from 700, 1200 to 1700. They come from the factory in a waterproof cast aluminum housing, powder coated black, with a glass face. The bulbs are 4.5" to 6" diameter. These don't exist on the market as interior fixtures, but I am modifying them here in the studio to plug into the standard two types of track lighting common on the market. They are controlled by an inexpensive and reliable remote. If you don't like the look of track lights, I can build for you a stand-alone ceiling fixture. This company makes an interior bulb that will retrofit into a standard ceiling can. Contact me for the specifics as the normal ceiling eyeball trims will not work. BUT, there are a couple options that work nicely. However, these are small, 2" diameter bulbs that only generate 300 lumens. The larger units are far superior.  

If you want a straightforward dimmable white spotlight bulb, the best I have found are made by Soraa. They have bulbs from very tight 9-degree narrow spots to 25-degree spots to floods in color temperatures from the warm 2700K to 6500K daylight. (I strongly prefer the 2700K). They are expensive but will last 30 years depending on use. Please give me a ring and we can chat regarding what will be best for your application. I can tell you what to buy or I can simply order them for you. I can advise regarding a complete set up, order and test the gear and link the lights and remote, interface with your electrician, and send everything you need to energize the work on your wall.  

Please, please contact me if you have my work and feel that it has never quite sung for you the way you thought it should. Or if you have been living with a piece and want to give it some fresh pop. I CAN HELP. It's imperative that my artwork in your home bring you joy. It can be as dynamic and dramatic as you like with the push of a couple small buttons. I built all the magic into each one of these pieces. Let's be certain they sing loud and clear or hum cheerfully or share your meditative moments. I have been helping folks light my work for decades and have lots of tricks. I can advise regarding placement in the room as well. This is important too, although the artwork is very forgiving regarding placement -- you just need to light the work. These are, after all, light sculptures. Pushing light around is my life's work. Well, in truth, making you feel some small notion of the sublime is the actual work.  

P.S. New research shows that visual processing, the largest sensory input we have, is 80% in the brain and only 20% actual visual input. This means we have tremendous leverage when we control that 20% precisely.  
Bruce R. MacDonald