Avant-garde artist uses glass, light for new medium

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A new exhibit featuring  “the first new art medium of the 21st century” is lighting up the University of Miami’s Lowe Art Museum through March 24.

“Stephen Knapp: New Light” is a collection of 12 luminous installations that transform light and glass into colorful pieces that appear to be painted.

The exhibit officially opened on Saturday at the museum on Stanford Drive. Admission is free to UM students, faculty and staff with Cane cards.

Each glass piece is strategically cut and placed to give the museum’s blank walls new meaning.

Visitors can spend time discovering how the reflection of the glass produces different colors and shapes projected on the walls.

Knapp uses light, treated glass and stainless steel mounts to create what he calls “Lightpaintings,” a word coined to describe his light-based installations.

“It is a gift to me, to have found and developed a medium that is so unique, that I can work with everyday and not run out of things to do,”  Knapp said at a Friday night preview of the exhibit.

Knapp, a Massachusetts native, began his career as a fine art photographer, but later realized photography was not enough.

Knapp, who had been fascinated with light all his life, found new beauty in the medium when he discovered new ways of manipulating light with glass.

Lowe Assistant Director Kara Schneiderman said the exhibit is a chance for students to experience truly unusual works of art.

“There’s the physics that goes into the planning of each piece, the engineering it takes to produce the raw materials, and the artistic mastery of getting the light to be the color he wants and form the lines and angles he needs for each installation,” Schneiderman said.

Senior Gabriel Baca said he enjoyed the exhibit.

“I really like the idea of using one light to create colorful images,” he said. “I haven’t seen that before.”

Schneiderman also said the museum has been a fan of Knapp’s work.

“This is the first exhibition we’ve had,” she said. “It was several years in the making and we’re so pleased with the end result of everyone’s hard work to make it happen.”

Schneiderman emphasized the significance of showcasing Knapp’s work.

“For the Lowe, it’s a chance to show the work of an artist who uses glass, but is not a glass artist like those featured in our contemporary glass gallery,” she said.

Knapp has earned an international reputation for large-scale works of art displayed in places such as museums, public, corporate and private collections.

He has solo museum exhibitions at the Boise Art Museum, the Chrysler Museum of Art and the Dayton Art Institute among others.

Knapp said he is just finishing up a 7,000-square-foot studio that was designed exclusively for Lightpaintings.

He plans to expand his craft by introducing text, patterns and symbols to new Lightpaintings.

“I can’t see myself stopping,” Knapp said at the preview. “I love evolution.”

The Lowe Art Museum is hosting Lightpaintings in conjunction with another exhibition showcasing the works of 39 distinct artists around the world.

The exhibit, which is called “Infinite Mirror: Images of American Identity,” will also be on display through March 24.

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