Artful Bliss at MassMoCA

Caroline and Thomas celebrated their love for each other, for their friends, for their families, and for all things artful, bohemian, joyful, simple, and real in this heartwarming celebration at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art on a beautiful day in May.
Caroline and Thomas dancing

Caroline & Thomas in the Sol LeWitt exhibit (at right)
MassMoCA’s home is the sprawling former campus of the textile company Arnold Print Works and later the Sprague Electric Company, which was once upon a time the largest employer in North Adams, but closed its domestic factories in the eighties when economic realities demanded it manufacture its goods overseas in order to survive.  Vacant for more than a decade, the huge collection of industrial brick buildings now thrives in its third role: That of the largest contemporary art museum in the country.

Caroline & Thomas crossing a bridge at MassMoCA
During the daytime, the museum’s cavernous brick buildings are brought to life by natural light that pours in through giant windows and skylights. A large part of my job as their lighting designer was to know when to stay out of the way and let the museum and mother nature design the lighting.
Natural light at MassMoCA
Caroline and Thomas set their ceremony nestled amongst the labyrinth of mural-sized paintings on gossamer tulle by artist Izhar Patkin, a part of his exhibit Izhar Patkin: The Wandering Veil, then on display in MassMoCA’s largest gallery, Building 5.
Caroline and Thomas in The Wandering Veil exhibit
During our first meeting at MassMoCA I learned two key pieces of information about Caroline and Thomas’s relationship to the museum.  First, they chose Building 8–a long, narrow gallery with 15 huge windows on each side–as the setting for their dinner and dancing in part because its windows look out onto the Hoosac River where it passes through the factory campus, sparkling in the sunlight.  Despite being contained in a concrete chute to prevent floods, it still manages to be beautiful: a quirky collaboration of nature and industry.


The Hoosic River and Building 8


Stating the Real Sublime by Rosa BarbaSecond, they loved a particular piece of art that was then on display in the exhibit The Dying of the Light: Film as Medium and Metaphor.  Rosa Barba’s Stating the Real Sublime  featured a modified 16mm projector that was suspended by the very film loop it projected, which wound through pulleys attached to the ceiling rather than through reels on the projector.


The motions of the suspended projector were amplified by the slight stretch in the film and the bump of the loop seam as it wound its way through the machine, causing the projector–and the projected white square of light on a white wall–to have a subtle, self-generated, slow and organic-feeling rise and fall: A simple, beautiful image created by crossing industrial motion with natural motion.
Hmmm…. Could I use these two facets of MassMoCA’s appeal to Caroline and Thomas, both of which find beauty in a combination of nature and industry, as my inspiration for the lighting design for dinner and dancing in Building 8?
On a hunch, I proposed to create a mechanically produced moving projection of white light on the blank white wall at the end of their dance floor.  I wanted the appearance of sunlight reflecting off of the river, with soft-focused patches of light that shifted slowly and organically.  I set up a prototype in my studio in the Eclipse Mill in North Adams (another former factory reinvented as an artists’ space!).  We tried out various gobos in a double gobo rotator mounted in a Source Four leko, and chose the combination of patterns that most reminded all of us of light reflecting off of water.  The amorphous pattern provided a lovely backdrop for the speeches given during dinner, as well as for this lovely photo of the wedding cake:
Seitel Lighting LLC's abstract projection on the wall of Building 8
Simple bistro lights and florist Crocus Hale’s minimalist hanging leafy branches and table flowers in glass bottles completed the look of the room.
Flowers and branches by Crocus Hale
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After dinner, we dimmed the bistro lights and the celebrants took to the dance floor, grooving with the motion of the light on the wall.
Amorphous slowly moving light installation
Dancing in the light
These scale plan and section drawings illustrate the layout of the bistro lights above the tables and dance floor and the location of the leko producing the moving pattern.  I consider it vital to figure all of this out very carefully in advance so my clients–and the caterers and other vendors–know exactly what to expect.  I also just really take pride and enjoyment in drafting excellent scale drawings of interesting spaces.

C&T Lighting Design Plan & Section

This down-to-earth couple couldn’t have picked a more fitting setting for their wedding than MassMoCA. The museum’s art, set in an environment of industrial beauty with a sense of deep history, ask the questions: What is real?  What is now?  What is vital?  What is thought-provoking? What is beautiful?  This photograph is, to me, poignant proof that this couple’s love is all of that.  You just KNOW this was an amazing wedding… and it’s going to be an amazing marriage.
Bridesmaids having a moment...
A heartfelt thanks to Josh Goleman for sharing his powerful images.
C&T 8 js for web


Photography by Josh Goleman of the Wedding Artists Collective

Catering by Mezze Catering

Flowers and suspended branches by Crocus Hale

Cake by Momofuku Milk Bar