Keith Lemley, Installation view of Penumbral
“My work is about seeing the unseen – the invisible presence which exists in our minds and surrounds all objects, experiences, and memories.” In an effort to draw what is unseen using three-dimensional space, Keith Lemley constructed geometric shapes using neon lights. Shades of green, lavender, blue, gold, red, and white form a striking piece reminiscent of a deconstructed Rubik’s Cube or a constellation map. Working with neons, the color and shape possibilities are endless. Neon lights use shaping techniques similar to glass-blowing, and while any shape or angle can be achieved, Lemley constructed his piece using only straight geometric lights.
For the sculpture Penumbral, Lemley expresses a drive to unite nature and architecture. He explores an underlying geometry that is ubiquitous yet invisible in nature. French and American mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot, also known as the father of Fractal Geometry, suggested through his studies that the application of geometry transcends human-created structures; for example, mountains are not symmetric cones and light does not travel in a straight line.
Keith Lemley, Penumbral detail
The perception of reality sparked by Mandelbrot’s work synthesizes the worlds of nature and man. Familiar with Mandelbrot’s studies, Lemley says, “I was interested in scientific research connecting disparate parts of the universe through underlying geometry, and this influences my angular neon installations that unify spaces through light, color, and line. More captivating than the actual geometric theories is the process of experimentation and discovery shared by scientists and artists alike. I am intrigued by the next set of questions each installation poses and the challenge of uniting materials, light, and architecture within each body of work.”
Penumbrual is rooted in the word “penumbra,” which refers to a region of half shadow resulting from the partial obstruction of light by an opaque object. When applied to art, the term describes the area in which light and shade blend. In astronomy, penumbra refers to a partial shadow between regions of full shadow (the umbra) and full illumination, especially as cast by Earth, the Moon, or another body during an eclipse. These meanings circle back to the concept of Lemley’s exhibition. The sculpture casts shadows upon the walls of the gallery space while the multi-colored bars of light illuminate the room with a white glow. Beyond the literal representation of shadow and light, the piece imaginatively reveals connections between organic structures, the “unseen,” and the man-made world through geometric shapes. The result is a beautiful marriage of art and mathematics. Passers-by can experience the lightsaber-like glow of Lemley’s dramatic exhibit through the expansive gallery window, an invitation to come in and explore a contemporary, innovative perspective.