By Isaiah Negron
Art critics call him a visionary. With shows at the Whitney Museum of American Art and edgy downtown galleries like Gallery nine5, lighting artist Bentley Meeker has garnered wide acclaim for his unparalleled ability to use light as a means to convert physical spaces into illuminating works of art. “Light is the most powerful tool we have to create any feeling,” says Meeker.
His latest project, The “H” in Harlem in the culturally rich neighborhood of West Harlem, has had a major impact on the city’s arts scene. Over the past five years, the area has seen a rapid expansion of art, design and business. A Harlem resident himself, Meeker witnessed the transformation firsthand and was approached by community leaders seeking his involvement to help celebrate the vitality and cultural strength of the area and honor its legacy. From these requests was born the idea to create a large-scale, public art installation titled The “H” in Harlem, the largest artistic structure ever to grace the iconic neighborhood.
Meeker’s project illuminated the area from June into the Fall with a giant letter “H” surrounded by an oval, aluminium truss and suspended from the viaduct at 12th Avenue and 125th Street. The oval was comprised of 30 white LED lights while the “H” itself was lit by white full spectrum plasma lighting fixtures. “The ‘H’ in Harlem provided a bold creative statement that became a city-wide beacon for everything that makes West Harlem, and Harlem at large, great,” says Meeker. “But most importantly, it brought attention to a community that is eager to embrace economic growth and positive social change while still celebrating its cultural heritage, diversity and strength. The gift that it was intended to be was the gift it was received as.”
Growing up between the United States, the Bahamas and Canada, Meeker was exposed to various forms of luminosity from around the world. He was 14 when he moved to Manhattan and his passion for light was born. This love affair with light eventually led him to establish his own company, Bentley Meeker Lighting and Staging, Inc., which will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2015. Meeker has built the company into one of the leading lighting firms in the world. He and his team have lent their talents to some of the city’s most distinguished venues including the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of Natural History and Lincoln Center. Be it the weddings of Robert De Niro to Grace Hightower or Catherine Zeta Jones to Michael Douglas, New York Fashion Week runway shows, movie premieres or gala benefits for the American Ballet Theater and the New York Philharmonic, Meeker creates unforgettable lighting through creative design to the production of a brilliant event. He explains, “Light creates the environment, and the environment creates the mood, and the mood creates the experience.”
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