“The pieces are dense,” Carol Cody, the IMA’s Lighting Designer, and I look down at her lighting plan for Hard Truths. “Visually, physically, conceptually—they’re dense.”
And it’s true. All of Dial’s paintings are 3-D so they present lighting challenges your average still life wouldn’t; but this exhibition makes no claims of being average and Carol has been doing lighting for 13 years. In fact, nearly every single light throughout the IMA galleries has been personally screwed-in by Carol Cody—that’s a lot of bulbs.
Dial’s show alone has around 500 fixtures. These lamps are chosen and adjusted after the pieces have been installed, giving it a final touch. Every light has a filter and Carol layers screens over lamps to dim them. She is part of the process from the beginning. The Lighting Designer has to collaborate with everyone else on the exhibition to “tell the story” as best as possible.
Carol took expert care in washing warm light into the room filled with work depicting the Southern Past. Bright light further excites Dial’s tributes to African American Yard Art and the creative spirit. Dimmer lamps kept the mood of the drawings room more restful. “I angled the light at the floor, with the light wood you get a lot of bounce and that way it doesn’t affect the art as much.”
Light exposure can degrade a piece of art, that’s why it’s regulated so closely and why you can’t take flash photography in a museum. Part of Carol’s job is understanding the conservation issues surrounding a work. The most difficult things to light are textiles and paper, because they’re more delicate and can fade. The easiest things to light are objects, especially stone or metal, which are hardier.
The role of lighting, as I understand, is to best display the message that is already being communicated. It takes care, precision and an aerial lift. Carol designs the lighting, as well as maintains it. With 10,000 square feet in the special exhibitions space alone, it’s a big job. But she keeps us out of the dark one bulb at a time.