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VisArts to Light Up the Holidays

Art and science unite in exhibit that opens Wednesday at Rockville Town Square.

Six months ago, as Artist of the Light Roisin Fitzpatrick was creating her Newgrange series to celebrate her Celtic heritage, curator Nancy Nesvet was putting together a holiday exhibition to celebrate the magic of light.

Wednesday—the date of the opening reception of "Lights Up!" in the Kaplan Gallery at VisArts—is also the night of the winter solstice, when the sun is low enough to illuminate the chamber at the end of a low passageway at Newgrange, a prehistoric site in Ireland that is 1,000 years older than Stonehenge.

The "Lights Up!" opening reception, from 7 to 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday, will feature an address by Michael Collins, the Irish Ambassador to the United States, who will introduce Fitzpatrick and her work. It also will include live music and a Hannukah candle lighting, as well as interactive hands-on activities explaining various light phenomena, including reflection, refraction, polarization and diffraction.

The Irish-born Fitzpatrick became Artist of the Light after a near-death experience from a brain aneurysm.

"I know it sounds a bit strange, but I was fortunate enough to have a near death experience, because it allowed me literally to connect with the beauty of the light," Fitzpatrick said. Fitzpatrick sews clear Swarosvki crystals onto natural undyed silk, rendering luminescent cosmic and symbolic fractal patterns such as the Whirlpool Galaxy, the Trinity, the spirals at Newgrange, spider webs and snowflakes.

Fitzpatrick is a former United Nations, European Commission and European Bank for Reconstruction employee, and her artwork was recently shown at the Consulate General of Ireland in New York. She has held six exhibitions in New York and her work is in the private collections of television producer Mark Burnett and actress Roma Downey. She has received endorsements from Deepak Chopra and several members of the Irish-American diaspora.

"The exhibition is a marriage of art and science," Nesvet said. "It is apporpriate for children of all ages."

The Rockville Science Center is a co-sponsor of "Lights Up!" and is organizing a daily lecture series by Ralph Bunday, a physics teacher at in Silver Spring. The lecture series is titled "The Nature of Light and How We Experience It" and is featured daily at 2 p.m. Accompanying hands-on activities take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Dec. 27-30  and From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Dec. 31.

Additional artists in the exhibition include Thomas Cummins and Elliot Williams.

Cummins is an architectural photographer based in Texas. His photography is presented on duraclear film as part of a light box and features a dual-perspective night shot of a church in San Antonio, Texas. Through his lens, the artist portrays constructed spaces as fundamentally social and reflective of our inner-selves.

Williams is a laser artist who creates light projections by using laser beams and spinning mirrors. According to his artist's statement, the projections are an experiment with visual memory, which allows us to convert fast-moving particles of light into apparently static shapes.

Parabolic mirrors, makeshift kaleidoscopes, light prisms and many other devices for interpreting light are also a part of the exhibition.

"I always wanted to do an exhibit on light," Nesvet said." This is a true collaboration between artists and scientists and appropriate for the time of year."

The show runs through Jan. 12.

Exhibit hours are:

Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Saturday, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.;
Sunday, noon - 5 p.m.

Special holiday hours are:
Dec. 24, 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.;
Dec. 25 and 26 and Jan. 1, closed;
Dec. 31, 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.;
Jan. 2, noon - 5 p.m.           

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