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Light art is art that is created partially or entirely with one or more light sources. The art usually creates a specific image. In some cases, however, the light is used to create an overall artistic effect rather than to depict something else.
One of the oldest examples of light art is found in fireworks displays, which have been used in Asia for thousands of years. In the middle ages and renaissance, artists began using stained glass with regularity, such as is commonly found in cathedrals. Although the glass in itself is artistic, it does not truly come alive until the light from the sun shines through the glass, projecting the colors onto nearby floors and walls. Another good example is shadow puppetry. None of these forms of light art require any electricity, which makes them distinct from more modern light art.
Modern art using light generally uses some form of light bulb or diode to create an effect or image. Light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, are perhaps the most common light source artists use. This is largely because LEDs come in a wide palette of colors, and because LEDs are less expensive to replace and run compared to other bulbs. Other types of lights artists use frequently include strobe lights, strip lights and fiber optics.
A popular form of light art is laser lighting. This form of light art uses lasers, projected at different angles, to produce shapes and images. It often is used as an enhancing theatrical effect at concerts and similar events, although some artists put on laser light shows with the lighting as the primary focus. A related form of light art is light projection, in which the artist uses a projector to magnify a changing, real-time image and put it on a large surface such as a building wall. These are temporary forms of light art that do not leave any traces once the artist is done working.
Another type of art using light is light painting. This is a photography technique that uses long exposure to create and capture streams of light on film. Once the artist has done this, he can create as many prints of the resulting image as he wants, preserving the creation. It thus is a permanent form of light art.
Art utilizing light often involves displays constructed of intricate series of circuits and bulbs. These displays sometimes are created for a specific event, such as a store's grand opening. They also may be permanent fixtures, however, being incorporated directly into architecture. Neon store lights are an example of this kind of display art, as art light sculptures.
Art displays using light have two major technical considerations. First, the circuits upon which the display is based can wear out. When this happens, the entire display often needs to be taken apart so that the circuits can be repaired. The delicate nature of the circuits often requires specialized electricians, so repairs can be costly. Secondly, artists have to design their work so that the entire display does not stop working if one bulb goes out, and so that a bad bulb is easily accessible for replacement.
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