Artist Renders ‘East River Flows’ in Light Graffiti

Vicki DaSilva,
Vicki DaSilva, "East River Flow" (2014), East River Esplanade. Photo: Vicki DaSilva.

Pioneering light graffiti artist Vicki DaSilva brought her ephemeral work to the Upper East Side’s East River Esplanade last weekend, shooting her signature single-frame, long exposure photographs, tracing colored beams of light amid pedestrians enjoying a nighttime stroll along the river. The intervention, titled “East River Flows,” was curated by Savona Bailey-McClain of the West Harlem Art Fund.

In each photo, a translucent ribbon of colored light appears to float in the night sky, wrapping around people, who appear as dark silhouettes, and illuminating the bridges to the north. DaSilva creates her mesmerizing effects by using a camera, tripod, and fluorescent lights. As DaSilva “draws” with the battery-operated light, the artist told artnet News, “the camera is on a ‘bulb’ setting which allows the shutter to stay open for as long as I choose. The blue and pink color is added by taping photo gels around the lamps.”

She has been creating similar works, which she calls light paintings, around the world since 1980, including at such iconic landmarks as Paris’s Eiffel Tower. DaSilva also uses smaller bulbs to make text-based “light graffiti,” a term she is credited with coining.

Vicki DaSilva, "East River Flow" (2014), East River Esplanade. Photo: Vicki DaSilva.

Vicki DaSilva, “East River Flow” (2014), East River Esplanade. Photo: Vicki DaSilva.

Although the painterly light artworks are fleeting by nature, one of DaSilva’s images of the intervention will be installed as a banner at 116th Street on the esplanade come the fall, thanks to the city’s department of Parks & Recreation. Friends of the East River Esplanade, led by co-founder Jennifer Ratner, commissioned the project in the hope that a public artwork would bolster the organization’s efforts to raise awareness of the promenade’s much-needed repairs.

The West Harlem Art Fund has helped bring a variety of light-based art interventions and installations to Harlem this summer, including Bentley Meeker’s The “H” in Harlem.

Check out this video of DaSilva at work on the Esplanade:

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