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Stephen White

In The Beginning

"Luminessence," the essence of light, the designing and building of original handcrafted light sculptures began for me over 40 years ago.  A degree in architecture from Carnegie Tech in Pittsburgh lead me in the direction of a professional "artistic" career, but a four year tour in the Air Force put a temporary stop to that journey.  What seemed to be an unfortunate delay on one level became a fortuitous promise on another.  It was during this time that my need for creative expression opened me to designing in other mediums.

The old adage, "Necessity is the mother of invention" is an appropriate description of how this work began for me.  It was basically the need for a lighting fixture for my own home that led me to create my first work in this medium. The materials I began with were paper and wood.  Now, years later, despite a few refinements in technique and many explorations in design form, the materials are still paper and wood, and the essence of that first piece is still evident in my work today.


My final 13 months in the Air Force gave me additional time and impetus for developing a strong foundation in my work with light sculpture.  A remote radar site above the Arctic Circle in Alaska where I was stationed was the setting.  Long walks along the sea coast and over the seemingly barren yet strangely wonderful arctic terrain were further inspirations to my newly forming creative urges.

It was in this remote location that I created my first collection of 18 works, which at the time I called "lanterns" after oriental works in similar mediums, and displayed them in a one-man show at the Rogue’s Gallery in Anchorage.  They were an exciting mixture of rectilinear, curvilinear and angular shapes ranging from 14 inches in diameter to 7 feet tall.  I used much more color with those pieces than I do now.  They were basically white but colored papers in geometric or vaguely representational shapes were incorporated into the many layers of their translucent paper skins.  That collection was quite primitive compared to the forms I’ve developed throughout the years but the designs were good and could be placed alongside some of the best designs I am doing today.  My emphasis was on originality then and I have maintained that aim all along.  It has been the spur which has kept me exploring, driving me as far as I have come with this medium.


After being discharged from the Air Force in Alaska, I went to Hawaii for a two week vacation and ended up staying for six years.  There I continued to create with light while at the same time pursuing my architectural apprenticeship.  However, as time progressed it became evident that my role was to be that of a light sculptor rather than an architect.  With the advent of another one-man show this role seemed to be established and my relationship to architecture became one of enhancing environments through the creation of original lighting designs.  In Hawaii, too, I drew much inspiration from nature, the natural beauty of the islands and the surrounding ocean to which my light sculptures are a testimony.

Of course the story doesn’t end there. Many moves and many life changes have molded my life, but the pursuit of beauty in my chosen medium, light sculpture, has remained a constant throughout it all.

I now make my home in Eugene, Oregon with my partner Anne.

Artist's Statement

"To create works of art that bring beauty and light into the environments and lives of individuals is my aim with Luminessence.  They emanate a unique quality of light that makes people more beautiful, environments more special.  I create these works primarily for residential interiors where a unique artistic expression in lighting is desired.  Being one-of-a-kind creations, each piece is signed and numbered signifying it as an original work of art.  The surface appearance of a Luminessence light sculpture is parchment-like in color and texture.  In spirit, the shapes of my creations span the centuries from ancient to modern times.  They are as timeless as Nature herself, my muse and mentor."