First Light

First Light is a site-specific artwork based on light and was commissioned by the Photonics Center, Boston University.

First Light is a computer-generated image printed as a photographic transparency using a LightJet Direct Digital Laser Printer. The Light Jet printer employs a red, green and blue laser that can transfer an image made in RGB color mode in the computer, pixel by pixel, onto Cibachrome transparency film.

The installed image is mounted on glass and backlit with fluorescent lights. The image was made to deliberately reveal units of light and color as the building blocks of the design. As with the pointillist painting technique, dots, or as in this case pixels of color, are on close inspection clearly visible. Stepping back reveals an impressionistic fusion of light and color. The impressionists wished to separate the colors of the spectrum in order to trap the innumerable shifts of natural light. Natural light, however, is not the subject of this work. Luminosity in this case refers more to a sense of awakening and of poetic illumination.

First Light is one of a series of digital images entitled Instrumental Variations on a Theme in Dylan Thomas. This body of electronic work parallels a group of O’Donnell's paintings that since 1993 have made reference to Thomas’s poetry. Just as a poem can be the basis of a vocal song, which in turn can be transposed into an instrumental arrangement, so can a drawing be transposed by the computer into an orchestration of light and color. The poem by Dylan Thomas, "The Force That Through The Green Fuse Drives The Flower,” is the main inspiration for the Photonics commission. Thomas created poems of instinct and power to make sense of, and to give voice to, impressions both seen and unseen that filled his world. First Light does not illustrate Thomas’s poems. Instead, it pays homage and acknowledges the same need to explore ways in which the artist can visit those places where, ‘light breaks where no sun shines.'