Art and About
Engaging with the creative force in everyday life

December 16th, 2007

Enlightening Myself This Holiday Season

Posted by christina in Web Columns

In this season of red and green, I find myself in a Green quandary. It all began when I was watching HGTV’s “What’s Up With That Decked Out Christmas House,” in which the host visits homes all over the country lit to the hilt with Christmas lights. At each house, the homeowner discussed their energy bill for December, and often it was significantly higher than for any other month of the year. One man even had the power company come and install thicker lines to his house to accommodate the December power consumption. My initial reaction to this was laughter and head shaking over their economic choices, followed by distress that these people would rather waste energy and destroy the earth than do something for the good of the planet.

Some folks had chosen to decorate in LEDs (light emitting diodes). The energy savings was astounding, but it led me to thinking about the artistry of this endeavor. An LED may be “good” by allowing a lighting artist to express themselves without ruining their pocket books or feeding the insatiable fossil fuel beast, but the look of an LED display is very different from the look of an incandescent light display. If a holiday lights artist can share their inner voice via LEDs, then more power to them. But what if incandescent lighting is what another person needs to illuminate his point of view?

Honestly, if this were completely an aesthetic discussion, I would solidly come down on the side of incandescent lighting. To me, it is brighter, more colorful, more dramatic, more magical and flat-out more Christmassy. There is one house in my neighborhood that has chosen LEDs. I pass that home and admire their choices, but I don’t have any emotional reaction to the lights. It almost seems to me that if you are going to go to LEDs, you might as well do no lights. It’s a halfway compromise that isn’t worth making, in my opinion.

I respond to the homes with the incandescent displays, and if we got around to putting up house lights this year that is what ours would be. But in an age of global warming and excessive consumerism and waste, I can’t put lights up anymore without guilt, and I don’t allow myself to completely enjoy the incandescent displays of others. This is one artform that, for me, is a tug of war between the emotional and the intellectual. I know in my head we should all be enjoying our compact fluorescents and LEDs this holiday season. I know in my heart that one of the joys of these darkest days of the year is to see the holiday lights start to pop up around town. To me, they are symbolic of the hope, joy, love, peace and faith that inform the celebrations of late December. They are our electrical metaphors of the light we are awaiting with the new life of spring, the birth of a child, the end of a string of bad luck, the return home of a loved one, the restoration of health, or anything else for which we may be holding vigil.

The featured lighting artists on the HGTV program all planned their displays for months, and spent another month or two installing them every year. This doesn’t include the time is takes to dismantle the display in January. In other words, this is the artistic medium these individuals choose to work in and a large amount of mental energy and free time goes into realizing their visions. They all express joy about doing the lights. Most of them may err on the side of too gaudy for my taste, but I will defend their artistry to the end because they have taken the time to share their imagination with the rest of us. In a perfect world, it wouldn’t matter if their imaginations glowed incandescent or not. But this is not a perfect world, and that is the problem.

Lectures from my arts education background keep popping into my head — learning how to be creative on a budget, finding a way to express yourself using what you have instead of what you want, executing an idea within certain parameters. Holiday lighting artists could impose upon themselves to use only LEDs, and find a way to satisfy their artistic drive using those. An artist who insists on using incandescent could challenge himself to make a splash using fewer lights, rather than attract attention based on sheer quantity. I’m sure the collective creative minds of humanity could arrive at myriad Greener solutions. Would these solutions be emotionally satisfying? For some of us, probably not.

There was a time when film artists mourned the death of silent movies because the public was ready and eager to make the transition to sound. Art behaves as a living organism, changing and adapting through time as is required and necessary to keep it alive. The time of the incandescent dinosaur may be drawing to a close. If that’s necessary to keep the world turning for my great-great-great-great-great grandchildren, then that’s enough for me to start forging an emotional connection with the Greener approach to holiday lights.

Leave a reply

:mrgreen: :neutral: :twisted: :shock: :smile: :???: :cool: :evil: :grin: :oops: :razz: :roll: :wink: :cry: :eek: :lol: :mad: :sad: