Italian artist lights up Deering Library in the dead of winter

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Annabel Edwards/Daily Senior Staffer

Italian artist Marco Rotelli illuminated Deering Library this week. The light show was based on a quote from a Dylan Thomas poem, “Rage, Rage Against the Dying of the Light.”

Miranda Leon, Current writer

With polar vortexes and chilling winds, it can be difficult to deal with the frigid and desolate days of January in Chicago.

One method for overcoming winter’s oppression is to celebrate light and its encouraging connotations amid this dark time. The work of internationally-acclaimed Italian artist Marco Rotelli does just this.

Now, Rotelli is bringing his artistic talent to Northwestern’s campus. All week, Rotelli has been projecting light against the facade of Deering Library from 5 to 9 p.m. in a show named after a Dylan Thomas quote, “Rage, Rage Against the Dying of the Light.”

Rotelli is no stranger to NU. About a year ago, while fulfilling a residency at NU’s Kaplan Institute for the Humanities, Rotelli became inspired by the campus.

“When I was at Northwestern University, I felt the messages of the light from the lake,” Rotelli said. “The light, the change in every moment — this is my inspiration.”

In March, Rotelli shared his talent with the NU community for the first time. He created a project called “WORDS” to illuminate Deering Library because he said he enjoys, “buildings with a message.”

“It was a wonderful, wonderful event, and everybody who saw it was excited and inspired and moved,” said Jeffrey Garrett, associate university librarian and director of special collections and archives. “We decided that since only a very lucky few were able to participate, we would do a new illumination for an entire week. We would do it not in March, when things are starting to get light and hopeful again, but in the darkest part of winter, which is now.”

Garrett, along with faculty from University Library, the French and Italian departments, the Kaplan Institute and the Block Museum of Art all worked together to bring Rotelli back to Deering.

Linda Gates, head of voice in NU’s theater department, praised Rotelli’s unconventional approach of intertwining the art of light paintings with the art of poetry and its performance.

“Marco’s passion for illuminating physical spaces with light partners with his passion for poetry. The two seem to work beautifully together,” Gates said.

Born in Italy in 1955, Rotelli draws much of his inspiration from his hometown of Venice, known as the “City of Lights.”

“Everywhere you walk in Venice, there is the light,” Rotelli said. “This is why I think it is important to bring the idea of the light at every site and every place.”

Graduating with a degree in architecture in 1982, Rotelli emerged into the art scene with a diverse and rather modern vision.

“I think that today, it is a contemporary time,” Rotelli said. “You can work in different styles, in different media and in different materials. I work in painting, I work with technology, I work with paper and I work with marble.”

Rotelli’s artistic expertise primarily involves projecting light onto well-known landmarks in cities like Paris, Milan, New York and Dubai. This past June, Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History showcased Rotelli’s “Divina Natura” to honor Italian culture’s influence on Chicago. The light installation was inspired by Dante Alighieri’s classic epic poem, “The Divine Comedy.” In addition to the light, poetry from seven Chicagoan poets and the music of Thomas Masters, Karolina Dvorakova and Adrian Leverkuhn accompanied the exhibition.

In fact, all of Rotelli’s contributions incorporate art and poetry, displaying lines from famous poems onto buildings. Rotelli said he is motivated to combine both illuminated images and words because “amusement is very important” to him.

“For me it’s not important that you read all of the poems on the walls. The height of my work is amusement — that you can see what you see every day in different points of view,” Rotelli said.

Inside the library Monday, members of NU’s acting faculty and theater students celebrated Rotelli’s installation and performed passages from famous poems in an open reception. Gates selected the poems, many of them Shakespearean sonnets.

“The poems all have to do with winter because the whole idea is to take back this cold bleak time and sort of brighten the dark,” Gates said.

An encore performance will be held Thursday from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Due to limited space, the audience will be capped at 150 people.

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