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What is light?

By definition, it is something that makes things visible or affords illumination.

But when it comes to artists' visual interpretations of light, the new show at The Arts Center in Corvallis suggests that the possibilities are unlimited.

"About Light" is the theme of this year's holiday exhibition, on display Nov. 9 through Dec. 28 at The Arts Center.

The theme is a simple, yet very versatile, one for artists, says Hester Coucke, the curator at The Arts Center.

"It was really about representing light, however literal or metaphorically you wanted to," she said.

The new exhibit features works by 50 mid-valley and regional artists. It includes an artists' reception during the Corvallis Arts Walk on Nov. 21, and a Lunch Box Art Talk on Nov. 27. (See info box for details).

As in previous years, the annual exhibit's artwork will be available for sale during the holidays.

The light-inspired art includes photography, painting, drawing, glass, fiber arts, ceramics, pastels, printmaking, three-dimensional work and digital media. Most of the participating artists are from the community, while a few others were invited.

Each piece will have a small statement from the artist explaining how the work came together.

"I hope that people get a little bit of insight into what an artist's process is," Coucke said.

Many artists took the theme in a literal direction, choosing sunsets, sunrises and other light sources as subjects.

"The Sea" by Christopher Campione is one of several photographs focusing on the sun. In it the bright sun is setting above the ocean from a view along the beach.

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Joan Linse's glass piece, "The Corona Light of the Sun," was inspired by a solar eclipse, Coucke said.

Light also could suggest the opposite of dark, heavy, serious subjects — and some of the artists in the show took that as their cue.

Artist Carol Chapel's creation fit that bill.

"There's a little kite that is light, it can fly, which I thought was a really fun interpretation," Coucke said.

Joey Azul used a metaphorical approach to the importance of light. In his artist statement, Azul said he thought about several connotations of light before he started the project, including an artist's use of light, a lighthearted artist and the light within.

His oil painting, "About," depicts a hand holding a cracked egg shell with light coming from it. He said "I have chosen the light within, not the visible light spectrum, as my subject. White light has spiritual meanings cross-culturally, existing both within life forms and throughout the Universe. The painting symbolically represents what this light/energy means to me. It is a creative, positive force."

But there are a number of darker visions in the show as well. "It's interesting that a lot of work seems dark, and people really stressed the contrast between light and dark," Coucke said.

John Ritchie presents a contrast, along with a "floating being," in his photograph "Curious the Cat." The black-and-white image features the use of night photography.

Light similarly opposes darkness in Kendra Larson's colorful acrylic painting "Glow Worms."

Viewers may find their own meaning with the artwork. Coucke felt that way about "Insight," an ink and watercolor painting by Shuo Cai. In it a person's face is surrounded by butterflies.

"I can really put my own interpretation in that," she said.

The Arts Center committee's hope for "About Light" is that it will bring hopefulness and joy to viewers and brighten the dark days of winter, Coucke said.

She hopes visitors will find the artwork touching and even amusing. And she has one additional hope: that some people will say, "Wow, this is a great Christmas present."

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