Do what the clouds do


Charles Matson Lume's installation piece "do what the clouds do" at the College of Visual Arts

With his latest installation piece, Charles Matson Lume invites people to pause, reflect, and notice the light around them. Titled "do what the clouds do (for Charles Wright)," Lume has filled the College of Visual Arts' gallery with patterns of light, using little more than reflective paper and a few bulbs.

The piece is inspired by the final line of a poem by Charles Wright titled "Disjecta Membra" - here's an excerpt:

Take a loose rein and a deep seat,

John, my father-in-law, would say

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To someone starting out on a long journey, meaning, take it easy,

Relax, let what's taking you take you.

I think of landscape incessantly,

mountains and rivers, lost lakes

Where sunsets festoon and override,

The scald of summer wheat fields, light-licked and poppy-smeared.

Sunlight surrounds me and winter birds

doodle and peck in the winter grass.

I'm emptied, ready to go. Again,

I tell myself what I've told myself for almost thirty years -

Listen to John, do what the clouds do.

Matson Lume says the line stuck with him, and seemed wonderfully simple and complex at the same time, open to both interpretation and extrapolation.

"Especially in a culture that's so hurried and rushed - doing 'what the clouds do' sounds pretty good right now," said Matson Lume.


Matson Lume's creations rely on little more than proofing paper and lighting

Matson Lume discovered a trove of the paper at Art Scraps. Already working with light, he was intrigued by how something with sharp edges could create such soft and fluid images.

It makes beautiful patterns of light. To me it's really sexy, the idea of a mirror, not for you to look into, but that gives you something else. I think of myself as an image-maker even though people walk into this installation. I started out as a painter, and so I still think in those painterly terms - texture, light and dark.

While in the past Matson Lume has often created pieces for walls, a particularly cold bout of weather and an unheated studio forced him to wear three pairs of gloves, all at the same time. Unable to glue-gun things to the wall, he started tossing sheets down on the ground. He liked what he saw.


Matson Lume thinks of "Do what the clouds do" as a sort of reflective space, in which people journey inward

On the floor of the College of Visual Arts' gallery, Matson Lume has laid out the sheets of reflective paper mindfully, not only to create specific "clouds" of light on the wall, but to also guide people as they walk through the room.

By one person being in the space, the piece is changed in one particular way, and with each additional person it changes even more. It's open to the change people bring to it, and yet it still maintains a visual integrity. We're not just observers - we're participants. Even if we think we're just observers, we're affecting things around us.

Matson Lume says he was surprised - and delighted - by the number of people at the gallery opening who chose to sit down on the floor and just be in the space. Perhaps they were reflecting on what "doing what the clouds do" means to them.

"do what the clouds do (for Charles Wright)" is at the College of Visual Arts through February 5. Interested in how a guy named Lume ended up playing with light? His journey was the subject of an interview on the radio show "The Story."