Illuminated Stripes

An interview I covered for The Submission Magazine in December 2009.

See pictures at http://www.TheSubmission.net, Issue 26.

Ding! The doors rumble as they slide open and I follow Jeff Gardner into the elevator of the Neuberger Museum. I’ve heard about his design, Illuminated Stripes, but was not expecting such vivid color. Jeff, in his heavy jacket, smiles as my eyes explore the flashy column of colors on the back wall. Deep blue rests on yellows, oranges, reds, and purples that are stacked on bright green. Similar colors race up the dark panels as streaks of light. Jeff looks amused as the gray doors clash together, forming in large, white, vertical print: Neuberger Museum of Art.

Neuberger_Museum_Elevator.jpg

The $3,800 project began with pulling the measurements from all of the wall panels, in order to install the vibrant ones. Jeff jokes that if Oxford Color, the vinyl printing company, didn’t hang the panels, it wouldn’t have looked as good because he wasn’t sure how to do it.  He focuses on the humming lights above us and points. He and some classmates deconstructed them, cleaned the dusty glass panels in the ceiling, and by himself, set up the lighting exactly the way he had it planned out.  I am mind-boggled as he explains the technicalities of the plexiglass strips that are dazzling the walls with color.

“They are 2.5 inches by 95 inches.” He presses a hand on the wall while still making eye contact and explains, “the reason for the dimensions are because behind the strips are little indents that are all separate panels, it’s not a continuous wall.”  He goes on to say that the lighting strips he used are paper-thin strips of LED lighting that he ordered from China. They were $4.45 per linear foot there, which is much cheaper than Port Chester’s $17.00 per strip. After receiving the lights, he figured out the amperage to effectively brighten up the elevator. Each strip needs only one amp of power, and the lights put out 12 volts of energy.

Jeff takes a step back and inspects the floor, his palms face upward as he outstretches his arms. The floor was never in the original budget, but his design wouldn’t be complete without vinyl flooring.  He, along with some help, put the hickory vinyl plank flooring together. “One of the interns that work at the museum and I were in here for four and a half hours on our knees, peeling and sticking,” he says, imitating the movements of peeling and sticking with his hands.

The graphic design major chuckles as we are suddenly carried to the second floor. His blue eyes examine his work before he faces me to say that he’s from Golden’s Bridge, but grew up in both Westchester and Bronxville. One of the influences on his artwork was his upbringing. “I would never color outside of the lines when I was a little kid. Everything had to be very meticulous and perfect as it could possibly be,” he says as he shuffles over for a rowdy group of men making their way into the elevator.

When wanting to create something, Jeff sometimes looks to other works, such as movements in art history as a platform for style. The concept behind Illuminated Stripes comes from the branding that was created by a Purchase alum, who designed the colorful column outside of the Neuberger Museum.  Jeff took the design and expanded on it. Since it’s well known to be the Neuberger’s distinctive label, having the striped logo to jazz up the elevator made sense.

Jeff also finds working in Adobe Illustrator to be inspiring. Illustrator is a vector-based computer software program where he’s able to work with colors and shapes, and use various artistic tools to design projects.  This performance allows Jeff to be extremely detailed in his production.

During his first year of college in 2003, Jeff attended Hartford and did nothing art-related. Instead, he partied. Since that didn’t work out, he decided to head home and commute to Westchester Community College for five semesters, where he received his Associates Degree in Visual Arts. He believed that there was nothing he could do with his degree and turned his focus elsewhere. “I gambled during the ‘poker boom’, lived in the casinos. Then after that, decided I needed to go back to school,” he pauses, then adds, “Once I had blown my whole bankroll.”

Jeff knew that art was his passion. He applied for Purchase’s design program because it’s not as costly as the other colleges he was interested in, such as FIT or Parsons. Lips curving upward, he tells me, “I like the 40 minute commute to the city, it’s nice to have that there, but I also like living in the countryside where it’s nice and peaceful with little critters running around.” He probably values Purchase a little more than most of us, as it was more of a struggle for him to get accepted. Originally, his application was denied, and he went back to Westchester Community College to continue his classes in design. He reapplied to Purchase, was denied again, but this time he was able to get his portfolio reevaluated, and a week later, received his acceptance letter.

When Jeff found out that his masterpiece was the winner, he tells me, with enlarged eyes and arched eyebrows, that he was “pumped!” His work, which was up against the creations of six of his classmates, was chosen by the museum’s marketing and curatorial staff.  He announces, “The reason they chose mine was because of the concepts. It played off the branching of the museum.” His classmates had all kinds of interesting ideas, but they wouldn’t work well with the makeup of the elevator’s walls. Jeff’s clever intention behind his project is simple yet so ideal. The vibrant stripes aren’t as one-dimensional as they seem; each kaleidoscopic tower represents an elevator with the stripes symbolizing different levels.

As we slope downward and the doors open, two women walk in, astonished.  One exclaims “Cool!” as the other shouts “Psychedelic!” Jeff turns to me, grinning, and proudly responds, “That’s why I like hanging out in here. I get to hear things like that.”

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