Photo Credit Anne Staveley
Debbie Long is an artist who works with light. Long builds sculptures and immersive environments that unfold over time in rhythm with natural light from the sky, its' cycles of day and night, weather, and seasons.
For the last decade Long has focused on building Light Ships, large-scale outdoor light sculptures that connect directly to the sky, utilizing the sun and moon as their sole source of light.
These works are chambers of light, color, and glass large enough for several people to sit inside. Inside the works light constantly shifts as light in the sky above changes from sunrise to sunset to moon rise.
Light Ships are immersive environments for experiencing the cycles of light and time that exist in nature.
Long's first Light Ship, Naima Trailer, was built between 2012-2015. The second, Willa, built between 2015-2020, was recently completed in her studio in Taos, New Mexico.
Born and raised in New Mexico, Long has exhibited nationally and internationally.
She lives and works in Taos, New Mexico, where she has made her home for 25 years.
Willa (2015-2020) is a large-scale outdoor light sculpture that will be permanently installed in a remote area of the high desert in Northern New Mexico. Consisting of a chamber of light and glass hidden inside a 1978 Sportscoach Recreational Vehicle and large enough for 4 people to sit inside, Willa is an immersive environment for experiencing the cycles of light and time that exist in nature.
Inside Willa, hundreds of handmade cast glass objects collect light from the sky. The interior changes as light shifts throughout the day, sunrise to sunset, or as clouds pass overhead. There is no electric light in Willa. Light enters Willa through a transparent roof, directly connecting the piece to the sky and its' cycles of day and night, weather, and seasons.
Willa is built for the slow read, for watching as light slowly shifts in rhythm with the time signature of the natural world. Willa is constantly changing hour by hour as the
sun and moon track across the sky or as weather and seasons change, so may be experienced in many
different ways over time. Viewers are encouraged to spend time inside the piece, especially to watch sunset, sunrise or moon rise on a full moon night.
A search is underway for a permanent site to install Willa in a remote area of the New Mexico desert where visitors may stay overnight in an onsite cabin, allowing access to the piece at sunrise, sunset, or midnight on a full moon night. The journey to reach Willa at this remote site will be an important part of the experience of the work.
About the Naima Trailer
Naima Trailer (2012-2015) is a large-scale outdoor light sculpture that was first installed in a remote area of the Mojave Desert in 2013. Consisting of a chamber of light and glass hidden inside a 1960s travel trailer and large enough for 4 people to sit inside, Naima is an immersive environment for experiencing the cycles of light and time that exist in nature.
Inside Naima, hundreds of handmade cast glass objects collect light from the sky. The interior changes as light shifts throughout the day, sunrise to sunset, or as clouds pass overhead. There is no electric light in Naima. Light enters Naima through a transparent roof, directly connecting the piece to the sky and its' cycles of day and night, weather, and seasons.
Naima is built for the slow read, for watching as light shifts in rhythm with the time signature of the natural world. Naima is constantly changing hour by hour as the sun and moon track across the sky or as the weather and seasons change, so may be experienced in many different ways over time. Viewers are encouraged to spend time inside the piece, especially to watch sunset, sunrise, clouds passing, or moon rise on a full moon night.
Naima was first installed in the center of a dry lake bed in a remote area of the Mojave Desert as part of High Desert Test Sites 2013, an exhibition curated by Andrea Zittel, Dave Hickey, Libby Lumpkin, and Aurora Tang. The journey to reach Naima at this remote site is an important part of the experience of the work.
Paul O'Conner September 2020
Several months have passed since my visit to Debbie Long’s studio, but the impression of that evening is clearly etched in my mind’s eye. Debbie invited me to experience a sunset viewing inside of her sculpture titled Willa (2015-2020). It’s an installation piece constructed inside of an old RV that measures 26 by 8.5 by 10 feet. The exterior is untouched and looks like any old RV you might see on the road or parked in an empty lot, innocuous in its aged patina. Inside is a clean rectangular space: walls, floor, ceiling all painted an impeccable white. In certain areas are clusters of handmade cast-glass objects that collect and transmit light from the sky. These amorphous shapes are a conduit from the natural world outside to the interior world created by Debbie. The only other items inside are two bean bags on which to sit, slouch, or lie down. Pretty minimal in a sense but ultimately extremely complex and profound to experience, that is if you have the time. This piece of art is really fully appreciated given the time to do so. I had been in a similar construction of Debbie’s years ago. It was in Larry Bell’s studio parking lot in Taos, New Mexico. The title of that piece is Naima Trailer (2012-2015), and it measured 18 by 7.5 by 9 feet. I stood in line with many others, waiting my turn to enter. Once inside, trying to take in as much as I could before my conscience reminded me of all the others hoping to enter, I left after three minutes. Much like walking around the Louvre or the Met, you get a certain hit from a piece that you stand in front of for a few minutes...but to spend three hours with a single work of art in complete isolation of any other stimulus is another story.
That’s what I had with Willa. Debbie and I entered around 7 p.m. and re-emerged about 10 p.m. Three hours alternately sitting or lying down on the white bean-bag pouf, watching the subtlest of changes as the sun began its final descent into the horizon. The glass objects, which are situated on the walls and ceiling, reflect and cast various hues of amber, yellow, blue, green, and purple. All of this happening on an ever-changing background as the white walls and ceiling started shifting in accordance with the diminishing light. Still, I noticed the shape of the “box” we were sitting in, and I was physically aware of the floor. I would switch my attention from as much as I could take in with my peripheral vision to focusing intensely on one object. I kept wanting to see something in these glass shapes as sometimes happens when looking at a cloud— you may see a rabbit or a fish, for instance—but I was never able to make any such associations with Debbie’s work.
I realized on some level I was trying to ground myself, because the fact was that I was being taken into a totally foreign place, no longer looking at an art installation, but being immersed in it. The amount of light entering the space was dropping off, but the works of glass still illuminated the space enough for our acclimated eyes to see the walls and floor. Then I looked up again and realized the ceiling was gone! I checked again from the floor up to the walls and the ceiling was not there anymore. It was as if the lid of the trailer had been removed but the glass objects were still there, floating in space. And without a ceiling to attach them, they started to move! I realize I’ve just used two exclamation points in so many sentences, but this was trippy.... I’ve been clean and sober for 37 years and I’m now looking up at floating glass shapes in a pitch-black space that begins where the walls end. It was a crisp black rectangle opening where the ceiling had been. It reminded me of a James Turrell’s “Sky Room,” except there was no physical hole in Debbie’s piece. This is where words fall short in describing the scene. Had I written about this piece the next day, I would have missed the lasting effects I’m feeling now of the time spent in Willa. I have shared my experience with several people and never quite feel like I got it right as I have that feeling again right now. Debbie shared that the ideal way to experience this work of art is to spend the time needed: whether it’s during a sunrise, sunset, or some significant part of the day, you need to allow the tracking of the sun or moon to shape your experience. It was a singular experience that has made me look at life and art in a much slower manner so as not to miss the subtle gems.
Paul O'Conner September 1, 2020
Born and raised in New Mexico, Debbie Long has exhibited nationally and internationally. She lives and works in Taos, New Mexico, where she has made her home for 25 years.
Long has recently exhibited her work at High Desert Test Sites in Joshua Tree, CA in an exhibition curated by Dave Hickey, Andrea Zittel, Aurora Tang, and Libby Lumpkin; Chimento Contemporary in Downtown Los Angeles, CA; The Harwood Museum in Taos, NM; Gallery 128 Lower East Side in New York City, NY; Vivian Horan Gallery in New York City, NY; Boston University's Sherman Gallery in Boston, MA; and The Center for Contemporary Art in Santa Fe, NM.
Reviews and Press include the BBC Culture London, UK; The LA Weekly, Los Angeles, CA; Artillery Magazine, Los Angeles, CA; ArtSlant, Santa Fe, NM; and Art Studio America, a new book about US Artists in their studios from Trans Globe Publishing London, UK.
Grants include a Paseo Taos Community Grant in 2020, a Pilchuck Glass School Residency in 2004 and a Creative Capital Foundation Workshop in 2006. Lectures include The Harwood Museum of Art in Taos, NM and SITE Santa Fe and the Santa Fe Center for Contemporary Arts' Dialogue 360 lecture series in Santa Fe, NM.
Long completed Apprenticeships at Adobe Bronze Casting Foundry in Albuquerque, NM in 1993,1994 and at Walentinowicz Glass Studio in Illinois in 2004, 2006, 2007.
Long worked as studio assistant to Ken Price in Taos, New Mexico from 2006-2012.
She lives and works in Taos, New Mexico.
Harwood Museum of Art, Taos, NM Harnessing Light
Vivian Horan Gallery, New York, NY Taos 1960s-Present
The Paseo Project Taos, NM Naima Trailer
High Desert Test Sites 2013, Los Angeles, CA Naima Trailer Curated by Dave Hickey, Andrea Zittel, Libby Lumpkin, Aurora Tang.
Denver Center for Visual Art, Denver CO Taos Contemporary
LAND/ART New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM Sculpture as Analogy to Landscape, Curated by Steve Barry
222 Shelby Street Gallery, Santa Fe, NM Landscape and Memory
Center for Contemporary Art, Santa Fe, NM Forest (solo exhibition)
Gallery 128 Lower East Side, New York, NY Migrate, Curated by Sabra MooreBoston University School of Visual Arts Sherman Gallery, Boston, MA Crossing Country, Curated by Hannah Cole
Site Santa Fe, Santa Fe, NM Lucky #7 Biennial, Artist Volunteer for Scott Lyall Project, Curated by Lance Fung
Nadie es Perfecto, Oaxaca City, Oaxaca Mexico Amor Sin Palabras, Curated by Ron Cooper.
Fenix Gallery, Taos, NM Tree Stump Tree Forest (solo exhibition)
Cinemaland Chinatown, Los Angeles, CA NM10516 Arts, Albuquerque, NM Curated by Diane Karp
Harwood Museum of Art, Taos, NM
Center for Contemporary Art, Santa Fe, NM Morphosis, Curated by Cyndi Conn
Site Santa Fe, Parking Lot, Santa Fe, NM Renters
Art Lobby Project Space, Taos, NM Tree Forest City (solo exhibition)
Salon Mar Graff, Santa Fe, NM
Donkey Gallery, Albuquerque, NM Comin' Down the Mountain
College of Santa Fe, Santa Fe NM Bloc-busta
Taos Plaza Theatre, Taos, NM Bloc-busta
Art and Industry, Santa Fe, NM Match the Couch, Curated by Zane Fischer
Center for Contemporary Art, Santa Fe, NM Window Project
Van de Griff Marr Gallery Shack Obscura, Santa Fe, NM Rec Room
Center for Contemporary Art, Santa Fe, NM Painting is Dead
Fenix Gallery Taos, NM Work from Los Angeles (solo exhibition)
Paseo Project Community Grant, Taos, NM.
Creative Capital Foundation Professional Development Workshop Grant, Santa Fe Art Institute, Santa Fe, NM.
Pilchuck Glass School Residency Grant, Seattle, WA.
Harwood Museum of Art Taos, NM
Larry Bell, Taos, NM
Jeffrey Soros, Los Angeles, CAGlen Schaeffer, Las Vegas, NV
Site Santa Fe and the Center for Contemporary Arts Dialogue 360 Lecture Series, Santa Fe, NM.
Press, Reviews, Bibliography
Art Studio America Trans Globe Publishing, London, UK 2013
LAND/ART New Mexico Radius Books, Santa Fe, NM 2009
The Gus Foster Collection, Harwood Museum of Art, Taos, NM 2014Tresp, Lauren Art For a Silent Planet: Blaustein, Elder and Long ARTslant, Santa Fe, NM March 28, 2014
Collins, Tom Strange Shapes Indeed The Albuquerque Journal, Albuquerque, NM January 27, 2006
Tobin, Richard Bloc-busta Taos THE Magazine Santa Fe, NM September, 2005
Bloc-busta Exhibition Catalog Santa Fe, NM 2005
Nott, Robert Rec-reating Imagination The Santa Fe New Mexican Santa Fe, NM October 12, 2001Collins, Tom Debbie Long at Fenix Geromino Taos, NM June, 1999
THE Magazine Debbie Long at Fenix Santa Fe, NM July, 1999
New American Paintings Open Studios Press, Los Angeles, CA 1998
Pulkka, Wesley Urbane Artists The Albuquerque Journal Albuquerque, NM June 15, 1997Paglia, Michael New From New Mexico The Denver Post Denver, CO August 23, 1997
Hemp, Christine Slingshot THE Magazine Santa Fe, NM November, 1996
1993 BA French Literature University of New Mexico Albuquerque, NM
1993, 1994 Adobe Forge and Bronze Casting Foundry Albuquerque, NM
2004, 2006, 2007 Janusz Walentynowicz Glass Studio, Chicago, IL
2006-2012 Studio Assistant Ken Price Taos, NM