Born and raised in Los Angeles, Ms. Carson has designed lighting in the US and Internationally for over 200 productions in theatre, opera, dance, concert and video primarily in downtown NY Theatre and European avant-garde opera. In her designs for theatre and opera, Carson creates light as, “a visceral, active presence that co-exists with the action, often in conflict”. Highlights include 20 years with Richard Foreman; 15 years with Elizabeth Streb Ringside; and most recently a 2 1/2 year 8 play History Cycle (Richard II, Henry IV Parts 1&2, Henry V, Henry VI Parts 1,2 &3 and Richard III) for the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon and London; La Fanciulla del West for Opera Malmo in Sweden; and The Idiot Savant starring Willem Dafoe directed and designed by Richard Foreman for The Public Theatre in New York. She was head of the lighting programs at Penn State and Cal Arts and has taught at NYU, Smith College, Bard College, Sci-Arc, UCSD and UCLA. She lives and works in L.A.
“My goal is to separate out light as subject. Rather than being the means that enables you to see something else, I want the light itself to be what you are seeing. Not just the units, or what they are lighting, but the implied connection between the two.” For the last 29 years in the theatre she has used non- traditional equipment so that the aesthetic is determined by the specificity of the choice of materials. Long concerned with space not place, where lights are placed is the critical starting point. Instead of starting with a picture in mind, the lights are placed based upon a rigorous analysis of space, which then determines the results. She draws inspiration from contemporary physics, deconstructivist architecture, and minimalism in sculpture - rather that literature - to think about structures for light. Wanting to go further, she started making her own work and calls it Light Action.
In 1995 she made her first piece “up/Down” as part of Streb’s Action:Occupation which re-opened The Temporary Contemporary Museum (MOCA) in Los Angeles. In 1997 she received a fellowship to attend The Skowhegan Art Program. In 1998 she received The Rome Prize. She returned to Los Angeles in 2004 to head the lighting program at Cal Arts and commit to a studio practice. Her installation work has been seen at the American Academy in Rome, The Tenement Museum in New York, The ADC Gallery in New York, the Arena 1 Gallery at the Santa Monica Airport, Phantom Galleries Los Angeles, The Torrance Art Musueum and Ace Gallery Los Angeles.
In addition to the 1999 Rome Prize and the 1997 Fellowship from the Skowhegan Art Program, she has received the 1998 and 2004 New York Foundation for the Arts Artists Fellowship in Architecture/Environmental Structures and a 1999 Graham Foundation Grant for Advanced of the Fine Arts. Since returning to L.A., she had received a 2006 ARC Grant from The Durfee Foundation, a 2007 Downtown Artist Project Grant and a 2011 City of Los Angeles (COLA) Individual Artist Fellowship. She received her first public art commission from the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs to create a large scale light installation for the Vine Street Parking Garage currently going up in Hollywood across from the new W Hotel.
"A Pair of Aces: Heather Carson + Laurie Lipton"
Art review: 'COLA 2011: Individual Artist Fellowship' at Municipal Art Gallery
light/CONCENTRIC receives critics' pick on artforum.com