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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

CAM’s community lantern project illuminates silhouettes, provides nostalgic comfort

One of the artist-made lanterns from the 2018 “Illumination” exhibit at CAM, which in 2020 will feature new works from upward of 50 artists. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

WILMINGTON—Cameron Art Museum has hosted its year-end exhibit, “Illumination,” every holiday season since 2015. It’s become a celebration of transitioning from fall into winter, lighter days into darker nights, and self-reflection as the year comes to a close.

In 2020, CAM asked artists to contemplate what light means to them. A warm glow of safety? An inner burning desire, reflective of passion? A memorial to folks they’ve loved and lost?

The museum has received upward of 50 works of original lighted sculptures to feature in “Illumination,” which will open Nov. 21 and last through Jan. 10. Some lanterns will hang, others will be floor models, and yet others will be displayed on pedestals, according to director of community engagement and Museum Shop manager Nan Pope. Pope and Stephanie Krueger, CAM’s newest director of lifelong learning, have been jointly planning “Illumination” for a few months now.

“Some of the artists have presented in the show before, such as local fiber artist Rebecca Yeomans, or Raleigh-based artist Leatha Koeffler, who works primarily with recycled materials,” Pope explained. “New artists are bringing in their paper, word and metal works from Florida, Illinois and even Canada.”

Pope eagerly anticipates seeing the large eyeball lantern from Nancy Jo Sauser of Mount Holly, NC, as well as an axolotl salamander from Nicolette Johnson. She also points to Robert Anderson’s upcycled lantern, which was created from materials others consider trash. 

“He gets inspiration ‘from the bottom of a dumpster,’” Pope said, “and still there is a refreshing elegance to his work.”

Skilled artists aren’t the only participants CAM wants to partake in “Illumination.” The museum is asking community hands to help create a 4-foot lantern to be displayed as part of the exhibit.

The 2020 community lantern will consist of paper silhouettes attached to translucent white paper over plexiglass panels; the lantern’s frame is made of natural wood. In previous years, the community lantern has been more abstract, featuring Matisse-like imagery or block designs.

“[They] have been collaged paper, pierced paper, block-printed fabric and salt-washed painted paper,” Pope said. “Last year’s lantern featured indigo dyed silk with layers of sentimental vintage pieces of fabric, also dyed in indigo.”

2018’s community lantern was inspired by bird feathers and created with watercolors and salt. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

The simplicity of the silhouettes serve “Illumination” interdependently: to highlight the strength of a profile, like that seen in CAM’s other exhibit, “The Face of Lincoln,” featuring a bronze cast of the 16th president; and to pay tribute to museum patrons and community, especially as Covid-19 had them separated from CAM for six months. 

“During pandemic times, we have lost the sight of a full face,” Pope said, “so we wanted to include people, particularly people’s faces unmasked and as a profile image, to provide continuity among many faces.”

CAM will host the community lantern project outside in the courtyard this Saturday, Nov. 7, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., for free. The courtyard can fit around 70 total participants, but anyone who wants to create a silhouette from home can drop it off at the museum to be included on the community lantern. 

Participants onsite will be able to trace themselves or a friend from life or a photo on black opaque paper that CAM will provide. Local paper artist Fritzi Huber will assist, and all scissors and pencils will be properly sanitized between participants. 

“There’s also a bit of nostalgia for some of us who may remember paper cut-outs of our youth framed in our homes,” Pope added. “We are all looking for some comfort now.”

Send tips and comments to Shea Carver at

Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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