Vanderelli Room hosts group exhibition of uplifting, hopeful work

Dana Lynn Harper is doing the best she can.

In recent years, the Columbus artist has experienced astral dreams, which she described as instances in which spirits rise above their physical bodies to encounter other spirits on a different plane. Harper said she doesn't control these experiences, although she can ask for them. She said she believes the universe put information about astral dreams in her path a few years ago in preparation for the loss of both a childhood friend and her father on consecutive days about a year ago.

“If you can exist outside the physical body, then what is time? And what is loss?” Harper said.

Much of Harper's recent installation work has been the artist's “representation of the human spirit outside of the physical body,” she said in a recent interview at the Vanderelli Room, where she will feature a new sculpture/installation as part of “Let There Be Light,” which opens this Friday.

“Using reflective materials offers that natural sparkle, representing the human spirit glittering and flowing in that way,” Harper said. “It's hard, because … how do you take the materials available to represent a life force or spiritual force?”

Guests will pass under and around Harper's piece at “Let There Be Light,” which will feature upwards of 25 artists, said gallery owner Alicia Jean Vanderelli, who also curated the exhibition.

“The world is really heavy, things are so dark, and we spend so much time focusing on that,” Vanderelli said. “I wanted to show hope and beauty coming out of that struggle, out of the darkness.”

Vanderelli, whose own work for the show features an array of LED lights illuminating a work she had previously made in collaboration with musician Mario Bosca, said there are both symbolic and literal interpretations of the theme among the work created for the show. Illuminated pieces, work that reflects or otherwise manipulates light and work that depicts light will all be featured.

Despite the bent toward positivity, the show will not be without political or social commentary. “It helps us grasp the light if we bring things into it that are hidden,” Vanderelli said.

“I feel like an artist's responsibility is not only to document what's happening, but also to bring light and hope to people — to transform all that negativity that you're receiving and transform it into something beautiful,” Harper said. “For me, that means the spiritual experiences that I've had and spiritual growth I've had is the most important thing, and I make my work about the most important thing. The point of my work is always to bring people joy.”