Meditating on Invisibility: When Light Meets Glass

It is easy for us to imagine an instance in which the invisible meets the visible. Imagine a beam of light, which is normally invisible, striking a reflective surface and bouncing into our eyes. The light that was invisible is now visible. From our perspective as observers, it has been transformed.

Now please imagine an instance in which the invisible meets the invisible. Imagine light striking glass. If the glass is perfectly transparent, it is virtually invisible. When a beam of light strikes it, we will have no way of knowing.

Credit: Meeli Koiva.

Credit: Meeli Koiva.

Has the light been transformed by its passage through the glass? Laser ray through my quartz glass rod?  Or are we merely incapable of perceiving its transformation?

Perhaps those questions seem superfluous or overly philosophical. But when you work as a sculptor with light and glass, those questions become concrete and absolutely fundamental.

There’s a point at which the interaction of light and glass becomes a meditation. As an artist, I need to understand the physics of a problem before dealing with it creatively. Sometime the leap from physical science to artistic creativity comes quickly, and sometimes it happens slowly.  I can rarely tell in advance whether the creative process will begin sooner or later; not knowing is a constant source of both frustration and joy.

I can tell you this with certainty: It’s the imperfections in the medium – the scratches in the glass – that make the work interesting. Without those scratches, even when they are infinitesimal, we would have no way of seeing the interaction between light and glass.

Sometimes the best way to talk about the physics of glass and light is with poetry. Here is a short poem I wrote to express my fascination with the awesome power of glass and luminescence. I hope you enjoy it:

nothing turns into something
the invisible is made visible
I am still chasing
after radical radiance
or the shiniest shining
is chasing after me
I seek the energies
I seek the synergies
between people
I seek the energies
which could make paper sheets fly
and I get the answers
from my dreams
at night

1 (1) (1) (1)Meeli Koiva (Mery Crystal Ra) is a globally renowned light-glass artist and innovator. She’s one of the winners of the 2013 and 2014 Light In the City / Northern Light, European light artists competition. She has been an innovator and a visionary in the field of light / glass art for the last 30 years. A pioneer in combining glass and light to create extraordinary works of art, she creates highly imaginative and novel pieces in Europe and in the US for private residences and public buildings. Even before the Light art boom of the last 20 years she was a trailblazer and source of influence in light art, reshaping the space and surface of structures. She has created glass-light sculptures for the European Parliament main building exhibition in Brussels, Belgium (2006) and Glaston Corporation headquarters in Finland, Tampere (2012). She is a speaker, having made presentations at the universities, seminars and conferences. She is creative director at Crystal Energy Ltd. in Helsinki, NYC, Paris. Website:

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