I have lost track of how many times I’ve made the journey to Montezuma, NM to visit the Dwan Light Sanctuary, a chamber of ephemeral color on the campus of the United World College. Co-designed and conceptualized by art patron Virginia Dwan, Charles Ross, sculptor/land artist, and architect Laban Wingert, the structure’s interior incorporates multiple large prisms that cast the full light spectrum on white walls. One window is without prisms, with a view of pine branches, as a respite to the riot of rainbows. There are no objects or furniture in the chamber except for bancos on the perimeter and some metal structures holding candles under the pine window. The acoustics are cathedral-like, inviting musicians and singers to add to the colors.
Virginia Dwan is an art collector, patron and former owner of Virginia Dwan Gallery in Los Angeles and Dwan Gallery in New York City. Her vision and support is largely associated with the American Minimalist, Conceptual and Earthworks art movements of the mid 20th century and beyond. Ms. Dwan recently gifted 250 works from her private collection to the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.
Sitting with the light is personal; every individual who visits has a different reaction. I have watched rounds of people come and go, most staying less than 15 minutes. Many bask in the light, bathing themselves in colors while others clap their hands to the acoustics and talk loudly. Round meditation cushions are provided in the side closet for those who want to linger. The air is one with the light, and the light holds the whole of the color spectrum, invisible to the human eye without the prisms. It’s said that the light from a full moon inside the Dwan Light Sanctuary is beyond the body.