Let There Be Light, detail, Shasti O’Leary Soudant, 2013, Useum™ installation

Let There Be Light, detail, Shasti O’Leary Soudant, 2013, Useum™ installation

"Dits and Dahs/Dots and Dashes" by Kathy Shiroki

Monday, July 15, 2013

According to The White River Valley Museum located in Auburn, Washington, Samuel Morse was a famous American inventor and painter. He graduated from Yale and went on to study portrait painting in England in 1815. Twenty years later Morse shifted his interest to electricity which began his 12 year period perfecting an electric telegraph.

Morse worked on a system to transmit information over wires sent as a series of electrical signals; dits (represented as dots) and longer signals referring to dahs (represented as dashes).

The most well-known usage of Morse code was for sending the distress signal: SOS.

These dots and dashes or dits and dahs are hidden thought out the Useum installation Let There Be Light created by Shasti O’Leary Soudant. The announcement card has two overlapping portraits one of her daughter and the other of her mother-in-law. The lights in the exhibition help with viewing the faces on the card printed in red and the other in green. But look closer, the side bar of the card lists the alphabet from A to Z with the corresponding Morse code. Look again and discover the larger clear dots and dashing covering the surface of the faces spelling out a word. There are numerous clues into Soudant’s interactive installation from decoding wall labels to deciphering her chosen song lyric hidden in the colorful wall pattern.

Appreciating the hidden layers in Let There Be Light shifts the interpretation of what Shasti O’Leary Soudant is revealing in her work. The Useum installation is colorful and playful but not predictable.

Kathy Gaye Shiroki


Kathy Gaye Shiroki, Curator of Museum Learning and Community Engagement, is the curator of the Useum. She is also a lecturer at Buffalo State College in the Education Department and Coordinator of the Czurles-Nelson gallery on campus.