NCMA Recommends: Untitled (Light Under the Door)

Orit Raff, Untitled (Light Under the Door), 1999, C-print, Gift of Allen G. Thomas, Jr. 31 1/4 x 39 3/8 in.

This time of year, when the days get shorter and the nights get longer, I’m cheered by this photograph by Orit Raff, Untitled (Light under the Door). Featured in my current exhibition Reflections on Light, Raff’s photograph celebrates light as its main subject. As an exhibition Reflections on Light demonstrates the importance of light to artists from different geographies and time periods, over 2,500 years of art history. It features 35 works from the NCMA’s collection and includes art as diverse as ancient Roman oil lamps, West African sculptures, Old Master paintings, and contemporary photography.

In the context of the exhibition, photography is featured first in the original sense of photographs as being “pictures drawn with light,” able to capture a direct view of nature. Raff’s photograph is part of a small set of engaging images that have an otherworldly glow, prominently featuring light and using it to organize space within the image. In Raff’s photograph I see something that resembles a swipe of gold paint across a canvas, or, the longer I stare at it, a portal into another world. It’s only after looking at it for a while that one understands it’s a closely cropped image of light from the other side of a door, made in a series the artist called Domestic Landscapes. Even more beautiful, given the focus of this photograph and of Reflections on Light, the artist’s first name, Orit, means light in Hebrew. –Michele Frederick, Associate Curator of European Art

Virtual Lecture: Creating Reflections on Light

Join us for a free December 17 Lunchtime Lecture with Michele Frederick, associate curator of European art, to hear about the challenges and benefits of building the exhibition Reflections on Light: Works from the NCMA Collection. View highlights from the show and learn more about how light has fascinated artists for thousands of years.

Lights across N.C.

The town of Hillsborough has creatively adapted their beloved Solstice Lantern Walk from an event that traditionally lit up the Eno River Walk in downtown Hillsborough to one that, with your help, will light up the state from coast to mountains on the longest night of the year. In partnership with the Hillsborough Arts Council, the NCMA will be distributing free lantern kits across the state. Email angela.lombardi@ncdcr.gov for more information on receiving a packet of kits for your community. Requests must be received before December 15.

Global Connection: Shabe Yalda

Many cultures celebrate winter solstice. In the Persian tradition, Shabe Yalda, also known as Shabe Chelleh, is celebrated in true Persian form: with food, music, poetry, camaraderie, and zero sleep. Though rooted in Zoroastrian tradition, this ancient celebration is observed by Persians regardless of their geographic location or religious background.

Watermelon and pomegranate, the fruits of choice for this feast, represent bounty, and their rich, red colors may represent the light of dawn and the glow of life. Watermelon, in particular, harkens back to the origin of the tradition, in which Zoroastrians would eat the last of the summer fruit, believed to help immunize the body against illness brought on by winter’s cold. Ajil, a colorful mix of nuts, seeds, and dry fruits, also graces the table. Families and friends come together for a hot meal, followed by a long evening of storytelling, poetry reading (particularly works by Persian poet Hafez), and music in the warmth and coziness of the home.

Whether you are with family or spending the evening in tranquil solitude, we encourage you to grab your pomegranate, watermelon (if you can find it), and book of Hafez poetry, and enjoy a long night in. Here’s a playlist of Persian music to accompany you as you try your hand at staying up until dawn. –Janette Hoffman, Manager of Concerts and Music Programs (and Persian-in-residence)

Musical playlist

Here’s a playlist of Persian music to accompany you as you try your hand at staying up until dawn for Shabe Yalda. If you’d like a more soothing instrumental accompaniment, Persian kemancheh player Kayhan Kalhor released this album with odes to dawn and dusk.–Janette Hoffman, Manager of Concerts and Music Programs (and Persian-in-residence)

Film Recommendations 

Watch four short films that utilize light in creative ways to tell a story. –Maria Lopez, Manager of Film and Lecture Programs

  – Luminaris (2011). Director: Juan Pablo Zaramella. This Argentinian stop-motion short uses an animation technique called pixilation to tell the story of a lightbulb factory worker living in a world controlled by light. Watch on Vimeo.

  – What Light (through Yonder Window Breaks) (2009). Director: Sarah Wickens. This stop-motion short depicts a patch of sunlight cast through a bedroom window as it takes on new shapes throughout the day. Watch on Vimeo.

  – The Light and the Little Girl (2014). Director: Guy Pooles. In this short a young girl finds herself entranced by a beam of light moving through her home and tries to capture it in a jar. Watch on Vimeo.

  – Mamoon (2018). Director: Ben Steer. This short uses projected animation onto polystyrene film. It tells the story of a mother and child evading the dark shadows that envelop their world. Watch on Vimeo.

Sharing the Spirit of the Season through Art

What do birds, snakes, flowers, zeppelins, and coffee pots have in common this holiday season? Well, a collaborative exhibition between the NCMA and Reynolda House, in Winston Salem, which brings the past to life with a spirit of sharing and community.

The NCMA received a generous donation in the early 1990s of over 400 glass-blown ornaments from the Gelkler Family of Pittsboro. Collected from many years of travels to Germany, as well as adventures in flea markets and antique shops, these ornaments are fragile, unique works of art.

Nineteenth-century German glassmakers began to create the first glass ornaments in imitation of fruit. Originally made to hang in the windows, these ornaments eventually became common tree decorations. According to the Corning Museum of Glass, “In the United States, in the 1880s, Woolworth’s sold millions of dollars worth of German-made ornaments to Americans eager to bedeck their trees.”

The Gelkler ornaments adorned the NCMA tree for years but now light up the historic 1917 Reynolda House, through the end of 2020.

Please consider a visit to Enchanted Evenings at Reynolda House, to view in person the beauty of these glass ornaments and learn more about the history of glass Christmas ornaments in the American South, including ornament production, traditions, and artistry.


Join us for Mindful Museum: Virtual Slow Art Appreciation on Wednesday, December 16, from 7 to 8 pm. This free, interactive program guides you through centering techniques and a breathing practice followed by an intentional slow-looking observation of Untitled (Light under the door)  by Orit Raff. For ages 16 and up.

Celebrate the returning of the light on the darkest night with Mindful Museum: Winter Astrology and Meditation Workshop on the winter solstice, Monday, December 21, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. Join Andrea Rice–local yoga teacher and co-author of The Yoga Almanac–for this virtual experience to align with your 2021 goals and discover the significance of current astrological patterns. You’ll be guided through meditation exercises, journaling prompts, and an intention-setting ritual to steer you toward your highest potential. All skill levels welcome; ages 16 and up.

Audio Description 

The recording below is an audio description of Light under the Door. Audio description is narration for individuals who are blind or have low vision. It is a means to inform them about visual content essential for comprehension.


Dec 11, 2020


10:00 AM - 11:00 AM
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