Chicago–based sculptor John David Mooney has been exploring the nexus of art and science in his large–scale, public works since the 1970s. Growing up in the Midwest, Mooney received his MFA from the University of Illinois Urbana–Champaign. He has created site–specific sculptures and temporary installations across the globe, from Miami, Florida, to the Vatican in Rome, to Perth, Australia.

Drawing upon disciplines and sources as diverse as astronomy and physics, illuminated Irish manuscripts and sacred sites of the ancient Celtic world, Mooney has maintained a consistent devotion to experimental and research–based practices. Throughout his career, Mooney has investigated questions of site–specificity, monumentality, and public viewership, and experimented extensively with light as an artistic medium. Mooney writes of his early work, “My first notion was to create light not as illumination, but as form in space, and to give it a sense of color and fluidity.” Drawing upon this notion of light as something that can be manipulated and sculpted, Mooney has transformed landscapes (e.g., his Light Sculpture Event for the 1977 Lakefront Festival) and skyscrapers (e.g., his Lightscape ’89, among others) into vast “light sculptures.” As Mooney explains in a 2015 essay, ”From 1977 to the present time, my work has engaged the public to ‘look up and see.’”

Expanding his concerns beyond his personal artistic practice, Mooney created the John David Mooney Foundation, which opened a Chicago gallery and studio space in 1981 and continues to promote interdisciplinary discourse through its public exhibitions and programming.


Written by Maggie Borowitz, a Ph.D. student in Art History


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