Projection art is evolving at the speed of light

John Moore Column sig

Editor’s note: For our 2023 fall arts preview, the Denver Gazette is profiling emerging artists who are introducing new ideas, voices, skills and approaches that are changing the ways audiences are experiencing and engaging with the arts. Look for the ninth and final installment in our series Wednesday.

Digital projection artists Sam Moritz and Pat Higgins are all about blurring lines, bending light and breaking rules. They first bonded over their passion for exploring the massive potential of the developing intersection of light, art and projection mapping.

That’s a technological innovation that lets you overlay video onto any surface, like, say, a building, a table or even a face. Anything. This fluid technique toys with your perception, because your eyes might think they actually painted on top of a building. Which, in a way, they have. Only, using light as their paint. And with the flip of a switch, it’s gone.

“Light is a powerful yet ephemeral medium,” they told me in a collectively signed email. Like the projects Moritz and Higgins produce, it’s hard to know where one ends and the other begins.

Pat Higgins Sam Moritz Waveform Emerging Artists

Digital projection artists Pat Higgins, left, and Sam Moritz bonded over the developing intersection of light, art and projection mapping. 

“Light allows us the ability to take over entire building facades, and transform the spaces and environments around us – and it’s even better when accompanied with music.”

If this all seems altogether unfamiliar to you, it’s probably not.

During recent holiday seasons, you might have noticed video and 3D art being projected onto downtown buildings, notably the D&F Clock Tower on the 16th Street Mall, and at Union Station

“We bring a number of events to life using projection mapping and custom 3D-animated content,” they say.

But projecting light art onto walls is just the start of what Moritz and Higgins do under the combined artist name WAVEFORM.exp, including traffic-stopping displays and standalone installations. (The suffix is short for “experiential.”) Essentially, they use light to turn artwork, architecture and objects into vivid nocturnal experiences. They are constantly bringing new visual interest and visibility to otherwise empty spaces, especially along the 16th Street Mall.

Art for Reform Waveform.exp Pat Higgins and Sam Moritz

This is a digital project Pat Higgins and Sam Moritz undertook for the Museum of Outdoor Arts in Greenwood Village. It is titled ‘Art for Reform.’

The nature of their work allows the pair to collaborate with artists of most every discipline. They work in close collaboration with Night Lights Denver, the Denver Theatre District and the Downtown Denver Partnership. “And we regularly have some fun things in the works with the Museum of Outdoor Arts at Marjorie Park in Greenwood Village,” they say.

“This medium allows us to design and explore mixed-media light art in a way that complements – or stands in contrast to – the surrounding environment. We are constantly experimenting with some of the latest programs and technology, allowing us to continue to blend the boundaries between the physical and digital worlds, creating high-impact, shareable experiences that don’t require a headset or a phone.”

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This is a rapidly evolving commercial art form that appeals to Moritz and Higgins because of the creative freedom it both allows and inspires – and because the possibilities are endless. Especially by embracing and experimenting with emerging technologies like A.I.

“This time we live in is special,” they say. “We all have this incredible opportunity to thrive in the digital renaissance through the fusion of physical and digital art.”  

Let there be light!

Meet the artists: Sam Moritz and Pat Higgins

• Hometown: Moritz is from Boulder and now lives in Denver. Higgins is from Clarksville, Md., and now lives in Golden.

Sunset spectacular waveform Emerging artists Pat Higgins Sam Moritz

This is a digital project by Pat Higgins and Sam Moritz titled ‘Sunset Spectacular.’

• Your primary disciplines: 3D animation, projection mapping and installation art

• How are you shaking things up? “To us, it’s incredible when the line between art and architecture is blended and spaces are created for people to gather and feel encouraged to be inspired. With this ideology, and through careful planning and collaboration with designers of all fields, you can find incredible ways to augment otherwise empty spaces with bubbling life.”

• Your web site:

• Shout out another local artist: Night Lights Denver, EOS Music, The Museum of Outdoor Arts, Detour, AJ Davis Art and A.L. Grime

Waveform.exp Iris Projection Mapping MOA

This is a fanciful digital project by Pat Higgins and Sam Moritz. Meet IRIS (The Inhabitable Reality Intelligence System), an imagined vessel that operates by utilizing the viewer’s motion to scan the multiverse in search of possible timelines, realms and realities.

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