Five Questions for: Light Sculptor, Haiiileen

It’s just days before the opening of light artist Haiiileen’s show at Young At Art Museum in Davie and the sculptor - in taking the call for this interview - happened to be suspended 16 feet in the air, connecting the wiring from a chandelier piece to the DMX. Her hands-on-everything approach is only one reason she’s emerged as a force in the Miami contemporary art scene.
Known for using light to transform large venues into spaces for artistic expression and social engagement, her work has appeared in the Frost Science Museum and the Bass Museum. What’s more, she’s been commissioned to create installations for Diesel, The W Hotel, Soho House, Mac Cosmetic, Perrier, Funkshion, Redbull and Vogue Magazine.

Her first solo exhibit LightScapes at the Young At Art Museum will include artistic feats such as a colossal 3D acrylic collage arranged in a grid and an enveloping, three-tiered labyrinth that will guide us through a maze of translucent walls. There will be illuminating lights at every turn.

We caught up with Haiiileen — albeit cautiously given her precipitous footing — and got her answers to our five questions.

So how many engineers work on a project of this size?
Zero. I’m doing all the wiring. As a light artist, you have to understand how to do electrical wiring work. I’m not an electrician by trade but understanding and developing what I need is my cause for learning new techniques and skill sets. My partners are a great help, as I’m a brand ambassador for Fuclkner Plastics and GlowBackLED and they help me to continue to grow in this department. Each piece has its own electrical system, its own wiring and its own layout. That’s labor intensive but with the complications of light sculptures comes the need to know how to distribute electrical engineering.

Do you take this approach to each aspect of your work?
I want to be one of these artists making things, cutting bleeding, sweating, bruising. When it’s a part of you, it really translates. Anyone can go off and have something fabricated, but then you didn’t make it you had a team that made it for you. This way, it’s very wearing on the body but at the same time I feel it’s a rite of passage. Yet still, I look adorable as I work. I want to promote drilling in heels.

What ingredients are there but we can’t see?
I use “upcycled materials,” which are products used in their original forms but a different format. Recycling on the other hand, means taking materials, melting them down, and turning them into other materials. Through my non-profit called HaiiiLabs, I got a donation of Doritos and Cheetos packaging foil – it’s $20,000 worth of foil — to use as part of my artwork. When American Apparel filed for bankruptcy, they gave me $80,000 worth of instore fixtures I could repurpose as part of my artwork. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

How did you learn?
Willpower! I’m a Miami girl, I went to G. Holmes Braddock Senior High and what I call, Google university. My background is in fashion, I’ve worked in over 300 fashion shows including as a beauty director for Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Lanvin and Chole. It’s all the same thing: highlights and contours everywhere. I build and fabricate on the same principles on makeup artistry, which is adding and removing, and if I don’t know something I look it up. But my portfolio is diverse and my work is interdisciplinary. I still consult in fashion and I do music and film. I can even do different mediums in the same space. At Young At Art Museum, there will be video I made, there will be audio I made and I’ll be doing a performance in the space as well. I create my own world. I create a world that doesn’t exist.

And your first solo exhibit is at a children’s museum?
Even adults turn into children when they see my work. It’s exciting to showcase to a younger generation, and for people of all ages to see this world at such a young age. I can imagine what an impact it will have, what it will do to these kids in 5 years-time. I don’t know what my own limitations are or what I’m capable of doing. But I like the idea of discovering, developing and being.

Entrance to LightScapes is included with admission to Young At Art Museum located at 751 SW 121 Ave. in Davie. Hours are Monday through Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is $14 per person; $12 for Broward County residents, seniors and children over age 1; and $11 for military members and their immediate families. For more Museum membership and other information, call 954-424-0085 or visit The project is presented by FPL SolarNow, with funding provided in part by the Broward County Board of County Commissioners as recommended by the Broward Cultural Council and the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau.