Early Works

I never chose to be an artist, it chose me. It is a calling, a religious feeling, and a compulsion to peel away layers of a subconscious onion.

The 1970s were an exhilarating time for Staller as a young artist. In 1974, at the time of his first exhibition in New York City, Staller began creating installations utilizing slide projectors and super-8mm film projectors, a precursor to his ‘light drawings’ and interactive works of art. To create one of these early works, Runsgood, Staller hung out the back of a station wagon with a super-8, zooming in and out, changing perspectives, and rotating the camera, while his brother drove for hours on the Long Island Expressway. Installation of the work required the use of four continuous loop projectors, developed for sales presentations. Experiencing the hypnotic work, visitors would enter a darkened gallery to see a large-scale screen lying on the floor, illuminated with projected images that resembled standing over or on the highway.

Runsgood, 1974.

In 1977, Staller’s artistic creations were taking the forms of fantasy architectures of light. Enchanted by the city at night, the empty, and eerily quiet streets, Staller began his acclaimed four-year series of choreographed “light drawings”, outlining everything from automobiles, streets, parks, bridges, and monuments throughout New York City. Inspired by the architectural uses of the human figure in Fritz Lang’s film Metropolis and old Busby Berkeley films, Staller began to think of volumes of light and the geometry of the body. The challenge was to take each image further intellectually, and artistically.

Exhibition of the “light drawing” photos caught the eye of the producer of the Aspen Design Conference, leading to an invitation to participate in 1979 and an introduction to the commercial design world.

Instrumental to the development of Staller’s work and artistic voice were the early career interactions he had with the fashion and design industry. Following the Aspen Design Conference (1979), Staller was hired by Saks Fifth Avenue to create projected images as a spatial backdrop to a fashion runway. Reviewed in The New Yorker, as a “dazzling stop-and-go slideshow,” Staller soon found himself working with Bergdorf Goodman, as well as fashion designers from Christian Dior to Diane von Furstenberg. With a growing network of art world professionals and with grants from the New York State Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts, Staller soon returned to his art practice full-time.

In the 1980s, Staller’s work evolved from photography into sculpture and more technically complex 2D and 3D animated works that explored the sinuous and fluid sensations suggested by various colors and configurations of lights. This new body of work, on exhibition at Stony Brook University (1984), was reviewed by New York Times, calling Staller’s featured works, Glimpse of Happiness and Kite, “the show’s most abstract and evocative works, floating high above the viewer like benevolent celestial beings, producing gentle, soothing rays. The artist’s blending of technology and emotion is most harmonious here.”

Glimpse of Happiness