The Light Magician

The Light Magician

Celebrities — from pop stars to fashion designers — call on this Creighton artist and former Bluejay soccer player to help them shine

A few years ago, standing in a backroom at the London studios where he creates what can best be described as luminous alchemy, Tupac Martir, BFA’00, heard a voice.

“It was through the radio we’ve got, a voice saying, ‘You’re needed up front, someone wants to see you,’” Martir remembered. “So I walk up front. And there, standing at my desk — it’s … yeah. And she just reaches a hand out and says, ‘Hi, I’m Beyoncé.’”

It was far from Martir’s first handshake with a leading member of the glitterati but, after about three hours talking with her about how he could bring her 2011 performance at the Glastonbury Festival to light, the reigning Queen B stopped and asked him, “Are you hungry? Do you want some chicken soup?”

“I said, ‘I don’t really think we can get chicken soup,’” said Martir, who returned to Creighton briefly this past fall to display an exhibit in Creighton’s Lied Art Gallery. “And she took my hand and said, ‘Honey, there’s always chicken soup.’”

It wasn’t until a few weeks later, well into his design process and Beyoncé’s rehearsals, that it dawned on Martir he was working with one of the world’s all-time luminaries.

“She was in the middle of rehearsing ‘All the Single Ladies’ and it just kind of hit me,” Martir said. “‘I’m working with Beyoncé.”

Martir, the man dubbed “The Light Magician” by Tony Chambers, editor of London-based Wallpaper magazine, a leading design periodical, has had similar moments of dawning before.

In 2009, the artist was asked to design lighting for an Alexander McQueen fashion show presenting the celebrated designer’s fall 2010 collection. The show turned out to be the final one for McQueen (known popularly as Lee), as he died Feb. 11, 2010.

Not long after, London’s Victoria and Albert Museum dedicated a retrospective exhibit to McQueen’s famously extravagant and visually rich runway shows, the final piece of which was a large screen displaying the catwalk bathed in brilliant color and images from the final show.

“I’m at the gala at the V&A and there are a lot of things going on, there’s a lot to see there and take in,” Martir said. “But then you come to this giant LED screen of Lee’s last show and I’m watching it and I’m utterly captivated by it and I’m thinking, ‘I know what’s going to happen next because I designed it.’ But it was truly epic and amazing to see it in that way. I really couldn’t believe what I was seeing and had to stop and say, ‘Wait. I did that.’”

From Beyoncé and McQueen to Elton John and Sting, Martir’s career has taken him around the globe, but he’s quick to remember that it was the globe’s most popular sport that helped get him his start.

Martir came to Creighton on a dual academic and soccer scholarship to study painting. And he remained convinced, even in the final year of his undergraduate career, that a blissful, bohemian life of painting and playing soccer was all he really needed.

But almost from the day his senior thesis show closed, Martir found himself getting involved in new avenues, new media, new ideas, ever making himself and his art new. From painting, he delved into light installations and from there, into lighting design.

“I thought that was it — soccer and paint a little — and I thought that was just beautiful,” Martir said. “From playing soccer, I got here, and from here, I’ve gone all over the world. I love it. The camaraderie I found here at Creighton still sticks with me.”