Steel Ice & Stone is a multi-media interactive installation.
Nine suspended LED panels and sensor-triggered sound create an environment for memory recall.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Define the word "Finished"

Barely a year since I won my Kickstarter to fund the installation, and almost the anniversary of the Trenton show, nagging whispers of where to go from here--namely in the technology development category--drum in my head.

The viewer response has been positive--enthusiastic, in fact. My intention of creating a surreal environment was realized. Floating sheets of light and melding sound created a unified, varying experience. No one understood what I was doing until they saw it.

The work is done. The installation is resolved. However there are new products to deliver the content more directly, more effectively, namely with the sound and light output.

My biggest complaint of the LED panels is the light seeping in from one side of the panel and the lack of pressure to the front surface. And, my biggest complaint of the sound output was that the deep tones were forgone because the small-sized speaker capacity couldn't vibrate to the low frequencies.

Above, the Color Bluetooth measures 5.3 x 5 in
and weighs 1.25 lbs. (12 x 12.8 cm; .57 kg.)
The one on the left is similar in size and weight.
Enter the new technology, namely a full unit LED by Light Beam Industries and Bose's tinyish speakers, both Bluetooth, providing clean delivery and the ability to position it elsewhere for directional sound.

I'm psyched, though I approach this with trepidation. Time and money, my usual gripes, my usual pain.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Adding a Little Color

Here are three images of the 30 we eventually used. Some made their way to life-size posters, others to screen savers, postcards and brochures. I might upload the entire campaign, but for now, the large size prints are important. I'm considering posting the text screens, too since the package is so right.

A colleague on whose work I reported earlier on this blog--since she launched, suffered through but achieved a Kickstarter--designed the print campaign. I sent to-size (72-inch; 173 cm) 4-color bxw tifs with suggestions for color curves. The designer ran with it as fast as I did, we did some tests, sent some coated digital paper to the wide-format printer at the College and the rest is history.

A quick history at that, since we got the whole thing done--3 shoots, design, printing and installation--in 17 days.

Something to be said about working on great projects with someone who identifies with it as much as you do: The designer and I became friends.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Life-size, the Size of Life.

My posts have dwindled over the last weeks because a project erupted and I flew off to work on it with abandon (read: abandoning everything else).

A colleague came up with an idea to spread some happy but important news to the students in the department where I teach. The news was to announce the new name of our department. We, through a fair amount of deliberation, had renamed our educational department, and everything that entails, from Advertising Design and Graphic Arts (ADGA) to Communication Design (COMD). A major transformation on many levels, way too much to go into now, though I will detail it at a later date.

The professor sketched out thumbnails of students with speech bubbles delivering short, poignant messages, like a comic strip. I'm not a graphic novel aficionado. But, with ComicCon in town and my students bringing me daily reports, I warmed up to it, revved up the engines and flew with it.

I thought of a young, diverse student body in front of the camera with excitement; but that's self-serving.
The purpose of the campaign was to inform students of an important change in their educational program. It had to convey trust, understanding. How to do that--without being--cringe--didactic?

By making the students the messengers, the heroes--not just models. And, if they were gonna be heroes, they had to be big, as big as life, life-size. So that's how I shot them.

The announcements to get people to show up pretty much failed. Three came. I had to take dictatorial action. I held one of my evening classes in the photo studio of my school, gave an independent computer assignment and took volunteers.

Total hit. All but one of my students walked on the seamless and did their thing. I gave minimal instruction; they were all naturals--comfortable in their skin and happy to be alive. And while all had the fairly good looks and the flower of youth, in front of the lights, they ignited. Wasn't a bad shot in the bunch.

Everybody loved every minute of it. Two more shoots followed, then came the production, on which I will report shortly.

For now, here are some of the shots.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Analog and Digital

A lambda printer, in very small scale. Widths can
reach 120 inches (305 cm). Also not obvious is that
part of the machine is in total darkness.
SIS was photographed on 4x5 color film for a reason: even before the piece was fully resolved, the color rendition was critical. I had not imagined the final pieces at 48 x 60 inches (122 x 162 cm), but I knew any grain would be unacceptable.

Even in its primordial stage, SIS was to be a sensorial experience. I hadn't even thought of the images forming an environment to walk through, but I knew you had to feel cold and isolated. Any tip-off of the pieces' creation, production or manufacture would render it pedestrian.

I tried making an internegative and a large print from an enlarger at a
commercial lab. Total failure. The print that came from that experience sucked. (That's the nicest way to put it). That size print requires a copy camera room (just about obsolete) and, more critically, a series of test strips to asses exposure, contrast and color. Additionally, the paper's reciprocity factor has to be added in. Compensating all the factors, exposure could take about 50 minutes, challenging the the lab's limitations. The print was about $ 230.00. The lab apologized but said no refunds, they'd take care of me with the reprint. I would have had more fun putting the cash through a shredder.

Enter the Lambda, by Durst. It exposes photo paper via programmed laser rather than spraying ink (toner) on a surface (such as paper, canvas plastic or metal). The images had to be scanned; no easy feat since the drum needs hours to produce the files to make digital c-prints that size, even if the resolution is a mere 400 dpi. Many shops turned me down since they didn't want their scanner operating for such long periods (4-5 hours). I found this totally annoying since it's not like I wasn't paying for the scanning time--they just didn't want their machine working for such a long clip.

Scans in, then came the computer work. My color smarts kicked in as did my production savvy and I was able to get some good prototypes (see an earlier post in which I sliced up the digital image, composited one file and sent it to the lab in Michigan. They printed the file on the duratrans film, mounted it on acrylic and I could asses how the color was going to be once it was installed in the LED panel ). A Cheetah rip allowed the prints to be made quickly, easily, dependably.

Sad that the panels don't photograph well; transmitted light never does. But the critical test was passed: The viewers were transfixed. They had never seen anything like it, and that's all that matters.

Saturday, August 2, 2014


Shortly after SIS came down from the Gowanus Ballroom, I went to Washington DC on a brief vacation. I had the opportunity to move there before it was such a hip place but turned it down. When I went a few weeks ago I recalled why: DC isn't about art; it's about politics (duh, Anita). It's a stark contrast to NYC and you feel it when step off the train.

Its design vibe is ubiquitous, however, and it's evident no where more than its museums. At the Air & Space, one of the many flying machines designed by Leonardo was rendered life-size and suspended from the ceiling in the main corridor. Silent as if gliding over the Tuscan countryside, seeing it hover overhead was sublime.

Equally beautiful was the Wright Brothers' flying machine; a large, dimly-lit room is dedicated to a full-scale model of it and its development. This brings me to a TED talk a friend sent me on the onset of getting SIS off the ground. Simon Sinek delivers--from his perch of solid self-confidence--the core of what drives an idea into realization, regardless of the obstacles.

He brings up the Wright Brothers and their main competitor, Samuel Pierpont Langely, an aviation pioneer funded heavily by both private and government sources. The difference between the two comes from an honest introspective belief that fuels the Wright Brothers' consistence and persistence. The sincerity of the Belief inspires those surrounding you to believe in and support you in your endeavors.

Start at 6:45, although the entire speech is riveting.

As I explore other  exhibition possibilities, reflecting on the past unleashes the courage. Deep breaths with closed eyes re-awaken the reason for making this work; the experience of its creation being part of the journey.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

All the Rage

As the opening of Gowanus Ballroom show neared, I was reminded that every exhibition has its caveats. An artist friend long ago bemoaned his gallery for barely helping him out when his art furniture was exhibited there. True, they had paid for its transportation, but not much else.

Let's think about this: what is part of the gallery's responsibility and what is the artist's job?

It's in the artist's best interest to see to the details so the work gets exhibited they way it was intended. Yet, the mission and policies of the gallery have to be respected. The artist begrudging forks over 50% of the sale price, but the gallery pays the outrageous rent on the gallery--since they're often in tony parts of town, employ those stunning, trendy-clad receptionists (male or female), make the phone calls to the prospective buyers and--most importantly--hobnob in the environments where those buyers lurk--scouting for them like cool but searing sharks.

The artist has to take care of the inventory--create it, crate it and hoof it to the white cube--
and call the maître d' to ask them to trade their opening night with another waiter....

Not in my case, since I'm working with public exhibition spaces where the altruistic nature of those involved makes them eager to be helpful. That was the case at ArtWorks, and it was also at the Ballroom.
The metal smiths, knowledgeable of what was needed, welded the eye hooks to the pipe which they supplied. And, they let my riggers use their equipment to cut the metal and operate the forklift to hoist them to the ceiling--really nice guys. It can't be overlooked that the place doubles as something other than an art space. The Ballroom's charm, its rough, underground energy comes from that fact. My pristine panels and sound in those surroundings fit just right--even if it went against the grain of what some consider art and an art space.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Open to Possibilities

The rigger casing the joint.
Apprehensions about working with students are not without foundation--their wild ambition and impulse can present set-backs, even when they arrive to a project with some experience and the best of intentions.

Not the case this time. I contacted my college's Entertainment Technology Department which offers courses in theatre engineering--everything from special effects design to performance rigs. Got a name and called him. Not a man of many words, my neck got a little kink when he said his cell phone wasn't working at the moment. OK, meet you at the Ballroom, I said.

He took a look and went to work. Brought an assistant who operated the forklift as if it were on toe shoes, skirting around sculptures in the process of fabrication. Another buddy came by and the three put up and took down the installation, getting faster and defter every time.

Australian artist Ken Unsworth creates a number of suspended works using rounded stones; some are high above, others hover close to the ground. His outdoor rendition appealing to me for the shadows it casts underneath it. Though it does get difficult to suspend objects without seeing the cables, it becomes an aesthetic decision for Unsworth's as the cables are carefully arranged.

Calder's work at the
National Gallery.
Though a stretch, Alexander Calder's mobiles can be considered suspended works. The fact that the components are dependent on one another for their location/orientation and are intended to move and create new combinations puts them above a suspended piece; I'm curious if his studies in mechanical engineering had any influence on his work (he said that he studied engineering for no other reason other than he liked a person who did). Stories like this are so much fun.

Another thought: Calder's work gets much energy from its motion, yes, but also significant are the shadows the pieces cast--and move--along the walls, adding a fleeting time component to his timeless work.