studioNOTES: support for artists/ideas and information

Number 22

October - December 1998

Loren Means
Transparent Sea (detail)
paint on film
24 x 36 in.
Loren Means, Transparent Sea LOREN MEANS is using what he calls "controlled chance" to make photographs - only he doesn't use a camera, and they are non-objective rather than pictures of anything.

The first place chance comes into play is in the painting. He uses 8mm movie film or 35mm slides as his "support" and onto this he puts a mixture of organic- and water-based paints, along with a solvent such as acetone. These combine through a series of physical and chemical reactions to form patterns that he says "constantly intrigue and surprise" him. Chance gets another chance to enter into the process when this tiny painting is turned into a photograph, because he leaves it up to the photo technician to choose the intensity and color correction of the final print. Sometimes he even leaves the choice of the exact section to enlarge up to the tech, giving only general directions such as "take a bit from each end."

Before painting on the film, he bleaches it so more paint sticks to the film emulsion. His favorite organic-base paint is "Crystal-Craze," a self-crystallizing lacquer available in hardware stores. He says he "buys it clear and colors it to desired strength with aniline dyes." When this lacquer and an acrylic paint are placed in a pallet along with a common solvent (one that mixes with each), the acrylic forms "shapes reminiscent of the patterns found in microscope slides." Furthermore, "the size and shape of the crystallizations will also be affected by the solvent, as will be the arrangement and dispersion of shapes within the frame." This is essentially the same process as marbleizing, but the addition of the solvent "acts as a catalyst in the creation of shapes." Means's choice of painting materials allows him to project the film, or more often, have it made into an interneg, and then into the final print, which ranges in size from 8 x 10" to 36 x 40".

The fact that the film he paints on is "too small to really be perceived adequately with the naked eye . . . is essential to the creation of imagery," he says. "The interaction of the paints and solvents in this minuscule environment produces imagery of an intricacy and invention that I could never hope to match with my own painterly skills. Consequently, I approach this work as another audience member. . . . I think the art form itself is the artist, and the images bring themselves into being."

In the future he may transfer his techniques to sculpture, perhaps making a motorized piece of clear plastic that would rotate and project patterns about the room. He'll keep on with the 2-dimensional work, too, he says, and has just completed a canvas. It combines water-based and oil-based paint with new plastics technology and integrated photo-based imagery.

Means's work is at the Cafe Arrivederci (San Rafael CA 415/897-7313) through October. It can also be seen at SFPG (SF CA 415/673-3080), Gallery House (Palo Alto CA 650/326-1668), and at

- Benny Shaboy, SF CA, 09.25.98

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