studioNOTES: support for artists/ideas and information

Number 24

March - May 1999

Steve Aubrey
An Apparatus for
Digesting Thoughts

lenticular stereogram
16 x 16 in.

Steve Aubrey, An Apparatus for Digesting Thoughts

STEVE AUBREY has been using a computer with two monitors to create what he calls "lenticular stereograms." The first part of the term means that each piece has a sheet of tiny lenses over it; the second part means that the images seem to be three-dimensional.

Each biomorphic composition is printed on photographic paper and is about a foot to a foot-and-a-half square. Because of the lenses, a viewer walking back and forth in front of the piece will see changes in the shapes and colors. The effect is of an environment in which one's perceptual consciousness seems to enter the picture and move within it, behind the shapes that appear to be in front, exploring the shapes that appear to be in the back.

To begin such a mixed-media work, Aubrey makes a digital painting. He does this by first opening a graphics program on his Mac, and, using the mouse and the control buttons in the program, "goof[ing], very, very loosely. I try to be as spontaneous as I can." Sometimes he starts by having a pattern-generating program make the shapes, and "the program itself sort of guides me." Or he'll have the computer create textures, "and then I sort of passively move into the editor's chair and I say 'Oh, this little part here is really cool,' . . . and I combine that with maybe something that I've done by hand. I play a lot of mix and match because that gives me surprising combinations that I couldn't possibly anticipate myself." Initially, he says, "I'm an open-minded observer. I'm thrown into a whole universe of possibilities. I don't exercise too much control at that point, because every time I exercise a lot of control, I'm throwing away possibilities. It's as though my brain goes into a passive alpha state."

When he gets a design he likes, he saves it. Next he may select a number of these, which he calls "candidates," and then let them interact with each other. He says, "The interactions are impossible to predict. When you put two images together into layers in PhotoShop, there are several different ways the layers can interact." As things progress, though, "the chance part of it becomes less and less until finally I'm exercising pixel-by-pixel control." Then he tries out each composition in a myriad of color combinations, something which can be done quite rapidly on his computer. Next, he uses this painting to produce such things as a "bump map" to put onto a contour which was also developed from the painting in order "to give interesting and enriched texture to the final result. Then that is rendered in a 3-D program from 20 different points of view and those points of view are interlaced."

As he works, he checks his progress on the two monitors, the left for the right eye's view, the right for the left. In order to approximate how the final piece will appear he looks at both screens simultaneously using a technique called cross-eyed free viewing. This fools the human optical system into seeing a single stereoscopic picture.

When satisfied with what he has on the screens, he prints it out in his studio. If he still likes it, he sends the file on a disk to a professional lab. There, a digital photographic printer is used to make a continuous-tone print the exact size of the lenticular screen Aubrey will laminate onto its surface. He says, "the print doesn't make any sense at all until you put the lens on it." The sheets he uses have 40 semi-cylindrical lenses per inch, oriented vertically.

The artist says he's "looking for the organic connection between the work that I'm doing and the viewer who looks at it. . . . Some of the stuff is kind of challenging. . . . It's meant to arouse physical sensations in people-not all of them pleasant." He's just about finished with his series of biomorphic forms, he believes, and is beginning a perhaps virtually unlimited series of "things that are even more abstract."

Aubrey will have a solo show at Pacific Grove Art Center (831-375-2208) from May 21 through June 18.

San Jose, CA, 02.18.99


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