Emphasis on Digital
No, it's not just pushing a button
by Laura Bien
Affable local artist Alvey Jones is an alert magpie. His works in the Washington Street Gallery's current show of digital art include cloth from Jo-Ann Fabrics, wood preservative from Stadium Hardware, a wood mat from Hollander's, scavenged fence wood, Shrinky Dinks inspired by his children's use of them, and such quotidian scroungeables as crayon stubs, marbles, keys, coins, buttons, a broken jackknife, and a cowrie shell.
Jones feeds much of it through his Epson 2200 printer, which has a "flat feed" that can accommodate unusual materials such as plywood, cloth, or the Hollander's mat. He gets a huge kick out of experimentation, confessing he's been tempted to feed "rocks and aluminum" through the apparently indestructible printer.
His eye-catching assemblage Previews of Coming Attractions contains a blurred sepia scene from the movie To Kill a Mockingbird showing Boo Radley and Scout on a porch swing, digitally printed on a tiled set of twenty rectangular Shrinky Dinks. Beneath the scene is a box containing everyday objects, sealed in clear plastic wood preservative, that allude to key moments in the film. The title is an inside joke: Jones's upcoming show, also at WSG, will be a series of similar movie-inspired artworks.
The intricacy of digitally printing twenty Shrinky Dinks with fragments of image, and the equally demanding efforts of Michelle Hegyi, another artist represented in the show, put to rest the stereotype of digital art as an easy out. Hegyi, who's been experimenting with computer-generated art since 1984, says she spends more time on her digital works than on paintings, because with the former there's "the possibility of making it perfect." Her large, tranquil prints, from the series The Shape of the Sky, show cool blues overlaid with crayony textures and paintlike strokes in yellow and brown. Some of her works include encaustic, an overlay of beeswax that imparts a gentle, warm opacity to the images.
Lynda Cole also uses encaustic in a vertical series of three creamy, foggy
works (above) that depict a wiry nest containing mysterious glyphs, a series of blurry smoke ring-halos, and a swirling sphere of geometric lines.
In contrast to these dreamlike works, local bookbinder Barbara Brown's mathematical paper sculptures transform digitally printed paper into intricate, origami-like books. Her work Disambiguation: Notification of Possible Occurrence resembles a silvery, pointy accordion imprinted with images of nails borrowed from a friend's sketch.
Martha Keller creates art on a Wacom tablet with a stylus-a sort of Etch-a-Sketch on 'roids. A former U-M adjunct art professor, she says she finds herself applying many of the principles she used to drum into students' heads to her new pursuit of digital art. Her work Lake M/Aqua shows swaths of soothing acrylic-like turquoise surmounted by pink watercolor-like brushstrokes.
The works are on display through September 11.
[Review published September 2005]