The Studio of Eric Valosin

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Particle and the Wave

This past summer I had the pleasure of participating in one of the most exciting group shows I've yet been a part of. Jeanne Brasile, director of Seton Hall University's Walsh Gallery, and artist Gianluca Bianchino teamed up as the curatorial duo Wavelength. For their inaugural exhibition they examined the physics of their namesake, inviting light artists to give their take on The Particle and the Wave.

For a great review of the show, check out NotWhatItIs's article

Also check out my feature interview! (a true honor given the lineup in this show)

Held at Index Art Center in Newark, the curatorial team utterly reinvented the gallery space, building walls and even entire rooms, and having all of the light in the gallery be provided by the artwork itself.

I'm honored to have been a part of this show, sharing the gallery with the likes USCO (the collective of Gerd Stern and Michael Callahan), whose work in the show incorporated video pieces borrowed from Nam Jun Paik and Charlotte Moorman (Which officially makes me 6 degrees separated from Kevin Bacon, but only 2 degrees from Nam Jun Paik!). 

I'll probably never forget Jean relating Gerd's story of escaping Germany during WWII, trying to hack it as a poet and ending up impoverished, meeting Alan Ginsberg in a mental institution, getting kicked out, and then finding his way with likes of John Cage, Harry Partch, Maya Angelou, and the Black Mountain School (this is the tame version of the story).

As if that weren't enough, I was also in the company of heavyweights Stanley Casselman, Carol Salmanson, Ryan Roa, Andrew Demirjian, Jain Kwak, Greg Leshe, Sunil Garg, and my former MFA comrade Christine Soccio Romanell.

Hyalo 3 (WaveParticle)

With the gallery being entirely dark, it was a perfect occasion for me to develop another iteration of my Hyalo series.

This series is an offshoot of my projection negation work, combining projected and painted color. But instead of negating each other, the Hyalo projects blend to an iridescent, ambiguous third color that resembles stained glass, and seems to float at an indeterminate depth on the wall.

For more details on the theory and conceptual matter behind the project, I'll refer you to my interview (also linked above).

Instead, here I'll share some progress shots with you.

My wall, fresh and clean

Projecting the image and masking off the shapes to be painted

All masked off and ready to be painted

Painting in one half of the color blend

The most satisfying part:

Evidence of a completed meditation

Calibrating the projected colors using Photoshop and a Max/MSP Patch I designed

After a few hours of tweaking, it's almost there! Time to export and finish up.

Time to contemplate

Many thanks to Jeanne and Gianluca for including me in this amazing show. It will surely be one I speak fondly of for a very long time!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Drawing on the Horizon

Earlier this spring the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey invited me into an interesting, challenging, and uniquely spontaneous exhibition. What the individualism of baseball is to "team" sports, this show was to collaboration.

Each artist in Drawing on the Horizon was tasked with a 30 inch mural responding to two stimuli: the artist(s) who installed earlier, and the consistent horizon line circumambulating the room. Each artist gets one day to install. Only one artist installs at a time. Installations were scheduled one after the other throughout the entire duration of the exhibition, yielding an ongoing, cumulative, in-progress state.

Panorama of the room upon my arrival. My space would be between the painting and the blue tape line on the right.
I really enjoy the idea of collaboratively drawing on each other's practices and influences (pardon the now overwrought pun). It feels honest and generous, not pretending there is some absolute vacuum in which creativity happens, or that your work is entirely your own (or anyone else's). It's an embodiment of the relational truth and postmodern theology my artwork routinely inhabits (ex: see my collaborative work with John Spano and Christine Romanell, for example).

My strategy was to create a large QR Mandala (an extension of my Meditations series), pulling in formal elements from the prior artists' work. 

The QR code, when scanned, would take the viewer to an interactive panorama of the room prior to my portion of it.

To do this, I tapped into a lesser-known social media platform called Fyuse. It isn't doing to well as a social media platform, but the technology it uses is really something interesting. 

Fyuse basically tried to be Instagram for panoramic video/gifs that are tied to the phone's gyroscope. As you pan the phone back and forth, it pans the image back and forth respectively, as if scanning across a horizon while looking through a viewfinder.

I coded a placeholder destination for the QR code on my web space ahead of time so that I could embed the Fyuse link once I was ready. Then I grabbed my ruler, charcoal, pastels, and went to work.


Gridding out the code on the wall probably took the bulk of the time, but I always find drawing the pixels to be just the right balance of tedious and meditative.

I also spent a significant amount of time studying the other artwork, discerning the compositional through-lines and trying to distill out of them a mandala form. I pulled from the colors and gestures of the works beside me, and echoed the line quality of some of the geometric portions of other works before those. I also tried to continue the angles created in the piece before me, and break up the floor-to-cieling verticality that had arisen in my corner, but without being too abrupt.

Here were some of the other moments that came before me, to which I'd endeavor to respond. The mural began with the painting of the girl in the dress, and then expanded outward in both directions with each subsequent artist:

The state of the room upon completing my section.

The (Virtual) Horizon...

Then it was just a matter of uploading the panorama using the Fyuse app, and getting the embed code for my website.

That much was easy. I ran into some issues though when I realized the resulting image had all kinds of proprietary borders and was sized very inconveniently (and wouldn't respond to typical html tricks for resizing an embedded piece of media.)

Luckily I was able to go in and strip out the border and caption related HTML to get just a pure image. Then I had to get a little tricky and, instead of resizing the image, resize the browser window immediately upon loading, so that it would essentially digitally zoom the image to fit the screen. Every new project feels like a test of my technological unorthodoxy. Not having a coding background, everything I've learned has come as the result of trying to solve an artistic problem, and every triumph, however small, seems monumental in the moment.

With that in working order, I was ready to clean up and let the remaining artists do their parts! (You can refer to the video on my website to see it in action, or scan the code in any of the images here for yourself!)

I returned at the end of the show to see what had come after me. The next artist, Mina Zarfsaz (also an alumnus of Montclair State University's MFA program!) continued the virtual/physical theme by incorporating green screened video elements


Here are a few of my more well-formulated responses to a few of their curatorial questions, which were later compiled into a statement for the exhibition:

 How did you respond to the horizon line in your work? 
• The horizon line became a demarcation of color within the drawn QR code, separating the red above from the green below (pulling the colors from prior works on the wall).  
• In light of my mandala-like imagery, the horizon seemed reminiscent to me of the phrase "as above, so below" and became a way to compound the aerial perspective of a mandala with the horizontal, linear perspective of the horizon line. 
• Scanning the QR code with a smart phone brings the viewer to an interactive panoramic image of the other artists'  work, panning through the image as the viewer tilts his/her phone. This continues the horizon line even into cyber space, and creates an odd dislocation between the physical space and the now superimposed digital version of that same space. 
What connections did you make between your work and the work previously created on the wall before you?  
• As noted above, scanning the QR code with a smart phone brings the viewer to an interactive panoramic image of the other artists' work (without my own). In that way my work becomes theirs, and theirs mine. 
• I continued compositional themes established elsewhere - color palettes, angles, lines/gestures, and imagery like roots or perspectival vectors.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Tiny Books and Fragmented Cyberspace

This summer one of my new projects this year will be touring around the country in a very unique curatorial endeavor. The Creativity Caravan, run by writer/artists Maya Stein and Amy Tingle, is hosting The Tiny Book Show, consisting of lilliputian literature, artist books no bigger than 3" in any dimension.

Nearly 50 venues lined up across 20 states

The call for entry provided an intriguing challenge as I tried to come up with a project that would fit  the criteria but, of course, still cohere with the rest of my practice. With the theme being book-oriented, I went back to the last book I published, my thesis monograph for inspiration. 

For that book I tried to integrate print and digital media using QR codes, in a way conceptually fitting of my explorations of physical and virtual spiritual space. On the back cover I had designed a QR code comprising a Meister Eckhart quote that, when scanned, brings viewers to a random page of a random text that informed my thesis research.

I decided to use that as my starting point for this book as well, figuring the small format would lend itself better to the QR image than to plain text. 

Textual Dividualism

I began thinking about the nature of books as a medium, and how their pages serve to fragment and divide content. If the text were personified, Deleuze's dividual would come into play, with each page being yet another virtual version of the textual self. Given that my QR code destination plays into this idea of random fragmentation, I thought it an appropriate solution to physically fragment the code itself across the many pages.

So I set out to make a book with clear plexiglass pages. Each page would host a fragment of the QR code. When the book is closed, the overlaid fragments would cohere into the complete, scannable code.

As an added challenge, I wanted to make any pair of consecutive pages also compile a complete code. And, by taking advantage of the flexibility built in by the QR code's error correction capability, I could strategically add/remove pixels to make each coherent whole slightly different from each other, but all scan the same.

Sizing up my plexi pages
Scoring and snapping each page

Book Building

The next step was to figure out how to get all the pages to align. I decided I'd drill some holes that I'd use later to bind the pages, but could for now use as a way to align each page over a grid, on top of which I'd draw the QR code.

The next trick would be how to actually inscribe the QR code. I needed high enough contrast to make the image scannable, but as I experimented with various paints and markers, nothing would hold up to the wear and tear of book use without rubbing or scraping off.

I figured I could take advantage of the plexi by engraving the code into it, but would need more contrast than the frosted-glass effect of scratched plexi. So I decided to combine both approaches, scoring the plexi and then rubbing acrylic paint marker into the abrasions. Hopefully that would be both permanent and dark enough to be functional.

Monkish work, crosshatching page after page of QR code etchings


Fully etched page, ready to be colored. A shame, I kind of like the frosted look.

The Moment of Truth

After a couple pages were done, it was time to see if it would actually work or not. This is always the most nerve racking moment of these QR code projects, waiting to see if my hours of labor would cooperate with my initial vision or if it would fall on its face and amount to a pile of dirtied plexi. (for an example of making the most of such a failure, check out my recent Denisyuk Reflection Hologram, in which I attempted to make a scannable, 3D, holographic QR code.)


6 of 8 pages done
With the compiled codes proving to indeed be scannable, I continued scratching a coloring away until all 8 pages were complete. The last part of the equation would be the binding.

This was a tougher decision than I anticipated. Because of the clarity of the plexiglass, any binding would be very much visible, and it had to hold the pages tight enough in place for them to be scannable, but still allow the pages to turn.

Some sort of spiral binding seemed my best bet, but I wanted the material to dialogue with the digital/analog theme. So I decided to treat it as the physical portal to the digital world that it was, and use materials commonly meant for electronic circuitry, copper wire and solder.

Much to my shame, this was actually the first time I'd ever soldered! But it was a good test case, since precision wasn't an issue. And all in all, I'm pleased with the outcome!

Quarter for scale

My makeshift photo-studio for documenting the tiny book, since everybody likes a bit of metanarrative.
Make sure to check the itinerary at the link above and catch the Tiny Book Show at a Gallery/Library/Cultural Center near you!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

My Holographic Universe: Part 5/5 Reflections (and Transmissions)

Lest I leave you hanging, I wanted to take some time to reflect back on my week at the Ohio State University Pulse Laser Holography lab. If you're just tuning in, you can follow my adventure from the beginning here.

Our mentor, renowned physicist Harris Kagan was sure to drill in the major rules of holography:

  1. Two beams - you can't have an image without an object beam and reference beam coinciding on the film and creating an interference pattern.
  2. Stability - nothing can move more than half the distance of a wavelength of light (roughly 300 nm) during the exposure or you get a changing (distorted/destroyed) interference pattern

But there were several more lessons to be learned, which I think are transferrable to other disciplines.

  • Everything matters - whether it's which hand you use to load the glass into the film holder, what brand of squeegee you buy (for the record, the perfect squeegee was formerly found at Bed Bath and Beyond for about $9 but has since been discontinued much to the dismay of the holography community), or what object you're imaging, everything has a purpose and a meaning, and nothing is done without consideration.
  • You can do anything, it just takes time - nothing is off limits, it just might take 8 hours of re-machining parts, building structures, and aligning optics to make it feasible.
  • Well, maybe not anything - there are many inherent limitations to the medium. Fuzzy things and living things move on a microscopic level. No matter how still you are, you'll never be stabile enough for a continuous laser image. Shiny objects just work better. But if they're too shiny they won't work at all. Green objects will never be bright under a red laser. Whatever idea you had, assume you'll be tweaking it. However it's these limitations that provide for many of the most interesting and ingenuitive experimental holograms.
  • It's who you know - nothing new, but the holography community is super close-knit. It's like a secret society or a fraternity, in which everyone knows everyone, and it's a small pond filled with huge fish all swimming shoulder to shoulder. We had visitors drive in from several states over when they heard Sam and Harris would be in the same room, just for a chance to get an autograph and talk lasers. Good ol' so-and-so out in Russia? Yeah, I saw him a few weeks ago. He worked with what's-his-name in Japan, right? Yeah, right before I worked with him in NY. He's married to that woman what's-her-face. Oh yeah, I had dinner with her last month at such-and-such. If you can manage to name drop that one holographer you've worked with, they will know who you mean, and you will feel very important for the next 45 seconds. But when you're in the company of holographers talking holography, prepare to be acutely aware of the fact that you are, for now, an outsider graciously being offered a peek into a strange world full of physics jokes, unpronounceable words, and units of measure you haven't thought about since high school. 
  • There are two types of artists - the kind that want to be holographers and the kind that want you to make holograms for them so they can look like holographers. Holographers can smell a poser from a mile away. For instance, I found out the hard way not to mention James Turrell as one of your holography idols. The holography community has a severe distaste for Turrell, who walks into a lab and pays "real" holographers to make him brilliant things. But if you asked him about beam ratios or how exactly triethylalamine filters out selective wavelengths of white light to develop a colored hologram, he'd likely give you a blank stare. While he gets all the glory as a "legendary holographer" the guy who likely invented all the techniques he's using is sitting in a basement in Ohio getting an autograph from Sam Morée.
  • Give up the Pepper's Ghost - holographers are VERY touchy about the colloquial bantering about of the word "hologram." If I had a dollar for every time it was mentioned that Tupac was not a hologram but merely a pepper's ghost illusion (and that holography is not an illusion - it is real wavelengths of light reaching your eye the exact same way they would if the object were there), I'd be able to afford my own lab. Nor are HoloLens or VR technically holographic technologies. Moral of the story, technicalities matter (see bullet point #1)

The Future

As our week rounded to a close, we had the opportunity to ask Sam over dinner and drinks what he sees for the future of holography. Recognizing this is someone who has been innovating and pioneering holographic techniques for the past 35 or so years, I was hanging on his every word.

He feels that the technology of imaging and developing holograms has largely come as far as it likely can. But he sees great potential in attention to the process of viewing them. New lighting technology and new optics research could really revolutionize the way holograms are integrated into life on both practical and artistic levels.

Thinking within the framework of my practice, I'm looking forward to being able to experiment with my existing holograms on these terms. Activating holograms using digital projection rather than lasers or gallery lights, or playing with projecting holograms from a point or line source seem like  promising places to start.

I still have this sneaking urge to attempt a DIY holography lab, but after seeing the fortune spent on legitimate equipment I have serious doubts about realizing that urge.

And ultimately, I'm excited to dream up a reason to propose a return to OSU for a residency.

From left: Harris Kagan, Miho Ogai, Jaccqui Delaney, Zsofi Valyi-Nagi, Sandra Meigs, Jeff Hazelden, Eric Valosin, Sam Morée
For more info about the HoloCenter and the Pulse Laser Holography workshop and residency program, visit the HoloCenter website.

And should you find yourself in Columbus, I'll share the same advice that was shared with me: Go to Jeni's ice cream. Sample everything (I looked down at one point to find 10 tiny spoons in my sticky, clenched fingers), and ask for pairing suggestions. The ice cream will exceed the hype.

And for the record, ice cream is one of the few things in life that is better off not being a hologram.

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Friday, April 29, 2016

My Holographic Universe: Part 4/5 (the final two days)

Today marked the last day of the Pulse Laser Holography workshop led by renowned physicist Harris Kagan and legendary holographer Sam Moree that I've been fortunate enough to attend at Ohio State along with 4 other phenomenal artists from all over the continent. After having completed our Denisyuk reflection holograms on Tuesday, we brought it all to a close by developing transmission holograms with the pulse ruby laser and making white light viewable rainbow hologram transfers.

I'm sad to part ways with the excellent group of artists I've become so close with over this last week. It's at times seemed to fly by and at other times felt like an eternity; Waiting in the dark for 20 minutes at a time silently or making small talk, 20+ times a day, being mindful of every second passing by, has a way of distorting time. I'll miss the camaraderie of being an extra set of hands for each other as we regularly oscillated between planned lethargy and crisis mode.

Yesterday had many of those crisis mode moments... 


Inside the pulse studio, Jeff Hazelden setting
up his model for the shoot before mine.
The morning started as any other. We gathered, discussed the game plan, and went into the pulse laser lab to set up our installations, one by one. I was the second person out of the five of us to go, and I decided to make another go at my rock pile.

Harris advised that I find a way to take advantage of the pulse laser's ability to image something moving, so I decided to put my rocks in water, and disturb the water by lifting and dripping some handfuls of it. 

I also built a little plank to sandwich between the rocks, projecting forward to hold a second rock pile in front of the larger one behind. This way it would jut forward more in the image and seem to be floating. (and no, I didn't cheat with hot glue. In the spirit of true rock balancing, it's all actually ready to topple at any moment. And often did.) The next step was to fill it with water and practice timing our dripping.

When it was my turn in the lab we carefully disassembled and transported all the components. The we began setting it up, using the mirror as a standing for the film, as a way to line up our composition, raising and lowering the platform with shims and 2x4s, and then carefully loading in about 3 gallons of water by the coffee mug-full so we wouldn't spill water on any of the optics.

Crisis number one came when it slowly occurred to us that the felt strips we used to mask the edges of the tray were wicking the water out of the tray and gradually flooding the floor of the lab. Lasers and water are not a good thing. On top of that, dripping the water would cause us to potentially get in the way of one of the mirrors.

We decided to simply agitate the water with our hands and then jump out of the frame as quickly as possible, and hope there wasn't too much water on the ground. Frantically, we got it all ready.

3 - 2 - 1 - FOOMP!

20 nanoseconds later it's all done.

We even more frantically (but VERY carefully) cleaned up the flooded floor, and dismantled the installation. 

Crisis two came later when someone nearly destroyed another person's hologram by accidentally turning on the yellow lights in the dark room before it had been bleached, which could expose the film and wash out the image. Luckily, somehow, the image wasn't harmed. 

After a very stressful morning of close calls, Harris urged us to break for lunch to recompose ourselves.

...That's when we got the alert about the shooter. 

An armed home invasion that sent two people to the hospital just off of campus, and the perp was on the loose. The school went on lockdown, so we hunkered down in the darkroom with the doors locked, and used the time to develop some film.

Webster developer heated to 104º (stronger and more caustic than the D19 we used for the continuous wave lasers) for about 4-5 minutes, water rinse, bleach, back to the water for 20 minutes, then squeegee and blow-dry. 

We got the notice that the lockdown had been lifted, and my hologram was ready to be viewed.

The setup was a little too high so that from the vantage point of the film you could barely see the water, (which was not nearly as agitated as I 'd hoped) but otherwise it was a really successful shoot.

Each of our holograms got better and better as we went along, and the crises became fewer and farther between.

Eventually, we all finished up, and had some really spectacular masters from which we'd make 4x5" transfers. Sam began setting mine up to be first up for the transfer the next day.

Lining up the master on the front plate to be projected onto the rear plate with a line source (i'll explain below), where the film would be.

The projected image (sideways)
We finished relatively early (that is, not late), and I got back to my host's house just in time for a really great, small party thrown somewhat in my honor. Conversation ranged from holography to foodies to pinball machine repair, to defecation performance art, and I was stunned that not a single one of those topics was any less technical or conceptually rich than any other!


Today we returned for our final day. I was first up for the transfer. The way it works is this: Since every point on the hologram contains all the information for the light scattering off that object and going to that point, you can shine a point source laser through the hologram and end up projecting the entire scene onto the wall. As you move the point around, the vantage point of the projected image moves around accordingly.

Lines and Rainbows:

Instead of shining a point, if you use a cylindrical optic to spread the laser into a line, that line will project the whole image (as seen above) and it will retain all the info for all the vantage points along that line. That gives you a projected image that you can walk past and get the 3D parallax effect. On top of that, the slit aperture of the line source causes white light to spread, creating a rainbow hologram when viewed in white light.

Then, by calculating the focal distance for each 3D portion of the image, you can place the film in the right location to get the transferred image to appear to sit anywhere in space you'd like in relation to the film.

In mine, the rear rock pile sits behind the picture plane (what's called a "virtual" image because it's focal point occupies space that does not physically exist), while the front rock pile appears to just out in front of the picture plane (a "real" object with a focal point in real space in front of the image)

You're then essentially taking a holographic image of a projected holographic image, using that projection as the object beam that mixes with the reference beam to create the interference pattern.


Since the optics were already set up the night before (see diagram), all we had to do was fine tune some things, turn off the lights, and load the film between the panes of glass on the rear part of the projection apparatus. 

The trick was simply to pick the right spot for the film, since our "window" would be shrinking from 5x14" to 4x5"

Then we wait 30 minutes for it to settle and become stable, tell stories, and figure out our game plans for the exposure - set the timer, lift the card blocking the laser off the table for a minute, uncover the beam entirely and try not to move, breath, or make any sounds, and pray the construction workers upstairs don't decide to start hammering, and watch for 2.5 minutes, then cover the beam again.


Then it's off to the darkroom. It was pretty cool to actually get to the point where we felt we could handle it all by ourselves, without Sam or Harris looking over our shoulder. We all helped each other remember all the steps, and we all had enough experience by this point to be able to coach each other through any minor problems.

And ultimately it turned out fantastically. The only issue was a mysterious streak across the top of the image, but the hologram still developed, meaning the streak couldn't be from a messy object beam. We couldn't find anything in reference beam that could be causing it to overexpose. I thought I might have somehow exposed my film while loading it, but when we saw the same line in everyone else's film too we deduced the it was actually a defect in the roll. Big bummer for the roll, but it was reassuring to me!


Since these are transmission holograms (meaning both the object beam and the reference beam collide on the same side of the film) they need to be illuminated from behind (with what's called a "conjugate beam") in order to be viewed. That's why transmission holograms that are hung on walls are actually mounted on mirrors, because it reflects the front mounted lighting back out as if it were coming to the viewer's eyes from behind the film.

Once it was mounted up, we took a look in the white lights, and voila!

I was extremely proud of all of our holograms, and perhaps even more so with everyone's patience through all the waiting, crises, and confusing physics lessons. Tomorrow, after a good night's rest, I suppose I'll take a moment to reflect back and wrap this all up into a nice tidy bow.

But for now, it's time to get some sleep on my last night in Ohio before making the trek back to Jersey in the morning. It's been quite a ride!

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