The Studio of Eric Valosin

Friday, May 18, 2012

Glow in the Dark Apparitions

Ok, now that my semester has eased to a close ("eased" in the way a fighter jet pushing mach 2 eases when it meets a mountainside), I've got some more free moments to update you all on the many happenings of the last few months.  One such happening, of course, was the projection show, Apparitions II, in which I created a piece that would use my recent glow-in-the-dark paint experiments (see last post).

I decided to use the fading nature of the retained image captured in the glow-in-the-dark paint-coated surface after an image is projected onto it as a metaphor for grasping at the fading nature of a spiritual connection with a given place.  I started investigating ritual rock piles, finding that they are a tradition that spans several faith traditions, from the Judeo-Christian rock formation after crossing the Jordan, to Zen Buddhism, to Native American vision quests.  The act of piling the rocks becomes a meditative way of attempting to connect with the spirit of a location and erect a monument to that spirituality.

So my project went thusly:  I would erect a rock pile with a cup of glow in the dark paint carved into the top rock.  I would then create hands that would be cupping the glow paint, as if scooped from the rocks.  Onto that glow paint I'd project images of the rock pile in various states of completion, which would then be captured in the fading glow of the paint.

This was a project of many firsts for me.  One of which was the first time I tried being a sculptor and casting my hands in wax.  I used alginate and was extremely happy with the fidelity of the mold.

 I then touched up some of the fingers and whatnot by hand with an electric heat knife thingy that would melt and reform the wax, and added the glow in the dark paint.

The only problem with all this was that, in the course of critiques in class, it was decided that the hands were simply too small.  Back to the drawing board.  I then embarked on a second sculptural first: relief. I got myself some MDF board and plaster, and began my relief hands.... very much the hard way...

First I sculpted the plaster additively, which meant that I only had a window of a few minutes as the plaster cured in which it would be solid enough to build up but pliable enough to sculpt.  Several buckets of plaster later, I built up some the relief, fastened to the MDF by holes I drilled to give a sort of score-slip-join type of bond.

Then I proceeded to do the stupidest thing possible - at the want of sculpting tools, I carved the relief by hand using the only tool I could find... a loose drill bit.  My sculptor friend noted that it was a valiant first attempt at a mediocre relief.  Upon hearing that I had done it with a drill bit, he thought it was a relative masterpiece and that I was some sort of idiot savant!

I touched it up wit some borrowed tools and then painted the hands next.

With this complete, I started building the rock pile, taking images, and experimenting on photoshop, ultimately coming up with variations of the completed image that would be projected:

I then realized a huge hurdle needed to be overcome.  In order for the glow paint to be activated, the image would have to be projected, then disappear so that the paint could be left in the dark to glow.  However, even if no image is projected, digital projectors' version of "black" is still emitting light.  So I had to find a way to actually automate the projector let the image be projected for about 20 seconds, and then be blocked entirely from shining for another two minutes or so, then to be refreshed by the next image showing through, and so on and so forth.

SO, I had to dip into the world of mechanics and design a gear box.  I learned quite a bit about gear ratios and gear trains, and simple mechanical equations.

Then I unleashed my inner child and went to town with a motorized K'nex set, stepping down a 66 rpm motor to a wheel that would rotate at roughly .5 rpm, systematically blocking the image and letting it through as it rotated!

 Attached to the projector, installed in the ceiling, it looked like this (minus the actual wheel that would block the light)

Then I fashioned a circular mask for the projector lens and a gobo-type wheel:

Then to install.  I spent a lot of time on ladders that day.  Up in the ceiling is a power strip connected to a laptop, the projector, and the k'nex motor.

Ultimately the result was this (with the lights on)

Finally, with the lights off, as you would see it in the show, you get this! Ta-Dah!

projection shining through
projection blocked, residual glow showing

 I'm working on editing together a video for my website of the piece.  I'll add a link to it when it's complete.

But there you have it!  The first known artistic use of glow in the dark photo-capturing (at least as far as google is concerned)!

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