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Creating a Mutoscope 

I made my first mutoscope more than 25 years ago.  I've always been fascinated with 19th century parlor toys and midway entertainments, especially mechanical ones.  When I was in my 20s, I had revisited an amusement park which had been a favorite of mine when I was a child.  They still had many of the old machines on the midway, and I remember being completely taken with what I later learned was a mutoscope.  You put in a nickle which allows you to turn the crank, rotating a drum of sequential photographs - a sort of precursor to movies.  I was enchanted. 

Some years later, I had the idea that it would be fun to try to make one myself, except that I would paint the sequence of images instead of using photographs.  The first one was more or less successful, so I made another, using an old Erector Set which had once belonged to my father-in-law when he was a child. 

Recently, I revisited the idea after I completing the painting "Nightfall - Flying Horses."  I thought it would be great to capture the moving carousel horses to engage the viewer in an interactive way, and complement the painting.  I knew this would require building skills far beyond my own!  Luckily, my friend and fellow artist Stephanie Danforth suggested that I approach Andy Palmer, woodworker extraordinaire, with the project.

Over the course of many months, we discussed and refined the design, as Andy turned his inventive, creative ideas into a unique working apparatus.  While Andy worked on the mutoscope, I worked on the paintings.  I made several visits to the Flying Horses Carousel, and thanks to The Martha's Vineyard Preservation Trust and Carousel manager, Robin, I was able to make some studies, take photographs and video while the carousel was closed to the public.  From there I created 14 original paintings that creates a looping sequence, giving the illusion of a rotating carousel.  It is now on view at The Granary Gallery, 636 Old County Rd., West Tisbury, MA  

Nightfall - Flying Horses
oil on linen     40x50 inches

See how the mutoscope was constructed by Andy Palmer!


The Invention of Third Dimension

This was the title of my first attempt at creating a 3-D effect in paintings.  I conceived of this first installation of 2 paintings as a re-imagining of a sort of carnival mid-way entertainment, embellishing a "viewing" table with phrases inducing the public to experience the 3-D effect.  "Fantastic sights leap at you in 3-Dimensions!!"  "A thrilling new dimension has been added for your viewing pleasure!"  "You've heard about see it for yourself!  3-rd Dimension!"  These were borrowed from 1950s movie posters, and repurposed to recall a barker at a sideshow.  

A pair of wooden artist's mannequin hands were positioned to hold up the viewing mirrors which were used to create the 3-D effect, another to hold a light, and one more to offer the public a pair of "special" 3-D glasses.  Though the glasses were not necessary for seeing the effect, it was a means to engage the viewer and encourage an interactive experience.

(Some people can view the 3-D effect without glasses or mirrors by looking in the middle of the two paintings and slightly crossing your eyes until the paintings merge.  Try it!)

Eat Beets for Health

Part of the challenge of creating these paintings was to maintain my style - a classical and painterly approach to painting.  At first it was simply a question - could it be accomplished successfully, that is, create a 3-D effect with a painterly approach, and what would it look like?

The process of creating the installation piece is collaborative.  Fortunately there are some wonderful craftsmen here on the island.  For each of these pieces I enlisted Jim Young, owner of Lineweaver Cabinetmakers.  He and his team created the tabletop and installed the mirrors.

Below, metal sculptor Julian Pepper constructed the steel base.

A fork and knife on the table encourages one to "eat up!"

Vodou King

My friend and fellow artist, Wilfred Dantis from Haiti, posed for this life-size, double portrait.  To create the 3-D effect, each one is painted from a slightly different perspective to simulate the distance of one eye from another which allows us to see things dimensionally.  

Once again, Jim Young built the viewing part of the installation, in this case, a kneeler designed to create a tongue-in-cheek reverential experience.  It is decorated with small battery-operated votive candles.

In the Studio

When I studied at Pennsylvania Academy, it was a bit out of step with what was being taught at most other art schools, but I think that was what I liked about it.  In the first two foundation years, all students were immersed in the study of classical techniques and methods.  I really grew to appreciate all that artists had learned and used over the centuries as a means to express themselves in paint on a two dimensional surface.

Here I am in my studio using a traditional method to prepare a canvas.  

First - stretching the linen.  For larger canvases, I use composite stretcher bars made of hard wood and aluminum.

Next I prepare rabbit skin glue as a size for the linen.

After the size dries, I apply two coats of oil primer.

I used this canvas as the support for "Last Boat."  

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