Lenticular Technology Advances Fine Arts
By Ray Zone
On September 25, 1902, inventor Frederic Ives filed an historic patent application describing the “Parallax Stereogram and Process of Making Same.” It was the first practical method of producing a stereoscopic image that could be seen in 3-D without a viewing aid of any kind. In other words, it was an “auto-stereoscopic” image. Ives described a process in which a “composite image,” consisting of left and right-eye pictures, was viewed “through a screen of alternate opaque and transparent lines, so adjusted as to give a stereoscopic effect by the parallax of binocular vision.”
This lenticular stereogram could also be used to display a two-step animated image and by 1910 a series of “Photo-change” postcards were on the market displaying pictures in which a woman’s face would transform into that of a flower. Other applications for lenticular imaging were made from 1920 onwards which included stereoscopic motion pictures, magazine covers and record jackets. But, up to the invention of desktop publishing and the proliferation of the home computer (about 1995), lenticular imaging techniques remained the proprietary and private preserve of just a few closed-mouth individuals and companies. Even the lenticular sheets which lay over the vertically interlaced composite images were practically impossible to come by.
All that has changed now. Computer software to vertically interlace two or more images together as well as lenticular sheets in different sizes and with varying lpi (lines per inch) are freely available. There is even an online discussion group which shares information about the technology and resources for materials at: lenticular3D@yahoogroups.com (send an email with “subscribe” in subject box and email body to join).
Heather Lowe is a Los Angeles artist who is creating work for this relatively new platform for the fine arts. Initially, Lowe began a few years ago by creating stereographic paintings. To do this, of course, she had to make two paintings that were different only with respect to horizontal parallax, a left eye and right eye image. These were usually side-by-side images on a single canvas. The gallery patrons would use a plastic lorgnette viewer to see the paintings in 3-D. Or, some of those adept at the technique could use “binocular freevision” to see the images without any viewing aid. This technique is similar to that used a few years ago to see the hidden 3-D image imbedded in the Magic Eye posters that were popular at the time.
Now, Lowe has incorporated animation as well as 3-D into her lenticular art works. The multi-phase composites are frequently created in multiples of more than two images. With the work titled Rose Lowe has painted very subtle differences between the two views. Slight horizontal head movements on the part of the onlooker will elicit these changes in the image.
A cityscape called Night and Day on Catalina Street, a 22” by 28” lenticular on board, uses three views with mysterious changes in signage and a traffic light changing from yellow to green to red. This work clarifies in an inventive fashion the artistic potential of the multi-phase image. Now, the artist who makes paintings for a wall can also be a filmmaker or a “motion-graphic” artist. The palette for artistic expression is expanded and a new visual grammar can be created.
Multi-phase art works can use intricate spectral changes to extend the vocabulary of abstract expressionism as with Lowe’s 22” by 28” lenticular and acrylic painting collage on board titled Pieces. Or, bolder chromatic explorations with complementary colors melding are possible as with Lowe’s lenticular titled Walls 2.
Lowe’s multi-image explorations elicit scrutiny for their subtle transformations. With minute changes occurring in such works as X Marks the Spot, an 8" by 10" lenticular, the viewer is summoned to look within the painting at a quietly luminous space in which simple shapes present themselves. These poised and beautiful abstracts, enunciated with pleasing secondary and tertiary colors, announce a new world of imaging for fine artists.
Heather Lowe may speak softly in this new multi-phase language. But her work invites repeated viewing and the onlooker will return with delight to these transformative emblems of color, movement and space.