3-Dimensionality has always interested me. Before embarking on an exploration of the world of “Xtra-Dimensions”, I was a professor of chemistry at UC Berkeley. I taught organic chemistry and my research concerned molecules involved in natural biological processes (click here for my academic website). The chemistry of these molecules depends on their structures, and their shapes in 3-dimensions play a key role. In my “non-work” life, I was drawn to skydiving and scuba diving, the two sports where freedom of movement up and down is as important as going back and forth. Perhaps in hindsight, it is no surprise that my artistic efforts reflect this interest in multi-dimensionality.
The concept underlying Xtra-Dimensions grew out of a desire to convey what is missing in a simple photograph – the 3-dimensions and movement that we know were present in the real-life scene. My first attempts were to capture the dynamic elements of the surface of Lake Tahoe. The missing dimensions in pictures of the water surface are the ripples and the reflections that change from one moment to the next, and that also change with your angle of view. I found that the idea works for many other images as well: for example, the layers of foliage in a forest scene or the movement of a swirling school of fish in an underwater picture can be evoked by overlapping layers of leaf- or fish-shaped components.
The “Xtra-Dimensional” approach that I came up with presents the image as separate components in a number of layers, thus adding a 3rd dimension to the piece. The layers overlap so that together all the components recreate the complete image. But there’s more to it than just a jig-saw puzzle at different levels. The components themselves have shapes appropriate for the image, and the way in which they are assembled creates a pattern that brings additional movement – and yet another dimension.
And there is one more aspect of my art that is revealed on the reverse side of each piece: the picture components are mounted on pieces of recycled aluminum cans. The colorful pattern they make on the back of each unique piece reflect the unconventional, multi-step process of its creation.
Paul A. Bartlett
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