The Perfect Stereoscope
This post features a collection of images that I’ve labelled “stereoscopes” over the years. Some are conventionally, some are unconventionally stereoscopes. Before jumping in I wanted to offer the chance to appreciate the perfect stereoscope. This stereoscopic image was constructed of no less than ten individual photographs. They were combined in photo-editing software and together compose an image both visually pleasing and analogically philosophical.
Stereoscopes: How to Make a Finger Hotdog
A stereoscope allows the perception of three-dimensions from two dimensional images. How it works: two images show the same thing from slightly different points of view mimicking binocular vision. One image for each eye. The two images unite in the mind and create the perception of depth. Many people people have difficulty seeing the desired effect. This most often turns out to be because they have difficulty allowing their eyes to see independently one from the other.
If you have trouble see the depth here is a brief how-to do that.
1. Point your index fingers at one another close to your eyes. Touch tips. Focus on them.
2. Relax your focus. Allow yourself to see double.
3. Notice the strange hotdog now floating between your index fingers.
The state of your eyes as you notice this hotdog is the state which will allow you see each aspect of the stereoscope with one eye. Looking in this way, a third hotdog image should appear between the two images. If it does not appear to be in three dimensions, adjust your focus to stabilize this third image.
This shape is excerpted from this larger one. I like the image because the high contrast makes it almost calligraphic which makes the sudden appearance of three dimensions all the more dramatic. Calligmagic!
You can make stereoscopic images simply starting with a video clip. A panning shot traveling roughly 10 centimeters (the space between the eyes) will provide the two images needed. Take screen captures until you find the ones that work. Here’s one I did of a bust of Dante I saw in a little cabinet in a big antiques place.
The following caption is a bit repetitive but repetition is good for learning, no? The difference in the screen grabs in the next one though
Here is the possibility of seeing William Blake’s life mask in three dimensions without being in its actual presence. I constructed this stereo-image by screen-grabbing two images from a video featuring the mask. The video camera was moving just enough during the shot to provide these two aspects. The two slightly different aspects simulate views from two different eyes. The video is for Patti Smith’s cover of “Smells like Teen Spirit.”
Here is a stereoscope or comic strip I made with Blake’s Lifemask and two of Messerschmidt’s sculptures.
Commenting on an old my post of mine, Nick Mullins said, “Looking through artists’ websites, I sometimes see a thumbnail that looks really interesting, but when I click on it to get the full-sized image, I find that the real image is nothing like what I thought I was seeing in the thumbnail. Sometimes I have gone back and tried to do a sketch from what I thought I saw in the thumbnail. Your discussion of the fish that became a man in a tarp reminded me of that. Sometimes an accident of vision is more interesting than the reality.”
(Here’s an elaboration of what I replied to him:) Yes my efforts have always included either accident or collaboration — you get to new places faster. Plus, employing accidents it’s easier to appreciate what others might see in my work. It’s only in recent years that I’ve realized that what I simply straight-forwardly produce is a new place to a person seeing it for the first time. It was the most obvious thing but it hit me like a thunderbolt.
Generally I like to think that the accident or other kind of unexpected input points us to a reality we wouldn’t have conceived without it. I don’t mean that in any mystical way. I mean in just the same way a new sound of music will direct our attention to or express a mood we’ve never heard expressed before. Novelty and re-cognition are wrapped up together. Our ability to invent ways to express our experience, to share our experience, always lags behind experience itself. When someone finds a way to say something new about something true, its like a gift we already possess.
I totally get the thumbnail experience. Very often I screen capture a thumbnail at the resolution I like it and then blow it up in photoshop. The resolution might be fuzzy but most times it retains the thing I saw in it.
It’s true of my own work. I like to work really small: I tend to make less marks and their interrelations are clearer. Then when I blow it up — used to be on xerox machines or cameras, now it’s scanners mostly — I work to catch the rhythms evident in the little one. Yeah, without projectors, cameras, etc., most of my work would be postage stamp sized.
Speaking of stamp-sized:
The first image in this post, which I’ve renamed “At the Waterfall” is based on this one here. This one is reproduced at it’s original size. I got the larger image from this small source by a kind of divination. I used to use this process all the time. It combines the two things we just talked about: seeing things in small things and seeing things accidentally. The larger image is a painting mind you: I started with a penciled-in grid and painted all those little dots myself. So there. The smaller image is from a photo from a black and white newspaper which I hand-colored and amended with pen. It is hard to tell now but the original photo was of a boy staring at the camera from behind a fence. The fragment I used shows (or used to show) his fingers poking through chain links in the fence.
Stereoscope: Artaud et le Momo.
William Blake and Robert Crumb: Neither Two Nor One
Blake illustrates a passage in Dante’s Inferno, Canto 25 describing a six legged snake attacking a thief, which Dante modeled after a passage in Ovid’s Metamorphosis.
Inferno XXV 58-69.
“Ivy was never so rooted to a tree as the horrid beast entwined it’s own limbs round the others; then, as if they had been of hot wax, they stuck together and mixed their colors, and neither the one nor the other now seemed what it was at first: even as in advance of the flame a dark color moves across the paper, which is not yet black and the white dies away. The other two were looking on, and each cried, “oh me, Agnello, how you change! Lo, you are already neither two nor one!“.”
Charles S. Singleton translation
“So never did the barbed ivy bind/ A tree up, as the reptile hideous/ Upon another’s limbs its own entwined;/ They clave together, — hot wax cleaveth thus, — / And interfused their colors in such wise/ That neither now appeared the same to us: / Just as in burning paper doth uprise / Along before the flame a color brown / Which is not black as yet, and the white dies. / The other two each shouted, looking on, / “O me, Agnello, how thou alterest! / Lo, thou’rt already neither two nor one!”
Melville Best Anderson translation
Style: visual identity & equivalence
I made this post card to send to James Kochalka when his daily comic AMERICAN ELF reached the ten year mark. My image is based on a photo of Kochalka and his kids and on a somewhat famous painting by someone else.
Here’re the same elements presented as a comparison, bits of multiply reproduced (degraded) GUERNICA and grid paper atop pages from Kochalka’s THE HORRIBLE TRUTH ABOUT COMICS. This is from a series of photographs I took: videotaped collages I made while I was designing a previous version of this web site (no longer extant.)
And here again a comparison involving the GUERNICA baby: this time posed against Minnie, Vinny, and some Mayan Glyphs. I appreciate glyphs, especially with regard to their foreignness. I am always looking to achieve in my drawing and writing the formal quality I appreciate most readily in markings that are illegible to me.
And finally, GUERNICA baby and some grafitti I copied from a barrier on the side of southbound Route 17, around Allendale, NJ. (Graffiti no longer extant, except in the series of photos I took. I believe this tag says or originally said, “Messiah.”)
Another Stereoscope: Bill and Lynda B.
Stereoscope juxtaposing Plate XI from William Blake’s ILLUSTRATIONS OF THE BOOK OF JOB (1826) and Panel 2, page 74 from Lynda Barry’s THE FREDDIE STORIES (1999). Separated by 173 years, sharing a similar vision. I’m sure Lynda Barry has seen this image of Blake’s. Does that make her’s a copy of his? Not necessarily. Blake himself found the poses and compositions for his divine visions in reproductions of Renaissance Masterworks.
I find this likeness wonderful and marvelous. I have notes for an essay I’d like to put up as a permanent page here. For now, though, I will suggest the direction the essay would take with a quote from Paul Piehler’s THE VISIONARY LANDSCAPE (pps 19-20):
“The major poets of medieval visionary allegory regard themselves as part of a cumulative tradition, in which each allegorist recapitulates, refines and develops the thought and imagery of his [sic] predecessors, exploring new dimensions of traditional topics, and, most important, attempting to integrate earlier thought and imagery pertaining to the topic into a coherent whole …”
Is 173 years a long time? A bit too long, I guess, for any one of us to endure. Whatever the number of years, Blake seems irrevocably long ago, from the age of revolution, the mythical time of our era’s origin. His words, images and ideas shine through history like a dead star. He has, it seems, joined history — that flat offensive significance of human life which the living are barred from entering.
Meanwhile, Lynda Barry has such a knack for the voices of adolescence and childhood she seems to resurrect a reader’s own past. The memories she stirs live again.
That makes THE FREDDIE STORIES all the more a marvel: in it Freddie undergoes a “journey to the underworld” which employs imagery familiar from Dante’s journey, even Virgil’s journey. But she builds Freddie’s journey of ” psychic redemption” out of such recognizable, contemporary stuff that she invites us to our own inside of a visionary landscape that has floated along with people for thousands of years.
Style Coloring Page.
“The deeper the influence of the formal, decorative element upon the method of representation, the more probable it becomes that formal elements attain an emotional value. An association between these two forms of art is established which leads, on the one hand to the conventionalization of representative design, on the other to the imputation of significance into formal elements. It is quite arbitrary to assume a one-sided development from the representative to the formal or vice versa, or even to speak of a gradual transformation of a representative form into a conventional one, because the artistic presentation itself can proceed only on the basis of the technically developed forms…”
— Franz Boas, “Representative Art,” pps. 82-83 Primitive Art (1927)
Stereoscope: Blake of the Shtetl.
Here is a stereoscope I’ve had in my possession for over 10 years. On the right is an illustration by Maurice Sendak (1928-2012). It is one of Sendak’s illustrations for Herman Melville’s PIERRE. Under the image is a caption that reads, “an unbidden, most miserable presentiment.” On the left is a doodle from a private letter by Henry Fuseli (1741-1825) an artist to whom William Blake admitted a debt. In the Tate Gallery’s catalog of Fuseli’s work this drawing is titled “Caricature of the Artist Leaving Italy.” The naming of Sendak as the “Shtetl Blake” I take from Margalit Fox in her obituary of Sendak in today’s New York Times. (May 8th, 2012)
Blake: Stereoscope as Comic Strip.
These are plates 9 & 10 from William Blake’s little book FOR THE SEXES: The Gates of Paradise. I grabbed them off of the wonderful site The Blake Archive. One way to read them is as adjacent comic book panels: ‘this happens and then this happens.’ Another is to read them as slightly different views on the same thing, as in a stereoscope. Another possibility is that they are completely unrelated.
One day in the maze …
the rat met the minotaur.
Style and Stereoscope.
Human creators do not have access to the atomic level (artists anyway) and must discover their own smallest building block. Each must innovate an idiosyncratic [mark] to which a life’s work can be devoted. Rilke speaks of it in terms of Cezanne, Rodin, and his own poetry: “Somehow I too must discover the smallest constituent element, the cell of my art, the tangible immaterial means of expressing everything…” After this discovery the artist is free to become a laborer and to spend every minute of life working at “expressing everything.”
I figured I might as well post one of my favorite all time comparison lessons on that style discovery. Above are two well known paintings by Van Gogh. One is painted by the artist we know Van Gogh becomes and one is painted before Van Gogh fully realized that transformation. I think the chief difference between these two paintings is how each painting relates to itself. The difference between these two painting styles is in the relation between what the painting conveys and how it is rendered. In the first, the smoking skull image, an idea of something is conveyed, however vaguely, without regard to how it is rendered. The idea is communicated then we notice how it is communicated, the calligraphy in which it is written. In the second one, the sunflower, what the painting conveys is conveyed through how it is rendered. It contains no abstract-able message by which we can paraphrase it and do without the painting. The painting is all. I like to think that both paintings have the same thing to say. They are both Van Gogh expressing something, but only in the second painting is the artist mature enough to say what he means. In that maturity he became capable of “expressing everything.”
When Worlds Collage.
This is a collage in white grease pencil (china marker) of drawings I copied from Lynda Barry and Robert Fludd. I chose Fludd’s drawing, which I saw for the first time on the front of a book catalog, because it uses the phrase “mundus imaginabilis.” I mistook his drawing as a diagram of Sufi mystic experience which I had just been reading about in books by Henry Corbin. It turns out that Fludd’s ideas were a bit different but by the time I found that out, the drawing had been made. I combined the drawing of the mundus imaginabilis (which now that I think of it may be the mundus imaginalis in Corbin) with drawings from Lynda Barry because it suited my abiding interest in the difference in accounts of visionary experience in different periods of history.
The Lynda Barry drawings I took from her 100 DEMONS, one of the most enjoyable books I have ever read. These panels come from the introduction where she describes the writing exercise which gave rise to the book (and the title of the book): intending nothing, leaving her brush free to record her every stray thought, she captures the demons that enter her mind. If you haven’t read 100 Demons, I’m not sure what you’ve been doing. You must read this book.
I did this drawing initially as a card for my friend Avy’s 30th birthday. I liked it so much that I made three prints of it, giving one to Avy, one to my friend Kat, and one to someone else (OF).
I post this drawing today because I spoke to Kat on the phone and because today, after years of waiting, I received my copy of Lynda Barry’s latest, THE NEAR SIGHTED MONKEY BOOK. Years ago, I put my name on a list so that I could have it as soon as it was available but its publication was repeatedly delayed. I kept getting little e-mails from Amazon saying, “Sorry, not yet” and “oop wait a second.” So the book finally arrives — with $7.50 due COD — and Kat tells me Kyle bought the book for her a week ago from the bookstore!
Kat and I spent the rest of our conversation talking about writer’s block, ways of breaking it and how Lynda Barry is the coolest. Always good to talk to you, Kat.
Two without captions.
And finally here’s a stereoscope of me
A life mask taken when I was 30 years old. Twenty three years ago.