Hunting Reflective Surfaces: Eye Spy Opening Day Preparations

As some of you may have realized, my longer-than-usual break between posts has been occasioned by the looming approach of Saturday’s opening day for the Art & Nature Center’s new exhibition, Eye Spy, Playing with Perception.  This show features a variety of artists, techniques, and ways of thinking about how and why we see and perceive the world the way we do.  As this is a year-long show, I’m going to limit myself today to talking about some of the very cool pieces that use mirrors, and one of the activities I have planned for opening day.

One artist featured in Eye Spy whom I’ve mentioned before is Devorah Sperber, who does remarkable things with thread.  We have three of her works in Eye Spy, one of which is not only pixellated into thread spools and hung upside down, but is also an anamorphic distortion, meaning that it is warped to a very particular angle so that it can only be deciphered through looking at a half-spherical mirror.

Sperber's anamorphic Spock

Sperber's Spock 2 (anamorphic), 2007, *1,702 spools of thread. Not the anamorphic work we have in the show, but awesome in its own right. Click to see more of Sperber's "Mirror Universe" works.

Another artist who does remarkable things with mirrors is Daniel Rozin, whose pieces Self-Centered Mirror and Mirror Number 5 are featured in Eye Spy.  (You can see a shot of Self-Centered Mirror on the PEM Eye Spy exhibition page linked above.)

Therefore, one of the activities we’ve planned for Saturday involves sketching your own anamorphic portrait.  Not only will we have two funhouse mirrors to play with your reflection, but we also wanted smaller, cool ‘shiny’ stuff that you could hold and examine your reflection while sketching your warped self.  (No judgment in that adjective, merely a comment on the convex and concave!)

Photo credit to "Brendan Alexander's Perplexing Times." Click for link.

Here’s the question…where do you find shiny stuff that will give you those cool reflections, clearly enough that you have a prayer of sketching the result?  The secondary question is…how do you do that without spending oodles of money?

Having discovered to my dismay that not all spoons are anywhere near reflective enough, I embarked on a shiny-surface hunt, accompanied by one of the most creative people I know, who prefers to remain anonymous.  Our first stop was the local dollar store, which was not as helpful as I hoped–however, we did locate some reasonably shiny spoons, 4 for a dollar, a kid’s pair of mirrored sunglasses, and two cosmetic mirrors that had a normal side and a magnifying side.  Total output, about 8 bucks.  Not bad, but not anywhere near enough.

Next stop, thanks to my creative consultant, was the local hardware store.  Two women walking into a hardware store is a perfect opening for any number of well-meaning and only occasionally condescending offers of assistance from the folks who work there, and this trip was no exception.   Imagine, if you please, my utter delight in telling the clerk who offered his assistance that I was looking for ‘shiny stuff.’  He looked at me like I had three heads–and when I went on to explain what I needed it for, he continued to look at me like I had three heads, and had also hit him over the head with a 2×4.  (I love getting reactions like that.)  Meanwhile, while he was telling me that they were really more ‘focused on practical stuff’ and that he doubted I’d find anything, my creative consultant was peering around into the next aisle and beginning to call out all kinds of cool stuff she was finding.

Score one for the educators.

Final haul from the hardware store (after regretfully passing over some very cool and very expensive chromed faucets and other fascinating bits and pieces) included concave drawer handles, stovetop reflectors of a few different sizes, and a few lengths of chromed pipe, including one that is shaped like a U.  (I’m looking forward to handing that to some kid and saying ‘look, you’re on U-tube!’ tomorrow.)  So now I have a basket of stuff–come and sketch tomorrow!

…And if you’re not feeling up to that, check out our custom-made anamorphic puzzles, in which you can’t assemble the warped puzzle pieces and make sense of the image that results without using a cylindrical mirror.

One of the historical anamorphic sketches that was the inspiration for our Anamorphic Puzzlers!

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