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Friday, October 28, 2005
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Matter of perspective

Artists Sage and Burns transcend three dimensions with ‘Art Tech Expo' gallery exhibit

By Nancy Sheehan



Artists Kevin Burns, left, and JD Sage, shown on the right with wire caricatures of the pair, have curated "Art Tech Expo."
Enlarge photo

Art Tech Expo, Showing Artworks & How Art Works
WHEN: 1 to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, through Nov. 13, or by appointment by calling (508) 852-7220.

WHERE: The Gallery at The Sprinkler Factory, 38 Harlow St., Worcester.

COST: Free.

INFORMATION: http://www.ask-how.org/

If you go to the Art Tech Expo, bring an open mind and wear good socks. You will immediately be directed to remove your shoes and you don't want to be caught wearing any late-for-work, one navy, one black mismatches. A little sign just inside the door of the second-floor gallery at The Sprinkler Factory, 38 Harlow St., asks for stocking feet so you can enter a large mirrored box called "Immersive-Reflective Installation" and not leave tracks on its mirrored floor.

There are also mirrors above you and on two of the big box's sides. The two others are left open for entrance, egress and light. The mirrors are painted with a glowing human skull and primal cave-art images. Once inside, you feel as if you have been visually transported to new dimensions of time and space - several of them, all at once. Mirror images of you, the floating-in-space skull and the cave creatures are repeated - above you, below you, everywhere you look. When you step outside the box into normal reality, it seems a bit boring and flat, as if it is lacking a few dimensions, or a few hundred.

The impressive "Immersive-Reflective Installation" is the work of Paxton artist JD Sage. Sage, also professor emeritus at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, likes to combine art and science in his work. So does Kevin Burns, a Worcester artist and a cognitive scientist at Mitre Corp. in Bedford, a company that oversees development of computer systems for the U.S. government. The two found each other in the Worcester art scene a couple of years ago after Burns read Sage's book, "MetaForms and MetaNudes etcetera," a slim, scholarly volume that probes the use of mathematical transformations, numbers, symbols and the element of time in art.

"He picked up my book and he read it. I think he's the only one in the United States," Sage said. "He approached me later and said, `Maybe we could do a show.'"

"Art Tech Expo, Showing Artworks & How Art Works," is the result of that collaboration. Organized by Burns and Sage, the show, which runs through Nov. 13, features their work as well as pieces by eight other artists attuned to the scientific wavelength. It is strong and innovative. It also is wide-reaching. It aims to highlight how science and technology are applied to graphics, sculpture, gaming, music, poetry, video, photography, architecture, woodworking and ceramics. Somehow, it manages to do all this pretty well, thereby saving Burns from leading a fragmented life.

"We both have an interest in the intersection of science and the arts and felt we wanted to reach out to see who else was interested in that," Burns said. "We also wanted to reach out to the arts and science communities to show them that there's another side, because otherwise it's like leading a dual life. You go to art parties and there's no science. You go to science gatherings, there's no art."

The labels accompanying each piece are careful to explain how each artwork is affected by tech work. But if you can get a group together - even a small one - there is a better way to see the show. Burns and Sage are offering what they call "curatours," or curated tours by appointment. They are so excited about the show, they will even turn out for one person, they said. They are doing this for a DeCordova Museum curator who wants to see the show Nov. 10, and will happily do it for anyone if a time can be worked out.

It's worth making the call. While the labels are informative, Sage's and Burns' enthusiasm and knowledge of science and art add yet another dimension to the already multidimensional show.

You could, for example, look at Burns' series of illusory illustrations on your own and you certainly would enjoy them. They are op-art illustrations in which viewers perceive motion and depth from shaded ovals. It is more fun, however, to view them under Burns' direction. "Look at this one and just let your eyes relax," he says. He is patient if the little ovals don't perform for you immediately. "Don't stare at them. Just kind of let them go," he says. Then, it happens. One row of ovals heads left, the one below it scoots right and that pattern repeats down a page full of rows of little lined-up ovals. "Are they moving?" he asks animatedly, then, after another moment: "Do you see them?" Without your answering, he can tell by your face that you do. "Is that cool?" he asks, beaming. Yes, it is. Very cool.

A dedication to the da Vinci-like meshing of art and science also is evinced by the other artists in the show. They are Shlomo Dubnov, Joseph A. Sage (eldest son of JD Sage), J-me Johnston, George Stadnik, Harriet Brisson, Carl Johnson, Yoav Liberman and Jill J. Burns (wife of Kevin Burns).

The Worcester Center for Crafts, 25 Sagamore Road, is serving up a colorful show called "Platitudes: Plates with Attitude," in its Krikorian Gallery through Nov. 17. The show and sale features ceramic, glass and metal plates and platters by 25 artists from New England and beyond.

"It's one of the best and certainly the most vibrant show since I've been here," said Amy Black, who has been public relations and marketing director a year and a half - the Craft Center is a busy place, and there have been several shows in that time. "I think it is the mix of color that I find so attractive," she said.

The attractiveness comes not just from what's on the table, but also from what's on the wall. Tapestries were commissioned to compliment the plates and platters and their fabric-artist creators have outdone themselves. Of special note are tapestries by Elfa Jonsdottir, a student at the Craft Center.

"She's a clay student," Ms. Black said. "I had no idea she was so talented with fabric as well." There is no charge to see the show. For more information about Platitudes contact Melissa Figuerido at (508) 753-8183 Ext. 3005.

Craft Center executive director David Leach knows how to get a kick out of life. Wednesday night he and his wife, Audrey Leach, showed up for their first kickboxing class at the Worcester YWCA at Salem Square. Their instructor, aerobics queen Pati Jermyn, showed no mercy. She rigorously put the newcomers and aerobics veterans in the class through their paces. But Mr. Leach is a veteran himself - of the Australian Army. Did that training help any? "We never did anything like this in the army," a sweating Mr. Leach said at the close of class.

If you are a student and want to be a prize-winning photographer, here's your chance - but you have to hurry. The deadline for this year's "Seasons at the Sanctuary" photo contest at Broad Meadow Brook Wildlife Sanctuary, 414 Massasoit Road, Worcester, is 4 p.m. Nov. 5 The contest is open to area residents of all ages but so far only adults have submitted entries. That leaves three special youth categories - elementary school, high school and college - wide open.

"We would love young people to enter," Kristin Steinmetz, a natural history guide at the sanctuary, said. "Right now I'd say they would stand a good chance of winning."

Prizes include photo supplies and gift certificates and the honor of being in an exhibit at the sanctuary, which will open with an awards ceremony from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Dec. 15. Plans are in the works to take the show on the road, with possible stops at city hall, the Worcester Public Library and ARTSWorcester. All photos that follow the rules will be included in the show, not just the prize winners. Photos must have been taken at Broad Meadow Brook. They can be shots of the scenery, the wildlife, human visitors - whatever the photographer finds interesting there. Entries must ready for hanging (i.e. matted and/or framed) and an official entry form filled out. Forms can be obtained at the sanctuary or by calling (508) 753-6087.

Adults also are encouraged to enter but the competition is notably stiffer. There are about 20 entries so far, all of them good ones.

"They're all breathtaking," Ms. Steinmetz said. "I love looking at them."

The city's annual Festival of Lights is getting brighter. The event, which will be held Dec. 2 this year, will include the customary tree-lighting ceremony on the common at 4 p.m.. But, instead of ending just an hour later, it will continue this year with a celebration and art sale from 5 to 8 p.m.

The city will be shutting down Main Street from Pleasant Street to Exchange Street for festival activities.

There will be horse-drawn hay rides bringing people up and down the street, a food sampling from restaurants, street performers and the opening of new Worcester Windows exhibits in the windows of downtown businesses and organizations. Many downtown businesses and venues will remain open beyond their usual hours for the event.

Organizers are seeking artists who would like to sell and show their work that evening. Please send any questions by e-mail to Doug Chapel and Tina Zlody at doug@dsquared.org or Erin Williams at williamse@ci.worcester.ma.us. You may also call ARTSWorcester at (508) 755-5142.

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