Augmented Reality Art Tonight at Define Gallery

Arts & Culture

Pictured: Hound of Heaven by Diana de Avila.

Define Art Gallery and Studio celebrates its official grand opening this evening with Art Elevate, a one-night event showcasing work from all 20+ of the gallery’s artists and inviting the town to come meet the artists themselves over drinks and hors d'oeuvres. Further marking the occasion will be the debut of the gallery’s first augmented reality art, with the unveiling of new work by digital fine artist Diana de Avila. The event runs from 6-8pm tonight at Define.

Entitled Toys in the Attic and Hound of Heaven, each bears de Avila’s signature style, dreamy and geometric, the result of the artist wrestling for hours with algorithms and AI, Photoshop and a hundred other applications, trying to make the picture on the screen match some semblance of the image seared onto her brain. As an artist with acquired savant syndrome—the result of a motorcycle accident and an illness years ago—the images appear unbidden and without explanation, replaying in her mind and invading her dreams, eventually leaving de Avila no choice but to exorcise them onto her digital canvas. And for the last three years, augmented reality has played a role in the ritual.

“This was a very persistent idea,” de Avila says of Hound of Heaven. Inspired by the poem by Francis Thompson, a first impression may be of something akin to a self-portrait by the infamous H.A.L. of 2001: A Space Odyssey, with the great red “eye” swimming in a nebular cloud of purples and oranges, framed by sketchlines like schematics. But closer inspection reveals an entire world of intriguing detail and strange markings, delicate color work and digital effects. And at the center of it all, a lone figure. In de Avila’s mind, the figure is at the end of a long journey, having struggled through hardship and shadow. But how to show that on canvas? “The AR experience can mirror that journey,” she says. And by viewing the work through the iPad provided by the gallery, visitors can experience that journey.

Though appearing as a static work of digital art on the wall, both Hound and Toys in the Attic actually contain invisible narratives digitally layered on top of the original image. Shifting colors, smoke effects, music and more come into play, as de Avila turns her images into short thematic or atmospheric animations. And with a special application, Artivive, anyone with a smartphone or a tablet can view the art and watch it come alive on their screen. In a town where digital art is yet to find much of a gallery foothold, de Avila hopes that it just might expand Sarasota’s idea of what art can be and who counts as an artist. “We all work differently,” she says. “I’m just using applications instead of palette knives.”

Art Elevate is tonight at Define Art Gallery and Studio on Palm Avenue from 6-8pm.


Pictured: Hound of Heaven by Diana de Avila.

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