"Dolphin" Copyright © 1989 Lillian F. Schwartz. All rights reserved.

“Dolphin” Copyright © 1989 Lillian F. Schwartz. All rights reserved.

Dolphin (1989) sums up most of what can be done with color. In creating the composition, I relied on one of my saved, default palettes. Then I pulled up my Pixel Color Wheel™ and ran in through a sequence of variations, testing the effects of color changes until I devised an entirely new palette. After matching the color changes with the Dolphin palette, I replaced the original scheme with my new one. I used color high lights in lieu of any shading algorithms. The image was output to an analog film recorder. Front of MOMA was output to a digital recorder.

My work in changing the length of vision in an eye’s cones began with my training in color used in painting with oils and acrylics. I experimented then with brushes and pigments and referred constantly to da Vinci. I also had a background in body functions from my initial training as a nurse. I then experimented with colors by painting on plastic sheets lit from behind, followed by using different fluids with different densities, viscosity, and colors. I put the liquids in the base of a bright metal sculpture open at the front. The liquids were pumped in different ways through piping used in chemistry labs. Behind the piping was a lit metal. The colors changed color because of each one’s nature. I then turned to changing the chemical composition of plastic, creating certain colors where there was no color due to the cracks and swirls of the resultant sculpture or piece of furniture.

When I began at the labs, as explained further elsewhere in the site, my sponsor was Leon Harmon who worked in perception based on decomposing recognizable images to the least needed elements of black-and-white for a person to still be able to recognize the image. His colleague, Bela Julesz, studied depth perception and developed theories he termed Cyclopean Perception.

So we have these questions in art: how much do we need to show for a reaction; how do we get colors, lose them, sustain them; what is color and how do we create and manipulate it? The study of color vision started in the early 19th century but it was Edwin Land, the inventor of the Polaroid system, who devoted himself to the property of the eye’s components. All colors are composited from three colors: red, green, blue, or RGB. These are captured at the back of the eye by cones. Color film, for example, is composed of three emulsions, one each for r and g and b; combined, the desired colors are created. But what happens when you have an image of multiple colors shaped as squares, rectangles, squares but you change characteristics? R and G represent 45% each of what we see; the remaining 10% is B. In other words, red has long waves, green has medium wavelengths, and poor blue is short waves. Land’s 1948 Polaroid used color film but in 1955, land, in questioning color, began studying the relationship of colors, light, and black-and-white. If color and black-and-white are conjoined, the colors change color. Black-and-white, or the monochromatic image, is the perfect limit for the long wavelength of no color. Land invented a traveling light meter that measured long, middle, and short wavelengths. By running the meter across the geometry of colors, he discovered that in the dark, i.e. when the image was to us monochromatic, the meter’s random information, fed into a computer, showed what the colors of the shapes would be with lights turned on. He also experimented with memory perception and color constancy. He taught me a number of answers that I wanted to question as an artist and as someone who had at that time, 1969, had distorted vision in one eye and encroaching blindness in both, although the latter took some more decades until my vision was barely existent and I worked from my memory of images and used students as my eyes. I found that by saturating colors through the use of special filters that I designed and then applied other techniques to the optical bench and editing techniques, such as the insertion of black frames, I shocked the cones into a color constancy that was an absolute and not based on memory. The black frames kept the cones refreshed so that the overly saturated colors impacted the brain’s concept of viewing color with the result that images went from a viewable 2D to 3D when wearing special glasses. There was no pixel shifting involved. But then I tackled Land’s question as to seeing color in a monochromatic set-up.

The film Enigma (1972) consists of the use of color, the lack of color, and shifts in the mixture of R, G, and B. Lines moved across and up and down the screen at high speed. In a brief period, the viewer sees colors when the film is solely monochromatic. What Land has said was true: show a color and then remove it to be monochromatic. From this black-and-white of a color, 
the brain will recreate the color which he said was calculated in the brain. Later experiments by others showed that the brain sees depth, color, monochrome, and motion in different areas. Colors and monochrome are analyzed by specialized cells in the back of the brain, the primary visual cortex. The cones are just like the sensors in a digital camera: the cones, too, are specialized in what are called double opponent cells where a cell will capture one color at its top or collect all colors at the bottom. The brain sorts out the colors or monochrome. When color is removed, constancy continues seeing the color until the cones are refreshed. Inserting monochrome changes black-and-white into color memory. So I found that I could create pigments in a manner symbolically similar to da Vinci’s experiments in color and prolong the impact of color on the brain by playing games with the cones. Black as color, color so saturated that it becomes 3D, sometimes without wearing glasses. Recently, i have been using students to take my images and, following instructions, texture map color with movement in a manner that is close to and sometimes is just 3D while being viewed as 3D. The method of wrapping textured, colored images at certain speeds would seem to occur because depth is now pressed into the eye and another part of the brain; depth conjoins with color. I had given thought to this new process when I began analyzing the works of da Vinci and his Last Supper which used different types of perspective (and new pigments that failed him), and Piero della Francesca’s dome with the egg that seems to be hanging down from the fresco as well as all of Piero della Francesca’s frescoes in Sansepolcro.