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Eszter

Saturday art blogging: making art with the help of AI

by Eszter Hargittai on December 8, 2018

Remember those days when you would discover a Web site and completely lose track of time as you got sucked into its amazingness? I hope you have some time, because I am about to point you to such a site.

The video below is purely for the purposes of showcasing multiple images at once not because I think such a video is particularly interesting in and of itself. The generated individual images are. My hope with the video is for you to get a sense of what’s possible with the Deep Dream Generator. You upload an image and then select one of their available styles or upload another image to serve as the basis of the style that will be applied to your main image. Needless to say, the possibilities are endless.

I show you the styles I used below the fold and give you some additional rendered examples from other base images. [click to continue…]

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Saturday art blogging: patterns in Islamic art

by Eszter Hargittai on December 1, 2018

In my senior year of college, I took what must have been the most talked-about course offered at my school: a year-long introductory art history class, “Art 100”. It has since been discontinued, sadly, but also understandably, as it was taught by the entire art history faculty and its coordination must have been overwhelming. The benefit to students was that we got to learn about all materials by experts in it. It was a fantastic and beloved class, in some cases life-changing (see one example of this). Numerous friends in my house (Smith’s name for dorms) had taken it and we had countless conversations about the class (and to my chagrin now as a professor, some also about the profs, but for what it’s worth, they tended to be about our admiration).

One of my favorite sections was Islamic art. I hadn’t known much about it and found the patterns in architecture mesmerizing. When I was in Doha almost a decade ago, I very much enjoyed the tour of the Museum of Islamic Art where lots of patterns greeted us both in the architecture (see above) and the pieces on display (see below and here). Given these positive experiences, I was pleasantly surprised this week to stumble upon the Web site Pattern in Islamic Art, which offers a very nice collection that I wanted to share with you. The slideshow pages take a few seconds to load, they are worth it.

     

Saturday art blogging: learning about art through jigsaw puzzles

by Eszter Hargittai on November 24, 2018

A few years ago I started doing jigsaw puzzles again. I found my way back to this hobby when I realized that putting together jigsaw puzzles of art pieces could teach you a lot about a painting. In addition to very much enjoying exploring paintings, I also make paintings (mostly acrylic and watercolor) so understanding an artist’s technique is of great interest to me both as a lover of art and as a maker of art. When you are working on putting together a 500 or 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle, you become intimately familiar with every part of the image. By having to look very closely at each piece, and having to identify patterns and links across puzzle pieces, you notice things about a painting you may well miss otherwise. Sure, many people likely recognize Van Gogh’s special brush strokes, but you get a much more heightened awareness and appreciation for what the artist did when trying to piece together their work from such distinct elements. I highly recommend working on jigsaw puzzles of art pieces you like or want to learn about more.

To avoid confusion, I should note that the two photos represent two different puzzles. The top one is from a Van Gogh piece, the bottom from a Klimt piece.

Saturday art blogging: the Art Institute’s digital collection

by Eszter Hargittai on November 17, 2018


Recently, the Art Institute of Chicago updated its Web site, which included making available – under a Creative Commons Zero license – over 50,000 of its images. This is very exciting especially since the images are in high resolution. This means that you can zoom in and see the pictures in considerable detail like I did with the image posted above, a section of Monet’s Cliff Walk at Pourville, posted in full below. Given the Art Institute’s exceptional collection, this is a tremendous resource for art lovers, students, educators, and beyond.

Saturday art blogging: public art in Turku

by Eszter Hargittai on November 10, 2018

I love public art. I love stumbling upon sculptures while walking around in a city. I only got to spend about 36 hours in Turku, Finland and most of it was rather dark (and/or foggy) plus I was inside for my talk and meals for a good chunk of the time, but I still got to experience some surprises. Pictured to the right is Posankka, a cross between a pig and a duck, that its artist Alvar Gullichsen apparently created as a commentary on genetically-modified organisms. I spotted it across the highway as I was walking around the University of Turku and had to get closer to investigate. It looked cute from afar, not so much from closer. It seems to elicit a lot of sentiments in people and now greets visitors to Turku as they enter the city. (Originally it floated on water.)

This was not the creepiest piece I saw in Turku, not to suggest that I usually measure sculptures by the amount of creepiness they elicit. That just happened to come up here a couple of times. The little girl to the left wins that award from me. It reminds me of something, but I can’t put my finger on it and online searches didn’t help. I’m more of a fan of other pieces I saw around town. But not being a fan does not mean I don’t enjoy stumbling upon a piece. As I noted, I get a kick out of being surprised by such works when I explore a city. What’s some of the more unusual public art you’ve seen? I’d love to see examples if you can point to them.

For more on what public art I found walking the streets of Turku, click here.

Saturday art blogging: Magritte in Lugano

by Eszter Hargittai on November 3, 2018

This isn’t the first exhibit dedicated to René Magritte and it won’t be the last (one just ended a few days ago in San Francisco), but it’s the one I got to see yesterday while attending a conference in Lugano, Switzerland, and thus inspires this weekend’s art post. I have already been to the Magritte Museum in Brussels, but nonetheless had plenty of works to see here that I had not encountered before. The pieces are presented in chronological order grouped by style. One thing I really like in such exhibits is when the work of those who inspired the artist is on display as well. A piece by de Chirico right next to Magritte’s paintings makes his influence on the artist very clear.

Magritte may be most known for his Surrealist pieces, but he created art in lots of other styles. For example, he had an Impressionistic phase, although apparently due to a lack of positive response, he abandoned it fairly quickly. He also did quite a bit of work designing advertisements.

This exhibit features several of his curtains pieces, including a large bronze sculpture:

The MASI Lugano has a beautiful view of Lake Lugano and the surrounding mountains, which is a gorgeous backdrop for the sculpture. See more of the pieces on display at this exhibit in my photo album.

The exhibit runs through January 9, 2019 and is a pleasant 15 min downhill walk from the Lugano train station. Lugano is just over an hour from Milan and just over two hours from Zurich by train.

Sunday photoblogging: Death Valley

by Eszter Hargittai on October 28, 2018

I have no doubt that you have seen better pictures of rainbows and probably even double rainbows. What’s noteworthy about this photo is that Death Valley gets about 60mm (less than two inches) of precipitation a year. Compare that to the annual average of Los Angeles at 380mm (15 inches) or Phoenix at 200mm (8 inches). Perhaps you see where I’m going with this. The chances of a double rainbow in this part of the world are extremely small so while my first reaction was: “Why does it have to rain precisely when I’m here?” this approach soon shifted to “Wow, what a beautifully rare occasion.” Most of my other photos convey what you’re more likely to expect from the area, you can see some of them here.

Saturday art blogging: South End Open Studios in Boston

by Eszter Hargittai on October 27, 2018

I went there for the open market, I stayed for the open art studios. It was a warm Fall Sunday and I was excited to check out the street fair at SoWa Open Market to look at local artists’ creative goods. That experience was fine, but, perhaps due to my rather high standards thanks to the numerous excellent street fairs in summer Chicagoland, it did not inspire me too much. This may have been partly due to the fact that such art fairs tend to showcase designs of the geographical locality so my having no emotional connection to Boston left me rather detached. Or I am reading too much into it and the works were just not that exciting.

What really got me engaged instead were the dozens of art studios open to visitors to browse. I looked at all sorts of paintings and photography, but my favorite was Brian Murphy’s wire art, an example of which illustrates this post. Not only did I like the shapes of the wire sculptures that in many cases were quite expressive, but the artist infuses humor into many of his works through their captions. I spent quite some time browsing his various pieces, some surprising in their simplicity, others impressive in their complexity. Next time you are in the Boston area, I recommend checking out these studios if they happen to be open when you are there. It’s conveniently accessible with public transportation.

The sign of the piece pictured here reads:
Brian Murphy, While Alice Was Ready To Admit He Was A Rather Amazing Egg She Feared The Mess He Would Make When He Inevitably Fell, Wire Sculpture, $200

Research that is most relevant to my scholarship tends to get published in journals and I have ways of keeping up with such work. I have a much harder time fitting in reading academic books. They don’t tend to be directly related to my research so there is rarely any urgency in reading them as they are unlikely to inform my work directly (although, of course, could easily inform my work in more indirect ways). Lots of books get published on the social aspects of digital media that may not need to be cited in my own writing, but I am nonetheless curious to read simply because they are of interest to me more generally. I’d like to know how others fit in such book-reading. Are there specific regular time slots you set aside for this? If yes, how often? Has your approach worked?

I started a book club as part of the Digital Society Initiative at my university as a way to get myself to read at least a few books a year. This way I set aside several hours leading up to the book club meeting, but I don’t think it’s realistic to do that every week. Or is that what I should be doing? We read 4-5 books a year so 4-5 such slots on my annual calendar is not a problem. But this is way less than the structured time I’d like to spend on book reading. Please share your experiences even if they concern failed attempts, I’m curious to hear.

Commutes are one possibility, but my train ride to work is just 20 minutes, which is not enough to make that much of a dent. (I’m not complaining about my commute time, just recognizing that it’s not a ton of time for meaningful reading.) Evening hours I reserve for other types of reading or other activities (like making art).

As for the physical environment needed to read comfortably, I am all set there. I bought a very comfy chaise longue (IKEA’s Grönlid) for my office and it’s done wonders for making my way through readings of all sorts such as grant applications I am reviewing. But so yeah, with so many demands on our reading time (articles closely tied to research, student papers, colleagues’ work I’m commenting on, refereeing), how do I fit in more structured time for book reading?

Please support Equal Citizens

by Eszter Hargittai on October 22, 2018

Last year, I asked you to help support science. This year, I am asking you to pitch in to help end the corruption of U.S. democracy through a donation to Equal Citizens. Equal Citizens is pursuing several important projects such as fixing the Electoral College, ending SuperPACs, and ending voter suppression. There is tons of information concerning the specifics of how they are doing this on equalcitizens.us.

Equal Citizens does not bombard one’s mailbox with constant requests for donations like some other organizations. Indeed, they haven’t done this kind of a campaign in a year. To help support them, I am hosting a fundraiser through Facebook where I have committed to matching up to $500 of donations. Won’t you add your support as well? You can do so through my Facebook fundraising page or directly through the Equal Citizens site. Thank you!

Today’s art post inspiration comes from an unlikely source: JAMA Opthamalogy. The article “Evidence That Leonardo da Vinci Had Strabismus” makes the case that the artist’s exceptional rendering of 3-D in 2-D was in part thanks to his eye condition sometimes referred to as wandering eye. The author, opthomologist Christopher Tyler of City, University of London, examined six pieces thought to be depicting Leonardo da Vinci: “David (Andrea del Verrocchio); Young Warrior (Andrea del Verrocchio); Salvator Mundi (da Vinci); Young John the Baptist (da Vinci); Vitruvian Man (da Vinci) and another possible da Vinci self-portrait.” (quoted from the university’s press release). Ars Technica’s coverage of the piece has helpful visuals. There seems to be disagreement in the art community about whether all of those art pieces depict Leonardo da Vinci, but this is a topic Tyler had already researched earlier. His argument seems convincing to me and is an interesting revelation about the condition under which some artists did that work. Apparently other famous artists also had strabismus (e.g., Rembrandt) or other vision impairments (e.g., Monet, O’Keeffe). I appreciate the angle the Washington Post’s coverage takes on this at the end noting that this should give people with eye-alignment disorders some boost in confidence to counter the discrimination they sometimes face both on the job market and in social situations.

Saturday art blogging: Kitchen Trees in Manhattan

by Eszter Hargittai on October 13, 2018

One fun aspect of public art is that you can stumble into it without any planning on your part to have an artistic experience. Such was the case when I found myself staring at columns of colanders and looking up at fruits and vegetables hanging from pots and pans in City Hall Park in New York. The exhibition is by B. Wurtz who likes to draw on everyday objects in his work. Since I am a huge fan of reusing objects, this appeals to me a great deal.

Another neat aspect of public art in such a location is that by taking a step, you can get an entirely different visual experience. With both trees and scyscrapers in the background, this is not an exaggeration. The pictures on the exhibition site were taken in daylight while mine (see album on Flickr) were taking during dusk so they offer different views from that perspective as well. The trees will be on display in this park through December 7, 2018.

Saturday art blogging: I am your father!

by Eszter Hargittai on October 6, 2018

In a small town in the French-speaking part of Switzerland is a fantastic exhibit dedicated entirely to Star Wars. It showcases several artists using very different media to pay homage to the popular series. From digitally-edited photographs of classical sculptures to various creative 3D-renderings of well-known characters, from photos of lego scenes to drawings in countless styles, the exhibit offers lots of interesting visual stimuli. It’s hard to pick a favorite. I very much appreciated Kyle Hagey’s pieces and can’t believe I had never come across them before. Conveniently, you can view and buy copies of his work on Etsy. There is also a free-to-play Star Wars pinball machine on the top floor of the museum as well as an old-school video game. This is a must-see for any Star Wars fan. The show runs through Oct 14th. That doesn’t leave a lot of time to visit and as far as I can tell, sadly it is not a traveling exhibition. While not the same experience, I did upload some of my photos here for those who are interested, but can’t make it there in person.

Saturday art blogging: Sculpture Milwaukee

by Eszter Hargittai on September 29, 2018

For any public art lover or sculpture lover, the Sculpture Milwaukee exhibit will be a thrill. Along the city’s Wisconsin Avenue, the event showcases over 20 pieces. There are additional sculptures along the way to enjoy that are not part of the exhibition per se. The styles differ considerably and many are good conversation starters. It’s worth visiting in person, but if you can’t, you can see the pieces here, captured during my August visit. The exhibition runs through Oct 21st.

Posters for your March For Our Lives event

by Eszter Hargittai on March 20, 2018

Are you participating in a March For Our Lives event this coming Saturday, March 24th? There are hundreds of events taking place across the world. And now you don’t even have to worry about what sign to carry. Members of Action Together Zurich have created March For Our Lives posters, 89 of them (plus two to carry up front for some context). Each one is unique, with the front listing a common-sense gun bill that Congress has failed to act on, and the back listing the names of gun violence victims. The idea is for folks to print out the posters for marchers to carry at their local March For Our Lives event. Please spread the word. Bit.ly/mfolposters is the link to share.