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Nerdly Painter News

October 2013

"Every brilliant experiment, like every great work of art, starts with an act of imagination."

Jonah Lehrer

           Untitled Optics experimment
"Optics Experiment 1, untitled" by Regina Valluzzi, acrylic media with ink, mica, extruded acrylic, glass lenses and prisms on artist panel; 9x12 inches    $150



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Is summer really gone?  The leaves have started to turn and we're collecting pumkins for the post Halloween squash drought here.
My painting summer was focused on experimenting with different painting ideas and exploring the properties of acrylic paints and painting media.  Rigid painting panels allowed me more creative and flexible use of different media than canvases, because of their stiffness - no sagging and concomitant stresses from heavy glued objects.  I had thought about using the panels' rigidity to explore building off of the painting surface into the third dimension some more, rather like a "relief" idea, but more experimental and weird. 
Detail from "Optics Experiment 1, untitled"

I've always loved optical stuff.  Prisms, lenses, filters, fiber optics, beam splitters, mirrors and other little optics doodads are like little puzzle pieces.  They can be spaced and combined to distort, displace, magnify, shrink, project, sample, refract, and reflect all in analog.   Incorporating optical elements into art can make a traditional format like painting into a changeable interactive experience.  No power source required, and optics interact with the actual reality, not with digitized inputs and scenarios filtered through a limited and often arbitrary algorithm.  Clearly (sic) there are magical things just around the corner if only a Nerdly Painter could find more effective ways to incorporate optics.

"Logic"  acrylic on panel with extruded media and glass lenses, 18 x 24 inches, $600
A key challenge has been the focal lengths and the geometries of many optical elements.  Optical hardware just isn't designed for flat paintings.  Most lenses create a more pronounced effect with a little space.  Prisms manipulate light in different angles that don't really do much for a painting if the prism is flat in the plane of the piece.  Many other optics need a little room and different paths for light to enter and interact in order to add anything more than "shiny" to a piece.  In order to take advantage of little bits of optics niftiness in a painting I need to build it up in 3-D. 

Stretched canvas really limits the size and 3D protrusion of the optical combinations added to a piece.  If the optics become too heavy, they tug at the canvas and locally stretch it out.  They risk becoming unglued or damaging the piece as the canvas sags and gravity pulls certain areas down.  Using panel has helped with this - no more sag. 

I've been experimenting on panels with different ways to build up stacks of optics to get a little space between elements and build multi-element optical fancies - little sculptural lensing areas built off the abstract paintings that form the main body of my work.  Most of these little ideas distort incoming light and the underlying image in complex and variable ways, but some act like compound optics.  During the month of September, much of my in-studio focus has been on stabilizing and assembling these sculptural optics elements in ways that are visually interesting as forms, optically engaging as complex Optical structures, and visually integrated with an abstract painting.  Keeping everything stuck together, supporting the weight of big lenses and optical elements and figuring out how to display the finished pieces have all been big parts of September's painting experiments.  I've shared some of the new optics art later in the newsletter (scroll or click here).  I am also setting up a separate Portfolio page for Optics art experiments on my website (  
If anyone has kids who love lenses, prisms, etc please drop me a note ( I have been purchasing optics in used and surplus optics grab bags.  I can use the smaller pieces of optical stuff, but there are always a few big lenses, prisms, mounted eyepiece or objective assemblies, etc that are too awkward or too heavy for me to work with (but they would be lovely beefy optical toys for a kid who wants to build stuff or play with light)

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1.  I have been interviewed and featured in TRon (NO, not the psychedelic movie - Tampa Review Online).  Editor Cynthia Reeser crafted some insightful questions.  My answers and a sampling of my work are up on the TRon website (click here to link)
2.  Upcoming Exhibit - The curated "Red Wall Gallery" at the Contemporary Art Fair in NYC.  I will have 3 large pieces displayed right at the entrance to the fair:  Rhapsody on the Sea, Genome, and Autotroph.   The fair is from October 25 - 27 at the Javits Center in NYC-  More information here at their website, here
3.  I've been working hard at getting pieces out of storage and up onto the walls of our home.  Why?  It's the best way for anyone local to Boston to come and see a lot of pieces all in one place.  If your interested in your own personal art tour, email me at rv@nerdlypainter or call 781-643-1368

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New Optics Art

I've been experimenting with building up from the surface of the painting for a while using glass pieces, extruded tubes of acrylic media, stiffened string and fiber media and other approaches to get my paintings into the third dimension.  getting into the third dimension creates a presence for the works and changing plays of light shadow and perspective make the "dimensional" pieces less static than flat paintings.  The third dimension also does something else - it allows lenses and other optics to do more of what they were meant to do.  Most lenses don't do much when they're flat up against something planar.  Even simple magnifying glasses magnify more as you move the lens away from the subject (and then everything flips, but that's another story).  I've been finding ways to incorporate and stably integrate lenses, prisms, and other optics far enough outside the plane of a painting to get a really noticeable effect. 
The first of the newish Lensing paintings that I'd like to introduce is called Logic.  The complete painting is pictured above, and you can find out more about it on my blog (link here). There is a different view, from an angle, below.  Some of the 3D features and light casting properties of the lenses are more visible.

Logic uses thin plates of textured mosaic glass to build a little height for lenses, as can be seen in the details below:

There is also quite a bit of acrylic media extrusion used, both to mechanically stabilize the wieght of the lenses and also to provide a 3D platform for lenses.  I build the 3D platforms for lenses using the same basic idea as a handmade "Coil method" clay pot.  The platforms are basically coiled ribbons of extrudate with a hollow center.  When they dry, the acrylic remains somewhat elastic but retains enough structural rigidity and stability to support a fairly heavy lens.  The residual "Softness" of the dry transparent medium helps create a good seal when the lens is glued on top.  An example of this approach (again from "Logic") is shown below.

While the optics in Logic do get a bit of height, the painting uses fairly thin glass spacers (mosaic glass and tile).  The optical elements are simple single lens elements.  These two properties make the contributions from the lenses subtle and keep the focus more on the painting aspect of "Logic" than on the the sculptural optical aspects. 
Another new piece that incorporates optics subtly is "Natural Philosophic Device", shown below.  it is 9 x 12 inches, acrylic mixed media on panel (2013,  $200).  Here there are negative focal length lenses placed flat against the panel.  The lensing effect is very subtle and the lenses function more as textural bubbles and perfect 3D circular/hemispheric features than they do as distorting lenses.
As subtly lensing bubbles they form a very pleasant counterpoint to the extruded sine waves and other vaguely circuit-like patterns that comprise the piece.  The clear ribbons with stripes of color were created by placing colored acrylic medium against the sides of a pastry bag, then filling the center with clear medium.  When the tinted and clear media are coextruded, striped ribbons result. 
The copper and blue palette of the ribbons combined with the engineering-esque pattern of the piece make me thing of Victorian Era technology (sort of Steam punky).  The title is a reference to the Science of that Era, when we were still transitioning out of "Natural Philosophy" and stamp collecting and into technology driven measurement and mathematical science.

The third painting, "Untitled Optics Experiment" (link to the blog page) is still looking for a really good name.  It is 9x 12 inches and sells for $150.  This is the piece pictured at the top of the Newsletter.  Here prisms are incorporated along with some artsy compound optics and some of the piece protrudes quite a bit out of the 2D plane of the piece. 

The webpage/blog post for the piece also contains a video tour, where I attempt to show how some of the lenses work to move the light around (link here).  A feature of this piece that i personally find charming is the light manipulating media across 3 length scales (one could say "orders of magnitude").  The iridescent paint used in the background contains tiny reflective and refractive particles, not quite visible.  Flaked mica areas contain planes of light manipulating mineral at the millimeter scale, while the glass elements are all on the centimeter scale.  Materials Science and soft matter physics contain many examples where an idea or pattern is repeated in self-similar fashion across decades or orders of magnitude of length scale.  The self-similarity or "Fractal" property of glitteriness in this piece tickle my Materials nerdly fancy.  Here's a close up detail, where you can see some of the background iridescence and the 3_D striped transparent ribbons of extruded acrylic.  You can also see a hint of the mm scale mica and a clear close up picture of that cm-scale light manipulating glass.

"Untitled Optics Experiment" takes the optics part of these mixed media experiments and raises it out of the plane of the painting to create a hybrid piece.  It's clearly part painting and part cooly lens sculpture and works equally well both ways.
The next piece "Cities of the Future" is probably more about the lenses than the painting underneath (Cities of the Future, 12 x 12 inches 2013; $250).  Gotta love them lenses.  "Cities"  builds up from the panel in towers of complex compound lenses. 

There are several compound magnfying towers, a demagnifying tower and some cleverly placed prisms.  The optics towers define little "Neighborhoods" in the city.    My objective here is to maximize visual variability and distortion, and not to create precision image transmission.  Lenses and prisms are offset and at angles to one another so that the underlying patterns from the paint and from the other lenses dance and distort.  It's a really fun piece.  I intend to mount it onto a rigid cradled panel for display.  Cities is the first of these pieces to be so 3D that I think it could easily be displayed flat like a sculpture or hung on a wall and work equally well. Below is a detail from one of the lens towers.  There's a video and slide show on the blog (link here)

Last, but not least is an in progress piece, titled "You and Me, Us and Them".  it uses mirrored flats and a parabolic mirror to really bring the environment into the piece.  Right now its roughly 1/3 finished.  I'm awaiting more prisms and other goodies so i can start stacking, and I'd like to carefully incorporate colored flow instability patterns winding under and over some of the compound lensing structures.  The title is a reference to the mirrored elements and to the prisms and prism assemblies that I'm constructing for the piece. 

Here's a detail showing transparent extruded acrylic media spanning some of the thick glass blocks that I'm using as foundational elements.  There's more on the blog/website (link here)

Here's the parabolic mirror.  One of the magnifying lenses covers the hole, but is a bit bigger.  There's a really cool effect in the area where the lens and mirror overlap.  Of curse the mirror captures and reflects different parts of the environment as one moves past it.  In the little area where there's mirror under the lens, this reflecting effect is magnified and produces an accelerated motion feeling. 

That's it for now.  Email me if you're interested in any of these pieces, or if you want to pop by and tour the art on display and in boxes at our home!


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Find me at the Nerdly Painter website/blog online or

Find me on Facebook; the Nerdly Painter Facebook page features my abstract and science inspired work.  My other Page “Dreaming Between the Lines” features my more Representational and mainline expressionist work.

For giclees check out my work on Fine Art America ( , and look in the “galleries” with high resolution images for prints.

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