Friday, November 14, 2008
Expanding nature through computer technology
The current exhibit at the Gleason Library features a wide variety of prints by Fred Casselman of Earth Echo Galleries. They all share one unifying factor: they started from a photograph of nature. Casselman then applies his computer software tools and artistic talent to develop the flat image into a work of art. Unlike the traditional echo that copies an original and then fades, the artist’s echoes of nature are amplified, magnified, shifted and sometimes distorted beyond recognition through electronic manipulation. However, the end result is anything but a mish-mash – the characteristics of balance and harmony are paramount in the end result. Only a very small percentage of the electronic pieces become a finished product in the form of a print.
“With my background in engineering and familiarity with computers, I began to blend the two [computers and art],” Casselman says. “The computer has evolved into a very powerful tool to create art. I have always been trying the latest things. What you can do with a computer in art is increasing by leaps and bounds.”
The exhibit of about 30 prints will run through January 3, 2009. The pieces are for sale, and you can meet Casselman in person at a reception tomorrow, Saturday, from 1-2:30 p.m.
Maintaining Carlisle connections
Casselman, an Ohio native, graduated from Ohio State University and came east to work for GTE in electrical engineering, where he spent his entire career until retirement. Along the way, he married Carol, formerly of the Puffer family on Bellows Hill Road, long-time town residents. The couple’s two children are now grown. Although Casselman lives in Framingham today, he lived in Carlisle for about a year. He and his wife visit the Puffers’ property often to maintain it. And when he’s in town, he often takes nature photographs, some of which end up in his print portfolio.
Although not actively involved in creating art throughout his life, Casselman always took photographs. Growing up, he borrowed his father’s camera and then acquired his own. He even printed his own photographs and subscribed to photography magazines, where he learned about various artistic printing techniques.
Developing a sense of color
“I got some very intriguing results and said, ‘I got to learn more about this art stuff!,’” Casselman recalls. He took about a decade of art classes at the DeCordova Museum in drawing and painting. He developed his sense of color and artistic form. In the meantime, he kept fiddling with his photographs using a variety of software programs on his MacIntosh computer, and then started exhibiting his work. In the last decade he has shown at a wide variety of venues including the Boston Cyberarts Festival, the Chelsea Waterfront Gallery, The Institute of Noetic Sciences (California), the Fitzwilliam Town Library (New Hampshire) and the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies (New York). His art appears on book and CD covers, and some Internet users have downloaded his images for their MySpace pages.
Evolving with technology
Casselman is always willing to try new software. Although many of his works begin with a nature photograph of a wildflower, sometimes he uses only computer-generated images. He has applied mathematical programs to come up with a base design. Some pieces take a few hours, some take much longer to complete – at any rate, much less than it would take to paint, he admits. “In the creation process, it’s like having a childlike sense of play,” Casselman explains. “And with the computer you can play and play and play. If you don’t like it, you can delete it. Or you can save it and go back later.” He plays with the colors and sometimes the shapes of the images in his photographs which he calls “nothing more than a starting point of pixels.”
Software allows experimentation
He often applies a software plug-in to create a soft-focus effect. Sometimes, he applies one that adds grain or one that creates lightning effects. He often returns to an image when new software emerges. One print on display, “The Golden Forest,” consists of blue and gold embossing and appears to have a textured surface as if it were etched into wood. “I tried the effect on many images, but on this one it really sang,” he recalls. “You don’t know until you try.”
As a result of wide experimentation, Casselman has a lot of files and piles of prints. When he prepares a show, he does have some works already framed, but it’s not uncommon for him to print out new images on 100% cotton fine-art paper to specifically fit the site. For example, he printed the geometric images on the first floor of the library near the reading area to fit between the windows. He prints out many of his pieces in large format, 24- by 36-inches.
Casselman maintains an electronic gallery of his work at www.earthecho.com. While the Internet provides him with the tools to develop his work, it has also provided him with source material. In one of his early pictures, he saw a landscape photograph from the Netherlands on the Internet and requested permission to use it as a basis for his art. Aside from aiding him in his work, the Internet also provides an audience. Someone was even inspired to send him online words to go with the oldest piece in the exhibit called “The Seed.” It appears next to the print at the library. The artist notes, “The biggest reward are the emails that I get from people on the same wavelength.”∆
© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito