Kaleidoscopes 11, 14, and 18, 2012; 31, 2015
Materials: Digital image printed on aluminum, each 24 x 24”.
Location at Summa Health: Dr. Gary B. and Pamela S. Williams Tower on the Akron Campus (141 N. Forge St.), blue neighborhood, second floor, labor and delivery check-in area.
This grouping of four digitally printed images, from Laurie Jacobs’ Kaleidoscope series, is bold in color and striking in the great variety Jacobs achieves within the format of the radial composition. On careful inspection, you detect that the forms — the apples or roses, for example — are repeated around the circle, some flipped as mirrors of one another or arranged in tighter groupings. Jacobs inserts tiny elements into the spaces between larger ones to create diminutive niches of pattern and color. This is a contemporary version of a design technique that is termed horror vaqui, literally “fear of empty spaces” and referring to the artist’s intent to fill every part of the composition with meaningful form. Manuscript illuminators in the early Middle Ages created works such as the Book of Kells with similar exuberance of form; here, the artist starts with such formal richness but doesn’t stop there.
For you can lose yourself as well in the textures and shades, which Jacobs can alter with digital software: The glow of the cool green grapes in #14, the tips of deep green ferns in #31, the glowing orange and black of the paired monarch butterflies in #11, those icy, glowing white peonies in the centre of #18 ... And this is exactly what the artist hopes you will do. She says:
“An image requires both integrity and attraction, but surprise and puzzle-solving are an important element for the viewer. The onlooker not only is interested in the artist’s creative process but becomes a participant, seeing and discovering those elements that are most appealing to that person.”
An Ohio native and resident, Jacobs is a longtime photographer, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Cleveland Institute of Art in photography after studying at Northwestern. She first worked with film images that she printed onto fabric, sometimes quilted. Jacobs always has had a strong affinity for illustration, for recording things for and as themselves. This became easier to manage with the advent of digital techniques and processes. The artist continued to take her own photos, using her Nikon cameras to capture things in the world that demanded her attention, particularly botanical elements, for which she used macro lenses in order to get in close. All of the forms and images in her work first was captured with the camera.
Jacobs then “plays” with details of those images that are especially fascinating to her, cutting them up digitally, re-sizing, and re-organizing them into radially symmetrical compositions — the kaleidoscopes — with the help of digital software. (Here is a short video of how to shift a single image it until a kaleidoscopic effect is achieved; it is not meant to be a how-to but to give you a general sense of the many steps an artist takes to alter digitally that basic form.) Digital tools also enable her to do with a computer what a painter does with her palette: Reconsider and adjust color, tone, texture, and pattern relationships, sometimes increasing the force of a single leaf or cluster of buds by repeating and shifting views and changing overall proportions, colors, and shades. The richness resulting from her vision, thought, and labor is striking: Here are four large compositions that are stunning from a distance and intriguing up close, made up of familiar forms that have been coordinated using digital tools, and above all the artist’s judgment, to present us with a particular take on our world.
Jacobs has had her work recognized by the Garden Club of America, for which she has also served as a photography judge and from which she has received numerous awards for her photographic work. She has taught workshops on manipulating photographic images and made numerous public presentations on the way that digital software and hardware have opened options to all photographers. She has exhibited widely in Ohio, Delaware, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Texas, Minnesota, Indiana, and Georgia, as well as in Japan.
Where you can see more of this artist’s work:
Jacobs’ website provides an overview of her work and her philosophy. You can find her work exhibited in museums and galleries in Ohio, Delaware, Tennessee, Georgia, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado and Washington D.C. She also published a book of some of her kaleidoscopes in 2015.