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TWU professor plays with light, form in new ‘Structured Light’ exhibition

TWU professor plays with light, form in new ‘Structured Light’ exhibition

TWU professor plays with light, form in new ‘Structured Light’ exhibition
June 13
11:49 2018

Usually, a darkened room at a gallery means there is no artwork to see, but this is not the case at the Greater Denton Art Council’s Gough Gallery. Once inside this darkened room, visitors are able to make out the lights of roughly a half dozen light bulbs and three projectors hanging from the ceiling as part of the new art display “Structured Light.”

“Structured Light” was made by Colby Parsons, a local artist and Texas Woman’s University visual arts professor, and is a combination of sculptures and the shadows produced by their accompanying lights and projectors.

One thing setting this exhibition apart from others is its use of technology. Parsons used technology, such as animated lines that travel over curved sculptures or complex modeling software to create 3D printed sculpture molds, to create his latest art project.

“I like how he uses traditional craft with modern technology,” said Vagner Whitehead, a visitor to the opening reception and fellow teacher at TWU who sometimes works with Parsons. “I think it is very smart and approachable.”

Parsons said he was always a fan of art even when he was young, doodling and drawing in his spare time. So it was no surprise he attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, for a degree in graphic design. While taking a varied range of art classes in an effort to see if any sparked his interest, he discovered his love of sculpture.

It was after graduate school that he decided to look for a teaching job, using it as a pathway to do what he loved. What he didn’t expect at the time was that this decision would take him to Texas rather than to the East or West Coast where he felt more familiar.

“When I got my graduate degree, there were 21 teaching positions that I could find to apply to in the country, and I just applied to all of them,” Parsons said. “At the time I was applying, I had two toddlers so I really needed to make it work. I needed to provide for my family, so I couldn’t be too picky.”

After being hired by TWU in 2002, Parsons started working on the techniques and pieces of art that would go on to form the basis of his most recent exhibition: technology. Parsons credits this recent marriage of art and technology to his engineer father, who he said really shaped how he looked at technology.

The first works Parsons produced with this new move toward technology-augmented art were animations involving ceramic models, reminiscent of claymation. These animations later evolved into works in which Parsons projected images onto his sculptures. Three of these projected works were put on display for the “Structured Light” exhibit.

Artist, Colby Parsons displays his Structured Light series at the Patterson-Appleton Arts Center. Parsons is an associate proffesor of visual arts at Texas Womens University. Will Baldwin

When computer-aided modeling and sculpting tools started to come onto the market, Parsons said his interest in technology overcame him once again, pushing him to understand how to use the new tools. While he said he didn’t particularly need them for what he was doing at the time, he figured there were some pieces he could use this new technology for that he couldn’t make otherwise.

The first of these new tools came in the form of a 3D printer — one the TWU Visual Arts department had received but was sitting in the box, unused. Then over the summer, he spent many hours working with the printer and teaching himself how to both practically and artistically use it.

“It actually took a long time before I wanted to show [any artwork] from that new process,“ Parsons said. “That becomes difficult career wise: to have something where you are investing that much time with no output. People start to question if you should be doing that anymore.”

In addition to the 3D printed and projector related pieces, the last category work in Parsons’ latest show comes from a new tool the TWU Visual Arts department purchased: the CNC (computer numerical controlled) mill. The mill allows Parsons to cut and carve pieces of wood according to computer models, therefore allowing him to get exact angles for the lights used in some of his shadow-based pieces.

Though Parsons said he knows other people may see various meanings while looking at his work, his artistic goal is to show the craft of the sculpture while also trying to convey the technological component behind the work. This drive to show the digital side of these artworks is where Parsons said the shadows come in, portraying an element of perfection that would be extremely hard to replicate without the help of the tool and programs he uses.

Parsons’ “Structured Light” exhibit will be on display at the Greater Denton Art Council’s Gough Gallery through Aug. 25.

Featured Image: Parsons Structured Light series mixes physical forms with hard light to create a unique contrast between tagible, intangible and moving elements. Will Baldwin

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Shane Monaco

Shane Monaco

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1 Comment

  1. Dr Jim
    Dr Jim July 02, 12:14

    Too basic. As an artist, I feel the theme should be light impressing life.

    Reply to this comment

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