Liz Lee

Describe your field. Why are you interested in Computer Art/ Computer Graphics and what (event, need, idea, hope, obstacle) caused your involvement? Summarize your line of development (the essence of your input to the field) in relation to concurrent technology.

I am an artist who uses digital images in combination with traditional supports. My first involvement with the medium was enrolling in a Color Theory course in 1986 taught by Cynthia Beth Rubin. At the time I only appreciated the machine because it was slightly easier to create color comparisons on the screen than by painting little, tiny color swatches. The momentous event that caused me to really analyze use of the computer for creating artwork came 10 years later as a graduate student. One of my graduate photography professors approached me in the lab and whispered in my ear, “those who can’t photograph, digitize.” This absurdly Delarouche attitude convinced me that I was working in the “new” catalyst, the medium that could change the course of contemporary art practice.

Does the computer allow you to think visually about some topic or process in new ways? How has this influenced your work? Describe your ultimate accomplishment.

I feel I cannot assign myself the term “digital artist” because my work does not fall into the category since I use computers in my image creation extensively, but never singularly. I move from a camera to a computer to a table saw to an editing station using everything from photographic paper, canvas and wood to CD-ROMs and video tape in order to create my mixed media pieces. The established idea for computer use in the arts is to think of it as another tool, a different kind of pencil, a virtual piece of paper. My approach to computers is rather more literal, grammatical in fact. I like to think of computer use in art as a conjunction. Just like its grammatical counterpart in sentence structure, the computer is the "AND, BUT, and OR" of the art world, linking together the styles, theories and materials of all media.

Has the field of computer art and graphics progressed in the ways that you expected? What has surprised you? What do you like about its progress and what do you wish had happened differently? What do you think the future holds for visual computing in science/art? Please make some predictions or wish lists for the near- and long-term future.

I believe the field of computer arts and graphics is progressing in much the same way that the “technological marvel,” photography, did before it. Both industries were driven by market economy and customer demand (i.e., first Kodak, now Microsoft). The “consumer” computer market is supplied with product that makes “life easier” and the technology more “friendly.” But in the arts and science the applications for computer art and graphics are still widely experimental. The major advances, the conceptual marvels, will come from the experimentation happening in the studios and labs of artists and authors which will drive the next artists and the next theorists into yet another realm of the media. My prediction for the future will be based on the past…that the next Bauhaus or Cubists or Pictorialists will change the way we think about the media and open up a new form of vision.

Describe your dream environment for enhancing your project ideas. What are your preferred tools for creating and how do they work? What tools (hardware/software) you have used initially had the strongest impact on your work?

The dream environment is a large well-lit space furnished with a table saw, band-saw, easels, finishing table, Macintosh G4 with 20 inch LCD cinema display and 9×12 drawing tablet, film and flatbed scanners, large-format printers and a separate wet-darkroom with a 4×5 Dichro enlarger for black and white and color printing. The software that has had the strongest impact on me is of course Adobe Photoshop, followed by Macromedia Freehand and Director, Adobe Premiere and Fractal Design Painter.

Describe how you think specific advancements in technology, (such as wireframe, hidden line removal, scanner, laser, HTML, Java applets, or any other advancement), determined the way the approaches to creating art/graphics evolved?

I find it very interesting that all of the visual deficiencies associated with computer graphics are now become style. Bitmapping, aliasing, jagged edges and moiré patterns are seen more and more in advertising and mainstream media. It is as if all the attention to correcting mistakes has come full circle into intent. I am intrigued by this development as I also watch contemporary photographers turn back to historical processes, re-creating Daguerreotypes and building elaborate camera obscuras. Could it be that all of this attention on the new technological trends has caused a retro-revolution? That the evolution of computer art and graphics will cause a newfound aesthetic surrounding for the history of media?

How would you characterize the milestones (every ten years) in the development of computer technology? Which ones were most influential in art/graphics?

Of course the invention of the mouse changed the course of image creation in the computer and a visual environment was established. I also think the mouse’s invention is an interesting development as it was not like any tool used before it. Now Wacom has fully developed an affordable drawing tablet to simulate pencil use, but the mouse was first commercially affordable input device and it forced the user to consider creation in a restricted and unnatural way. I think that the advance of technologies in the arts will unfold in one of two ways. The mechanics will become more seamless, where tools and software work more like reality and the user will be unaware of physical versus virtual actions, or become the tools will become even more cumbersome but monumental, like the mouse, and allow us to achieve things we never thought possible.

Which persons would you indicate as the pioneers in the particular areas/stages in which decade?

Cynthia Beth Rubin (as my first influence in the field), Margot Lovejoy (her artwork, but specifically her text, Postmodern Currents: Art and Artist in the Age of Electronic Media, greatly influenced my theoretical approach to creation), Isaac Victor Kerlow, Judson Rosebush, Ken Knowlton, Manfred Mohr, Yoichiro Kawaguchi and Lillian Schwartz.