Sculpture Magazine - December 2005
Deanna Sirlin, exterior and interior views of Rectracings, 1999 (2005) Work installed at the High Museum of Art, Atlanta.
Sculpture Magazine – December, 2005
High Museum of Art
Deanna Sirlin is passionate about painting. Her desire to know more about what goes into every brushstroke has launched a new series of three-dimensional works. With the help of computer technology, she has translated her paintings into large-scale installations, architectural interventions, and sculptural objects that speak of color and light, movement and gesture in a new way. Sirlin’s unusual journey began with a competition sponsored by Atlanta’s High Museum of Art in 1998, which challenged artists to design a work for an untraditional exhibition space in its Richard Meier building. Sirlin envisioned the grid-like windows on the second, third, and fourth floors as frames for her paintings. Since the windows could be seen from both sides, Sirlin realized that the works should not be on canvas or panel. Instead she chose a medium that she had recently used for a public art commission: clear film.
Sirlin could have painted directly onto the plastic but, as she explains, “I was more interested in what the computer could see and make as a translation of my own hand.” So she painted a series of relatively small canvases scaled to the windows on each floor and digitally scanned them. She worked with Jason Rhodes at the Atlanta-based imaging firm Colorchrome to enlarge the paintings by a factor of 30 and create a continuous image without pixilation. Then they broke the overall images to correspond with the existing grid, output the segments onto clear film, and attached them directly to the windowpanes.
When Retracings was installed in 1999, and again in 2005, it transformed the Meier building. On the fourth floor, the square transparencies nestled in their niches very much like paintings hung on the wall. On the second and third floors, monumental works curved around viewers, wrapping them within the warmth of Sirlin’s painting. During the day, they functioned like stained glass, with color cascading through the atrium, moving and shifting as the sun traversed the sky. At night, the pieces again changed, as raucous swirls of color bedecked the facade of the all-white building.
Sirlin built from the success of the High Museum project with similar window installations at the Georgia Museum of Art in 2000 and the New Orleans Museum of Art in 2001. Both site-specific projects began with paintings made for the site. From these, she “sampled” interesting passages to blow up, output the film, and attached them to the windows, acknowledging in each instance the building as “my silent partner.” In 2001 she placed films over a set of glass doors at the Universita Ca’ Foscari Venezia in Venice. Punta di Fuga (Vanishing Point) makes viewers active participants and ensures that they experience the work from multiple vantage points. During this project, Sirlin also worked with a glass blower on the nearby island of Murano.
“When I came back from making the sculptures, it changed my paintings,” recalls Sirlin. It also changed her growing body of new media work, which began to take on more three-dimensionality. In an outdoor installation in 2002, she draped her chromogenic transparency over an existing fountain in Atlanta’s Woodruff Park. The vertical folds of the underlying sculpture added physicality to the work, which was only heightened when water flowed over the surface. She also overlaid the gurgle of the fountain with a sound component composed by Giuseppe Gavazza and titled the work Fountain Mix.
Later that year, Sirlin took the films completely off supports in an exhibition at Saltworks Gallery in Atlanta. Inward slung from the top of one gallery wall to the other, its length swooping through the space like an oversized swing seat. The two rectangular panels of Thought cut across the corners of an alcove, suspended at a 90-degree angle from each other. Require hung from the ceiling in a narrow hallway. Cut into seven six-inch strips, the thin sheets of film easily swung to the side when viewers walked through them. Sirlin continually refers to her works as “hybrids,” combining elements of painting, sculpture, drawing, photography, and installation. The word could be considered an apt description for Sirlin as well.
–Rebecca Dimling Cochran