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Deanna Sirlin: Watermark


C-print transparency on glass, 212 x 506 inches 

 Crosland Tower, Georgia Tech Library, Atlanta, Georgia

Watermark, Timelapse Video  -- Click on Image to Play

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What does it mean to be a painter who wants the viewer to look through her paintings? Deanna Sirlin paints – she is an accomplished painter, after all – but then she repurposes her work. Deconstructing it, tearing it apart, she creates new seams and ruptures within the original painted gestures that are then made digital to further explore a chromatic postmodernist collage at scale. Sirlin’s monumental color transparencies transform not just the environment in which they are installed but also a spectator’s perception of that environment. This experience expands our spectrum of seeing and perceiving in a way that echoes beyond the work itself.


The vertical and horizontal blocks or stripes in Sirlin’s compositions, which hint at patterns and maps, move us across the space. Our eyes become the camera, and the cinema of everyday life is changed when looking through these patterns. Like a transparent and digitized ultra-bright color field painting, Sirlin’s installation sparks an active participation in the viewer’s processing of the color field in completing the work.


There’s a weaving of color created digitally that also might be one of fabric, but the work transcends a purely aesthetic reading through a careful consideration of location, color spectrum, and flexuous environment. If architecture has a fraught relationship with color, Sirlin’s work challenges the status quo of traditional utilitarian architectural gestures. The translucent panel does more than just enhance the architecture of Crosland Library; it transforms it into an immersive environment defined by color.


The colorful cast of light coming through these transparencies into the interior of the Georgia Tech Library’s Crosland Tower “paints” the corners, crevices, and floorboards. This projected color transcends the panel itself: the color spectrum shadow takes on a physicality that manifests something ineffable, something that cannot be captured by the idea of a shadow or a mirage or a mirror or a reflection. The colors flood the senses, taking over our limited vision to reveal the abundance of visual possibilities – collaged fields of bright and organized color influence, envelope, and transform the university landscape from traditional brick and mortar into an explosion of color. Layer upon layer, colors optically mix, holding their own space and acting upon the dynamic campus scene in real time.


The subtle changes that happen over time encourage attentiveness to the temporal as well as visual aspects of the work. Initially, the installation appears to be static – we sense it as a painting on the ground – but time will continue to move these colors as the sun sets. Depending on the time of day, the light will impact the color bleed’s spectrum, dimension, and overlaying on the floors. The temporal nature of the work suggests that it’s never complete; it continues until it is deinstalled – and even then, an afterimage echoes in the viewer’s mind. The colors fall into an abyss, only to rise again, the sun that can’t help but animate the spectrum that always already exists before us.


Dr. J. Andrew Salyer

Marion L. Brittain Postdoctoral Fellow

School of Literature, Media, and Communication

Georgia Institute of Technology

Atlanta, Georgia

April 2022

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Installation process video by Jason Wertz

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