NORTHAMPTON, MA- A 1975 exhibit at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts on Dutch anamorphic art, inspired artist Fletcher Smith's third and latest exhibit at the Forbes Library Hosmer Art Gallery.
Smith, an Easthampton native and returning resident was particularly struck those years back by a 3-leaf clover and a chrysanthemum mirrored in a cone made out of silver and glass. It was not until recently that he rifled through old notebooks and revisited the art of anamorphoses.
"Anamorphoses" are images, realized by the viewer only at one exact angle, but otherwise distorted or nonexistent. Smith's exhibit features paintings that head-on, look like misshapen lines, but from an angle form an image so precise it looks like a photograph.
"This is sort of a dormant medium but you can find vestiges of it everywhere," said Smith, using the example of a the symbol for a bicycle in a bike lane that appears to be an appropriate scale from a distance, but is stretched and distorted once you are above it peering down.
The other element of the "Anamorphic Objects," exhibit, are conic anamorphoses. To achieve these pieces, Smith designs cones out of billet aluminum that are then produced by G&H manufacturing. Along the perimeter of the cone he paints an image that can only be seen by staring directly into the tip of the aluminum cone. Smith used trial and error, asking questions and gathering information from friends to successfully create the optical illusions.
"I did revisit the chrysanthemum and the 3-leaf clover, and I went to see what mine looked like and what theirs looked like," said Smith of the 17th century pieces. "Theirs sucked, mine rule."
Even with a basic explanation of how these visual effects are achieved, Smith's work manages to be mysterious. The pieces, specifically his conic anamorphoses, exist in two ways. One, a mesmerizing silver cone amidst a swirl of pretty colors- the other, an air-brushed and intangible image.
The images used in the conic anamorphoses and wall paintings are a mix of original and iconic. One of the wall paintings is of a deer skull that was dragged out of the woods in Santa Rosa, California by Smith's dog, Burton. The more recognized images, such as a Superman logo, are original in this case in that they only exist at one angle or as a reflection.
"I thought about that all the time. The Henry Hausen Cyclops doesn't exist in anything but sitting here and looking at it over there," he said.
Last week's gallery opening allowed people to enjoy the novelty of the pieces, or as Smith calls them, "objects of desire." Beyond the novelty though, Smith plans to use something from this exhibit in another aspect of narrative painting.
"It'll tell a story," he said.
Staff photos by Rachael Roth