On the Spot | Visual Arts

Salt Lake City artist Ed Bateman on the spot.

1) What are you reading lately?
I usually read several books at once. Does that make me easily distracted or not? One of the books current in my pile is Vision and Art: The Biology of Seeing by Harvard neurobiologist Margaret Livingstone. It is a science book that looks like an art book. Besides being very accessible, it has very nice reproductions and charts.

I thought I had a pretty good understanding of how the eyes and brain work but I found many surprises. For instance, did you know that we (and other primates) have two distinct vision systems consisting of separate light sensitive cells and brain processing? Livingstone then goes on to discuss how these perceptual systems work and how this knowledge is used by artists. She illustrates her points with works by a lot of the big names from da Vinci to Chuck Close. I find it nice to know that there is some real science behind the things that so many of us do with such sensitive intuition.

2) What hangs above your mantel?
I have a black and white print by photographer Jerry Uelsmann. I first admired his work in the late 70s (this is before the computer hijacked photography) and feel very fortunate to have been able to swap prints with him a few years back.

3) What artist, living or dead, would you choose to paint, sculpt or photograph your portrait?
At first I misread the question to be asking who I would like to create a portrait of. That, I had an answer to (at least at the moment, I’m likely to change my mind later…): the artist and musician Brian Eno. (The people who know me roll their eyes here.) But on re-reading, I find that I have things backwards. Now it’s a tougher problem, made even worse by the option of time travel. I’ve always wondered what was in the minds of the creators of petroglyphs. Having one of them create a portrait might be an insight into their art. But would the concept of a portrait even make sense to them? That got my mind really going. Doing a portrait takes time – you’d get to ask questions, talk with the artist and observe their process. Then it hit me: Vermeer. I’ve studied his work and been influenced by it. And there is the opportunity to settle once and for all the mystery of his possible use of optics in his work and if so how. Plus, you’d get a mighty nice portrait out of the deal. 

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