Dedd Pixel

Tag: Art

You can lead a machine to paint, but can you teach it to express itself?

by on Mar.18, 2019, under Art, Tech

Earlier this month, The Atlantic featured an article about an art exhibit in Chelsea, Faceless Portraits Transcending Time, that featured artificial intelligence (AI) generated art.  Described as a “collaboration between an artificial intelligence named AICAN and its creator, Dr. Ahmed Elgammal,” the exhibit features somewhat abstract portraits of human-like figures.  Images that are suggestive of classical portrait art with a touch of disturbing thrown in. That touch of disturbing is likely the result of Elgammal’s “creative adversarial network,” or CAN, which replaces the typical discerner element in a generative adversarial network (GAN) machine-learning method with a more creative element that introduces more novel outcomes.  So instead of analyzing images and trying to produce an image that is the same as those images, Elgammal’s application tries to make creative variants on the imagery.

This brings AI and computing a step closer to that human ideal.  As quoted by Jeff Clune in the April 2017 article in the Communications of the ACM, Computing the Arts, machine-learning produced art is desirable

“because we consider artistic expression as one of the most uniquely human traits.  If we want to produce artificial intelligence that rivals human intelligence, that should include art.”

Elgammal’s process begins to address one of my impressions with AI generated art in that merely analyzing existing images and trying to produce another image that can be construed as belonging to the original set is not much more than copying the style of existing art rather than creating something new.  There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but how far can close approximations to existing art alone push the dialogue? We’re only talking about this art now, because it was generated by a machine. If a person endeavored to create close approximations to existing art, many would ignore it. The AI art created by the Obvious Collective at Christie’s last year was certainly more pleasant to look at than Elgammal’s but if a person today painted what appeared to be an ‘unfinished’ portrait of a possibly French clergyman, I’m not sure who would care.

In the Atlantic article, art historian John Sharp discusses how traditional portraiture included objects imbued with symbolism along with the human subjects.  The objects gave cultural context to the human figures.

“For example, men might be shown with an open book to show how they are in dialogue with that material; or a writing implement, to suggest authority; or a weapon, to evince power.”

I am certain that AI portrait artists could be trained on the cultural meanings of objects and colors across geography and time to create art that is meaningful to its target audience.  Once the machine gets good enough at generating a human portrait, it could also be set to include objects with certain cultural meanings and thus invoke reactions and feelings in the art viewers as they observe and make judgement on the subjects in the painting.

The machine could also be set to invoke a random set of symbolism.  Perhaps a portrait of a young man, wrapped in Virgin Mary blue, holding a writing implement and an apple.  People will feel compelled to ascribe meaning to the colors and objects depicted with the subject and use those symbols to guess the origin or history of him. However, the machine is devoid of any intent.

On Obvious’ webpage, they refute Picasso’s complaint about computers:

“Computers are useless. They can only give answers.” 

I still think it’s a good point. While a machine could be set to paint a portrait that depicts a person with objects that represent certain symbolic meaning, could it ever come up with novel concepts or generate art to express an idea that was not guided by operator intent or randomness?

Can an AI artist pose a novel question expressed through art?

Comments Off on You can lead a machine to paint, but can you teach it to express itself? :, , , , , , more...

Art and Outcomes on Student Thinking

by on Nov.25, 2013, under Art

The New York Times reported on  a study conducted on student visitors to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas that showed a strong correlation between exposure to the arts and enhanced critical thinking skills, higher levels of social tolerance and greater historical empathy.  This effect was stronger for students from poorer backgrounds who may have not had prior opportunities to view and think about art.  In light of this study, it seem especially demoralizing that arts programs are being cut in preference of a STEM-only curriculum when an integrated approach may be most effective at cultivating a young mind.

Education has been shoved into a pigeon-hole of teaching to the standardized tests and may be doing our teachers, our students, and this country’s future a major disservice.  The problems our children will have to solve, such as over-population and climate change, require creative thinking because there is no clear-cut answer.  Twelve years of training that the world’s problems can be boiled down to a single, easily arrived at letter on a multiple choice test is not the most effective way to prepare kids for the future, even if it’s easiest for us to judge.



Comments Off on Art and Outcomes on Student Thinking :, , , , , , more...

Is it Art?

by on Mar.17, 2013, under Art

My husband and I both earned degrees in Computer Engineering and a liberal arts field: he in English Creative Writing and I in Studio Arts.  Our immediate core of good friends are all tech people who earned degrees in Computer Engineering or Computer Science and as such tend to be solely practical minded.  Often, we go out to restaurants and have a good time and while there notice the various artwork hanging on the wall.  Often, the age-old question comes up for them.

Is that really art?

The conversation then usually devolves into my husband and I arguing that it is art, while they all complain that the piece is just some old rusty metal that was found in a field and cut into a series of squares and that they could do that so it cannot be art.

I think they should stop being so hard on themselves.

First of all, they are not” doing that.”  They are not looking at some old rusty metal that they found in a field and viewing it from the perspective of how they could transform it into something beautiful and/or meaningful.  No, if they happened to see some old rusty metal, likely they would not even notice its presence.  It’s easy to see a work after the fact and assume that you are fully capable of creating it yourself, but what these just-engineers are not able to realize is that the process is more than the physical creation of the object.  There is also the conception, the act of creation (of which the artists himself is not required to do), the presentation and the reception from the viewer.  They might be able to perform the creation step, but only after much research and analysis of how to work metal effectively.  Moreover, in this instance, they were not able to conceive of the idea without the finished work being right there in front of them.  They certainly weren’t able to present it in a visually compelling way and the fact that they are not able to receive the work as art that speaks to them and their experiences is their problem not the artist’s.

Secondly, they really should stop being so hard on themselves…

They seem to be conflating whether or not they think they could create something similar as determining whether or not something can be art.  What they don’t realize is that they are fully capable of creating art.  Just because they are able to do something, doesn’t make it not art.  When (or if) they create, do they do it purely for function or do they try to incorporate some beauty, or emotion, or meaning to it?  If they were willing, they are fully capable of opening their minds and creating something artistic.  I find it sad that for one of these individuals, who can make beautiful quilts, she doesn’t see what she does as artistic; she feels that she is just making quilts.  Despite this, the works are beautiful and are certainly art to others even if she feels her work is without meaning.

The question of ‘is it art’ was answered long ago.  Duchamp’s Fountain was one of the most pivotal pieces of last century.  This realization that anything can be art is incredible because we can then move beyond asking the simple “is it art” and begin asking the more meaningful “is this effective art?”  Is the artist effective at addressing a point and/or is he effective at evoking an emotion from the viewer?  In the case of my friends, he was not effective, but only because they don’t have experiences where old rusty pieces of metal can bring back memories or be viewed as beautiful.  For me, they remind me of the aging farm equipment I see out in east Boulder county.  I marvel at the beautiful color variations as the rust patterns flow over each individual piece.  The rust is a natural occurrence and its patterns develop by chance.  Framing the rust using just the metal they formed on, cutting each piece exactly and precisely provides a nice contrast to the randomness contained within.  For me, it was effective, beautiful, and of course, it is art.

Comments Off on Is it Art? :, , more...

Virtual Art Museums

by on Feb.01, 2011, under Art

In art school, we often looked at images of artwork in books or copies displayed on the screen from a projector.  These often left me wanting.  The images were poorly reproduced; often they were in black and white or blurry.  Rarely, did they accurately or even remote convey the original art piece in any appreciable detail.  I felt that what was needed was a giant database of art works that were digitally copied in high resolution, enabling instructors and students access to these images and giving them the ability to zoom in and out and get a true sense of the details: the size, the paint strokes, etc.

Leave it to Google.

The Google Art Project enables the online viewer to not only view individual art pieces on the screen but gives them the opportunity to zoom in, viewing the intricate details, the brushstrokes, the crackling, the nuances of an artist’s work.  In addition to viewing the artwork itself, Google has also implemented a ‘street-view’ of several art museums so ‘visitors’ can tour the museums from the comfort of their own home.  While nothing can compare to experience of viewing an artwork in person (I never knew Van Eyck’s paintings were so small), the street view can help give a sense of the scale of the artwork and experience how it is displayed at the museum and its relation to art displayed around it.

This is a good start but has room to grow.  I’d like to be able to click on the artwork from the ‘street-view’ and then be able to explore the artwork, read the informational plaque, and maybe even impulsively buy a poster of it from the gift shop.  It could link to books on Amazon or to a local library search about the artwork.  It could include a way to find essays or blog posts that talk about the piece or a way to find other works by the same author, in similar styles or related in other ways.

What about three-dimensional art, such as sculptures.  A painting is two-dimensional and is more reasonable to experience from a two-dimensional computer screen, but how do we experience a three dimensional object?  Will there be 3D renderings in the future?  Complete with graphical skins that accurately convey the texture and blemishes of stone, bronze, or otherwise?  Will we need 3D glasses to fully experience a sculpture or do we need to wait until virtual reality is a reality?

Time will tell.

Comments Off on Virtual Art Museums :, , , more...

More Recycled Art

by on Jul.30, 2009, under Art

I got an email from Sierra club yesterday and the eco tip was to buy art created from recycled materials. The thought had never occurred to me to seek out art based on what it’s made out of but of what the image is or what it means to me. A clever tip nonetheless in this time of environmental concern. Recycled art keeps garbage out of the landfill, provides another creative outlet, as well as a unique item for the consumer.

Many recycled art I’ve seen have been nifty reproductions of master works. Just an observation and I fall into that myself with my bizarre beer cap collection. I’ll probably just make a large starry night since most beer I drink tends to have blue caps.

I found this on Digg yesterday. Reproductions of Mona Lisa done with everything from a lawn to old computer parts.

A local artist, Barry Stickerman Snyder, creates art out of produce labels. In addition to an American Gothic reproduction, he has amazing original works that have an almost southwestern mosaic feel to them.

Know of more? Leave a comment and share.

Comments Off on More Recycled Art :, , , , , , more...

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:

Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can take care of it!