Thursday, February 17, 2011
Jenny Hyde: Virtual Virtuoso
Jenny Hyde is an art and design professor on the farthest reaches of campus. In a round cinder brick of a building, Jenny shuffles in her clogs through the Digitial Arts Lab, calling over the seventeen monitors and seventeen scanners. Over lightly freckled cheeks, her hazel eyes flit about the room. At the end of the lecture, she tours the room, giving praise and instruction to her digital art students.
The Digital Arts Lab is far from the drawing and painting studios where she began. In 1998 she earned a Bachelors in Fine Arts from Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle. Her exhibition was in drawing and painting.
Maintaining a studio in New York City exhausted Jenny. She worked multiple jobs to support her artwork, but the fulfillment wasn’t there. She was tired. Her ideas weren’t working. Painting wasn’t answering the questions she was asking.
She had been exploring “cultural geography” and human control on physical spaces. She explains, “When I say the words, “American West’ or ‘The West,’ immediately there’s images that will come to one’s mind that are sort of stereotypes of what the American West is. Stereotypes such as… cows, horses—all these things that…depict the American West, but in reality these things were only there because of human habitation… the European invasion…So these icons were manmade in a sense. So we actually made these landscapes through our influence and what we were doing.”
Influenced by recent art shows she had attended, Jenny had been experimenting with different media, drawing with Sharpies on different materials. In addition to cultural geography concepts, Jenny was trying to recall a certain physical experience or feeling of what happens to someone physically but had difficulty putting this on canvas.
A visiting friend examined her work. He told her that she should be making videos and recommended the Electronic Integrated Arts program at Alfred University, where he was attending.
She applied and started the program in the fall of 2004. A year after she finished graduate school, she moved back to New York. Freelancing, she created web pages and assisted another artist by transferring her slides to j-pegs until Eastern Washington University hired her as a visiting assistant professor, which lead to her current position.
Her work has shifted to the body itself and how it shows evidence of life, thoughts and anxieties. She is “looking at the body like a thing we need to survive…physical things that we depend upon about our bodies.”
In her short movie, Potential Problems, she uses scans of chewed fingernails in different layers and sizes, moving them across the screen and rendering them into something other than fingernails. She takes the digital image and is able to render it into something beautiful in a different and new way.
“My work…focuses on these weird little physical things that our bodies do that are evidences of our inner selves...This recent body of art I’ve done with fingernails…I’ve been scanning and collecting all my chewed off fingernails, which is totally gross. But it’s a gross activity…Sometimes I’ll be sitting in the classroom…and I’ll see fingernails from other fingernail chewers…and there’s like these little pieces of body all over the place…So that to me is fascinating…not only act and the weird grossness of it,” Jenny pauses to laugh, “but that they’re doing it because they’re either nervous or bored. It involves some psychological need or comfort.”
In her current project, Zooming In, Jenny uses video to compare the sleeping body of a child in diapers to that of an adult in the same position. She utilizes two channels of video playing simultaneously. One view is the zoomed in view only inches away from the baby while a scroll bar hovers over the correlating spot on the adult’s body.
She was inspired by online shopping and the interactive nature of viewing objects that one can’t hold before purchasing. The child and the adult have a personal connection to her as well, which spurred her thinking further. “I’m a fairly new mother of a two year old…one of the things that really fascinates me is that he is literally a physical copy of his father. I think about this genetics versus digital code. Working digitally, you can constantly you can copy and paste, copy and paste…and it’s the same thing…Human reproduction is a little more organic than that, but the info in the DNA code reappears as a copy in my baby...His body is the same as my husband’s. Sure his face is a little bit more of a blend of us, but his body is his father’s.”
She would like to create an interactive piece with this material, where the viewer can scroll over the adult body and see the corresponding place on the baby, but she says she’ll need help with technology before she can do that. “What I love most is that what I want to use or use changes as much as the technology changes…Working with digital technology is like a double-edged sword because (every new change) happens so fast. You get the hang of something then a new program will pop up or they’ll revise it somehow. It gets exhausting.”
Beyond digital art, Jenny thinks that “what’s next will involve a complete simulated environment.” “We touched on it a little bit with virtual reality,” she says, “but there’s a problem with virtual reality because you had to wear a big thing on you. Now we can interact…between environment and virtual environment…like the Wii game…Your physical movements are involved in the actual process…I see a lot more simulated environments that actually also use your physical environment… so that it’s not all simulated. That actually involves the physical self as well.”