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Into the Light

Holographic artists see beyond

By Gretchen Giles

DO YOU have any idea how holography works? Neither do I, and yet holographic artist Nancy Gorglione is standing right in front of me drawing a diagram. Patiently explaining that which took her 20 years to master, Gorglione triangulates on the page and gestures to the laser equipment we are standing next to in the warren of basement workrooms under the Sebastopol home she shares with her husband and artistic partner, Greg Cherry.

Feeling as I did in second grade before my mother started giving me money for every math problem I got right, I peer studiously at Gorglione's penciled explanations, nodding as if any of it made any sense at all. Ah, but there is one sentence that my enfeebled brain can latch onto: "Holography is three-dimensional laser photography."

That the addition of the third dimension of parallax vision (seeing around an object) to the flat plane of a two-dimensional object (the photograph itself) is achieved through the splitting of a pure-light laser beam is also something that I can weakly grasp.

And while highly trained scientists may manipulate lasers within tiny fractional measurements--using the beams to lead research in quantum physics--those of us who are number-impaired are content merely to comment that, gee, it's pretty cool to look at.

Soon to mount the "Resonant Matter" exhibit at the California Museum of Art--which opens on July 24 accompanied by a showing of Johnny Otis' folk art--Gorglione thankfully leads me back upstairs to her home gallery. If you presume that you have already seen holograms--having shrieked at the beckoning death bride of Disneyland's Haunted House ride, or leered over the postcards of bathing beauties who drop their unmentionables at the mere shift of the card--not only are you wrong, but you've missed out.

Hung like secrets along the walls of Gorgolione's viewing room are her composite holograms, large works embedded with smaller squares that refuse to reveal themselves until you stand before them.

But grant them a direct audience and they wink on like squared-off jewels, glinting out images from a riverbed or a floating beauty of the female nude, a horse's skull laid bare in terror, the god-infusion of light fingering down through clouds.

"Holography doesn't haven't an infinite angle of view," Gorglione observes. "It depends on the optical setup when you make it. With the early holography, they used to literally have footprints on the floor that said 'Stand Here.'"

Studying at San Francisco's School of Holography in the early '70s, Gorglione was excited to happen upon a completely new way to work. "Holography was the only thing that I could find that used laser light," she remembers. "We [Gorglione and Cherry] do laser light shows, too. It was a very primitive media at that time," she smiles, "and I sort of taught myself.

"The art market hasn't really caught with holography yet," she continues, "but I think that it will, because, you know, the art market usually leads business. Artists use the technology that their civilization has produced, and the laser is a major part of our civilization. I think that people are so caught up in computers that they've sort of lost sight of that. But you know so much of the research in quantum physics has been led by the laser, and this is the art of the laser.

"From the scientific point of view, lasers lead a lot of the phenomena that physicists build their sciences on. The original purpose of art is to lead the world," she says. "I think that in order to survive the competitive market, we've lost our ability as artists to lead. We've just reflected the world. So you have all these paintings of angst and suffering and sorrow because that's how we perceive our world, instead of saying, 'Hey, it's just life.'

"Holography allows the artist to recognize that. It's really a profound media, and I think that the world will catch up with that again."

Gorglione happily refers to herself as a "middle-aged Rave artist." She and Cherry--who makes prototype models at Hewlett Packard as his day job--are just as enthused about the chaotic nature of nature as they are about more traditional notions of beauty. Gorglione not only creates pieces that allow light to refract along its own geometric lines, but also feels that such beams can stimulate the brain.

By synchronizing vibrating light waves, she explains, she believes that it's possible to make the spinal column hum.

"You can get the body to resonate," she smiles. "I believe that it's possible to activate neurons in the brain that aren't being used. We're only using 10 percent of our brain. There's a lot more science to it than I'm explaining," she says in response to my confused, inbred expression, "but I believe that you can get increased neuron efficiency of the brain."

Later, Gorglione muses, "A holograph is just light. You're just defracting patterns of light. You can create a living language of light to trip neurons. We've got some holographs that do that, and it's very beautiful. So, if nothing else, you have the beauty of the light."


Resonant Matter opens Wednesday, July 24, and runs through Sept. 22 with separate exhibit, "The Art of Johnny Otis." Reception: Friday, July 26, from 5 to 8 p.m. CMA, Luther Burbank Center, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. Hours: Wed. and Fri., 1 to 4 p.m.; Thurs., 1 to 7 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. $2; free for members. 527-0297.

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From the July 18-24, 1996 issue of the Sonoma Independent

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