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September 1, 1996

Art world takes
to the Internet

By Timothy C. Barmann

It's the ultimate art gallery.

Admission is usually free. Countless works are available for viewing. And you don't have to leave your house to see it.

The World Wide Web has become a giant electronic gallery for artists, who find it an inexpensive way to reach a mass audience.

"It's a fantastic opportunity," said Tracy Brown, a Providence artist who assembled an on-line show of digital artwork last year.

Having an exhibit on the Internet means avoiding the costs and difficulties usually associated with holding a show in a traditional gallery, she said.

All that's needed is a computer, an account with an Internet provider (about $20 a month) and a way to convert artwork into a digital file.

Brown put together a show with the work of about 15 artists, including herself, who created images using a computer. The exhibit actually appeared simultaneously in two forms. Prints of the electronic images were displayed in a gallery at AS220 in downtown Providence. Most of the images were also posted on AS220's Web site on the Internet.

The "real" exhibit has ended, but the virtual show, called The AS220 Digital Show, remains on line at http://www.ids.net/~as220/digital/digital.html.

Brown solicited entries through the Internet and in the newspaper, and all the artists who submitted work were represented in the show, she said.

Originally it was to be a traditional art show at AS220, where Brown was a director of the gallery. But her plans coincided with AS220 "getting into the digital realm," and so she thought it made sense to make the computer-generated artwork available on the Internet as well.

One of Brown's pieces that appears in the show is Forest Veins, which she made by using a computer program to combine a photograph from Lincoln Woods with a bar code taken from the cover of a Bible.Improved access

For the art lover, the Internet means being able to see works that might otherwise remain unknown, such as the AS220 show. It's especially valuable to those who live in small towns or rural areas where museums and bookstores are few and far between.

For the artist, the Internet is not only a cheap way to put on an exhibit, it can also be a valuable marketing tool.

That's how Eric Holter, a Warren illustrator, is using his Web site. Holter makes a living designing Web pages, but his first love is carving wood engravings from blocks of maple -- a craft that became virtually extinct with advances in commercial printing.

Part of his site (http://www.holter.com) has a gallery of prints made from his engravings on wood blocks.

He hasn't made any sales yet through his Web site, but he's used it to help win clients for the design company he runs out of his house, called New Fangled Graphics.Limits of technology

While the Web may be the ultimate art gallery, many would argue that it's certainly not the perfect way to view art.

Some artwork, such as sculpture, isn't intended to be viewed in two dimensions. And even flat art loses something in the translation to a computer screen.

"You really have to smell the paint and feel the gravity," writes Dennis O'Malley in a message to visitors of Rhode Island College's Bannister Gallery Web site.

O'Malley, the gallery director, constructed the Web site (http://www.ric.edu/Home/buildings/Bannister/bannister.html) in June to encourage people to come to the gallery on the college campus.

Visitors to the virtual gallery can see a sample of current exhibits and learn about upcoming ones, such as a show in October that focuses on homeless children.

Another local on-line gallery is the David Winton Bell Gallery at Brown University (http://www.brown.edu/Facilities/David_Winton_Bell_Gallery/Bell.html).

The site functions primarily as a brochure for the gallery, but includes a paper, written by art history student Robin S. Schuldenfrei, which examines the ramifications of art on the Internet. (It can be found under the "InterArt" section of the site, which also lists dozens of art-related sites.) On-line Louvre

There are literally hundreds of on-line galleries on the Web. Yahoo! lists many at http://www.yahoo.com/Arts/Museums-and-Galleries/

One of the best-known is Le Louvre (http://mistral.culture.fr/louvre/louvrea.htm), the famous museum in Paris and home of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa (http://mistral.culture.fr/louvre/anglais/musee/collec/monna.htm).

Seeing the Mona Lisa on a computer screen, a purist might say, is nothing like seeing the real thing. But for those of us who won't be traveling overseas anytime soon, the Internet can at least give us a taste.

As O'Malley of the Bannister Gallery writes: "Use the virtual to get in touch with the actual."

Computer calendar

Sept. 21 -- The Rhode Island Apple Group will offer a class called Beginning Macintosh from 9 a.m. to noon at the Gordon Middle School, 45 Maxfield Ave., East Providence. Fee is $20 for members and $35 for non-members. (First-year membership is $30.) To register, call Maggie Holmes at 433-3192 or send e-mail to her at Magholm@aol.com. Deadline for registration is Sept. 18.

Timothy C. Barmann is a Journal-Bulletin staff writer. His column runs every other Sunday on the On Line page. Send him comments via e-mail at tim@cybertalk.com or U.S. mail, c/o the Journal-Bulletin, 75 Fountain St., Providence, R.I. 02902.