I debated over what I was going to write about for this blog-a-thon (organized by girish). A friend of mine told me that she thought some people might want to know the science behind my liquid crystal films, so here we go:
My work is made using a technique known as cross-polarization. This technique utilizes two Polaroid filters which are placed at right angles to one another. Under normal conditions, this blocks out most light.
Most light waves, seen head on, propagate in all directions; up and down, side to side, etc. Polaroid filters work as "prison bars," blocking out all light except that which is propagating in the direction of the alignment of the "bars." This is called polarization. Incidentally, this happens when light is reflected, as well (this is why your polarizing sunglasses block out "road glare" which is reflected, polarized light).
By placing a horizontally aligned Polaroid filter in front of a filter that is vertically aligned, one can create a sort of "light prison" trapping all light between the two filters. To visualize this, see the diagrams below:
When both "jail bars" are aligned vertically, a vertically vibrating light wave can make it through both sets of "bars," while all other vibrations are blocked.
When a horizontally aligned set of "jail bars" are placed in front of vertically aligned "jail bars," the vertically vibrating light wave that makes it through the first set of "bars" will be blocked by the second set, preventing the light from "escaping" from its prison!
Artists are often required to bend the rules. I bend the light waves, liberating them from their polarized prisons!
By using liquid crystals, of course! Liquid crystals and some other materials display a property called birefringence (double-refracting or light-bending) Liquid crystals are materials that are not quite solid and not quite liquid (despite what we are taught in school, there are more than three phases of matter).
Using these "double refracting" materials, I can selectively bend the vertically aligned light waves that make it through the first set of "bars" so that they are vibrating in a horizontal direction and can pass through the horizontal "bars!" Through experimentation and study, I can choose my pallet by choosing the materials I use, the severity of a bend, the harshness of a twist, or the depth of a scratch. In effect, instead of painting with different colors of pigment, I'm painting with different wavelengths (colors) of light waves.
"Enough, chatter, egghead! Show us the results!"
Stills from "The Light Touch Dust Nebula" and "Callisto"
From "The Light Touch Dust Nebula"
In these films, I used temperature sensitive (thermotropic) liquid crystal paints (available through Edmund Scientific at a reasonable price). This is the stuff that makes mood rings and those rainbow thermometers work. To obtain different colors in "Light Touch," I blew on the paints (and nearly passed out). For "Callisto" I decided to use an air blower and the evaporative effects of rubbing alcohol (much better).
Stills from "Europa"
This made a HUGE mess! The liquid crystal at play here is soap, which doesn't like to stay in one place for too long! Soap is a lyotropic liquid crystal (changes based on its concentration)
Stills from "The Counter Girl Trilogy"
I unveil my newest films!
From "Snake Oil"
From "GWP (Gift With Purchase)"
This is a very special little trilogy for me. This film features three different shades of lip gloss that I got from my job as a makeup counter attendant. This particualr liquid crystal...(drum roll)...cholesterol! Can you imagine using that as a selling point? "Ooh! You'll love our new lip gloss! It contains green tea extract, Vitamin-C and a suspension of thermotropic cholesterol in its chiral nematic phase!" Which, I guess, quite a few of the cosmetics companies employ (click here)!
I have worn it, and yes, it does taste "greasy." Here is its "before" picture (this was the shade I used in "Anti-Rides"):
You can see how nicely it refracts the light...
The images in "GWP" show what this liquid crystalline material looks like when simply lit from above. In "Snake Oil" and "Anti-Rides" the material is cross-polarized to even further isolate and exploit the colors.
If you would like to see more examples, please click on this link to my site (or click on the film image to the right).