When one wants to understand the origins of Western culture—its art, literature, philosophy—one needs not look any further than Greek mythology. The ancient Greek myth of “Origin” sees Gaia, the mother Earth, emerging from “Chaos” and giving birth to the sky, then the hills and the sea until she becomes the “mother of all.”
New York-based visual artist Jesse Newman was equally drawn to the Gaia myth when he observed his young daughter Emma’s compassion for the environment. Embarking on an ambitious art project akin to an ancient epic journey, Newman created “Rebirth of Gaea”—fantastic works of art that are in private collections across four continents today.
Newman built his career as a premiere visual-effects artist. Shooting photographs of his daughters since the time they were young and observing Emma’s keen interest in the environment inspired Newman to take on an entirely personal journey in a departure from his commercial work.
“Rebirth of Gaea” is both a technical and an artistic feat, which would have been impossible to achieve for someone trained in photography alone. Each one of Newman’s works is a rich “visual tapestry” woven from hundreds of layers of digital images into a single composition. Once the eye absorbs the metaphor in a single piece, it starts to travel to the components that bring the piece together. And that’s when absolute disbelief sets in. There are images morphed through complex visual effects, the kind that we see in the sophisticated action movies of today, along with mythological artifacts, landscapes, children, flowers, clouds, even milk and honey. It’s impossible to understand exactly what you’re looking at, but the effect is magical and otherworldly. Observing one of the works is like a journey in itself—full of marvel, discovery and understanding. Newman created a deconstruction video to demonstrate his entire creative process, layer by layer, for a single image—importing thousands of photographs, one by one, sketching, manipulating and rendering. One can’t help but be stunned at his perseverance, technical skill and artistic vision. “Rebirth of Gaea” is a true labor of love, what Newman refers to as a “visual love letter to his daughter.”
For the “Rebirth of Gaea” images, Newman begins his process with a pencil and paper where he explores the vision, experiments with layout, then gathers the elements to create the final photographs. Newman uses Adobe After Effects to bring together all his pieces into a single photograph. He calls this process a “sculptural process.” Describing the uncanny use of Adobe After Effects, software designed for video to create a static work of art, Newman states, “After Effects is marketed and sold by Adobe as an application for moving imagery for film and video. I don’t believe Adobe is fully aware of its potential in the print world. Because, unlike Photoshop, every time you alter an image in After Effects doesn’t destroy the actual pixels, but only applies the effect on a new layer; that layer can be adjusted anytime without altering the image permanently. Essentially, working in After Effects is like working in oils instead of acrylics where the canvas remains wet and one can continue to refine the look indefinitely.”
Translating video work to print presents not just the challenge of image manipulation, but also one of resolution if the digital file is to be enlarged into a collector’s-edition fine-art print. Understanding the color profiles and color spaces between the worlds of print and video, then rendering the work into a 300 dpi digital file, requires immense technical and visual skill. When Newman came to our facilities to print his first set of works to be exhibited at the International Art Expo, he knew almost nothing about the printing process. We presented to him the option of printing his works as digital photographic prints on the Lambda printer. He immediately chose this medium due to the continuous-tone photographic quality of the output. We printed Newman’s works in sizes ranging from 12×12 inches all the way to 2×6-feet wide without any loss of resolution. Each one of the photographs was mounted behind a pane of nonglare gallery Plexi with acid-free museum board and a floating brace.
We printed Newman’s works in sizes ranging from 12×12 inches all the way to 2×6-feet wide without any loss of resolution. Each one of the photographs was mounted behind a pane of nonglare gallery Plexi with acid-free museum board and a floating brace.
Newman was ecstatic with the output and the success of the exhibition. He continues to work with us because he’s comforted that our team is completely dedicated to finding the best medium for printing and displaying his spectacular works. Newman’s hard work was wonderfully rewarded when, after the Art Expo’s showing of the printed “Rebirth of Gaea,” he was recognized as one of the Top 50 emerging artists worldwide by Art Business News.
I’ve always loved the merger of art and science to evolve our understanding of the world. By showing the possibilities of combining photography with advanced visual effects, Newman has shown us a powerful medium to create metaphors that aid our understanding of the environmental world. I’m excited to see how the world of video, 3D and print merge to create a more beautiful world for all of us.