Allen Hirsh


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Allen Hirsh
About the author

My interest in being an artist comes from growing up in a close-knit community in Central New Jersey in the early 1950s as the son of Jewish chicken farmers turned landscapers. My parents’ switch to horticulture was a true gift to me, nurturing a fascination with exotic plants and gardens beginning in my elementary school years, an attachment that has remained with me to this day. Indeed, it is photographic images of the plants that I grow in my own exotic garden that serve as the basis for much of my digital art. I genuinely love to look at and cultivate plants and admire their beauty, but even as a very young child I also had a passion for math and science that sealed my commitment to science at a very early age. Today, I am a practicing biophysicist, and much of my professional work has been focused on how plants survive despite cold temperatures. When I began graduate school at the University of Maryland in Maryland in the late 70s, I took a part-time job with a local nurseryman to help defray my expenses, a natural path for me as I had learned fancy landscaping from my very talented mother. I joined The American Red Cross Blood Labs after earning a degree at U. MD College Park in plant science, with my PhD on the biophysics of extreme freezing stresses in plants. Yet, I continued to landscape on weekends, and had the opportunity to build large exotic gardens around sizable homes in Potomac. This continued successful involvement with a visual art form primed me to consider involvement with other visual arts, if I could find a way. There is another seminal family tie to the digital images I have been creating. My brother Gene is a classically trained artist in oils and watercolors, and by the late 80s he had also become a digital artist, using available tools such as Photoshop and Painter to create representational paintings from photographs. When our first child came in 1992, he urged me to try fractal style painting with the computer because I am good at math and he said it might relax me. Up to that point I, like a lot of biologists, was an indifferent computer programmer. Now I had a second chance, and I dived into learning proper structured programming by building dynamic painting programs. Gradually, this focus on computer programming proved invaluable to my professional scientific work. But for 10 years every night I also worked very hard on digital imaging problems my brother gave me, until I finally turned exclusively to scientific programming at the turn of the century. But I never gave up wanting to paint. In the years since, slowly cooking in my subconscious was a scheme for a very large and complex color and space manipulation engine. It took me years to finally sit down and write the code, and I have not quite completed the final version, but it has been operational for some time, allowing me to create a wide array of abstract images. My philosophy of Digital Art is that it represents another form of painting. Instead of using brush and paint and canvas, the digital artist uses the virtual easel of the screen and the tools available to manipulate bitmap files (Adobe Photoshop, Painter, etc.) to construct the image he or she is imagining. What I do is partially within that mold, but with a fundamentally unique twist. Except for blowing images up, changing file types and printing, all actual manipulation of my images is done exclusively with software engines that I write. A crude analogy would be a traditional artist who also creates his or her paints, brushes and canvas from raw materials. Yet that comparison is also profoundly misleading because in reality I am exploring the power of my complex multilevel mathematical equations to ferret out a small sample of the virtually infinite patterns hidden in the photographs I use as raw material. Part of the art is the images created, part of it is the invention of a continuously expanding image transformation engine. In this way I demonstrate that hidden in ordinary photographic images of flowers, landscapes, everyday objects, animals and humans is an endless array of magical forms waiting to be birthed.