Sullivan , Art Gallery Chair
It’s not easy running the world’s premier computer graphics
art gallery, even if it is only open for a week. The responsibility
of orchestrating the myriad elements responsible for a gallery—artists,
jurors, technicians, donors—falls upon the chair of the Art
Gallery, Karen Sullivan.
“Everyone tells you how much work it is but they never tell
you how much fun it is,” Sullivan says of her sizable undertaking.
Sullivan and a crew flew into San Antonio on Wednesday night. The
next morning they began directing the construction of the art gallery
(walls, lighting, carpet, etc.) and by Sunday the gallery was populated
with artwork and open for business.
The Art Gallery features over 60 works, ranging from two-dimensional
still images to interactive, three-dimensional virtual reality installations.
Sullivan explains that chairing the gallery committee is a volunteer
position which is usually only held once to promote fresh ideas.
“Everybody says ‘I can’t believe you’re
doing it for free,’” Sullivan quips, but is quick to
add that the reward is worth the work. When asked her opinion on
other areas of SIGGRAPH, Sullivan was unable to talk in detail about
favorites: “When you’re chairing a venue, you don’t
get out very much.”
Sullivan entered the computer graphics world in 1981. At the time
she was a printmaker in the art department of Indiana University,
working mainly on etchings of women’s clothing. She took a
FORTRAN class and decided she wanted to use the university’s
plotter to make prints of her work. The only problem was that the
plotter belonged to the computer science department. Undaunted,
Sullivan routinely offered bribes to the plotter technician. A “3
Musketeers ™” bar for the technician and a yellow pen
to replace the green pen on the plotter (for better color mixing)
proved to be an effective strategy.
Sullivan began her involvement with SIGGRAPH in 1994 as the conference
newsletter cover editor. She continued to work for the newsletter
for several years and also worked on the art show subcommittee in
1997. Over the years her development as an artist has shifted focus
from electronic installation work to more traditional techniques:
“I use pencils a lot lately.”
Sullivan says her early electronic work was hard to maintain and
expensive to finance. Nowadays she has less time for complex art
due to family and professional commitments. Sullivan lists such
artists as Charles Csuri, Copper Giloth and Donna Cox as being influential
to her artistic development.
Looking at long-term trends in computer art, Sullivan observes
an ebb and flow between technological innovation and content. In
the past, technology outpaced content, but now Sullivan believes
technology is a foundation for art and what the artist is trying
to say is more important than the technology itself.
Sullivan currently teaches in the computer animation department
at Ringling School of Art and Design.