where the heart wasn't

August 1, 2006
In general I'm a lazy guy, but when I get the idea for something that seems interesting and do-able, it almost doesn't matter how much effort it's going to take, I attack it like a pitbull. Case in point...

Project of the Moment
OK, this requires a bit of explanation. In 1990 there was a pretty nifty film callled Where The Heart Is-- unfortunately it has sort of been eclipsed by the film of the same name made a decade later.

It was an uneven film (one reviewer pointed out it would have made more sense if it had stayed set in London) but great in many ways. It's the story of 3 adult children (and some of their friends they enlist to help out) whose real-estate mogul father forces them to support themselves while living in an ugly-ish Brooklyn building they fought to save from his wrecking crew. One daughter, Chloe, is commisioned to make create and photograph a series of these lovely, large-scale trompe l'oeil works for an insurance calendar. The paintings feature a subject in body paint that causes them to match the backgrounds... it's quite a great effect. Many of the paintings seem to reference famous works, but I'm too much of a lout to get most of them.

It turns out that the artwork was actually by Timna Woollard... but information about her is very difficult to come by. I would gladly have paid for a small book or copy of the calendar, but there's nothing to be found online. (And, you know... if Google doesn't know about it it must not exist.)

The paintings are shown as a series at the end of the movie, behind the credits. But the credits are pretty distracting... so this weekend I made up a custom Java program to help me extract the background by splicing lines from frames where the text isn't. It was a lot of work.

<geekness level="severe" type="artsy">My first attempts were a simple program that let me select the sections by hand, but that was error prone, and annoying, and too much work in general. I tried a few more approaches, "averaging" the pixels over a series of frames (which, as expected, led to a big blur in the middle), an odd "voting" system where a pixel becomes the color it is the most often (left odd color sparkles all over the place, because of how I broke up the R/G/B information) until finally I made up a kind of primitive AI filter that could take a guess about whether or not a scanline currently had text on it (counting the areas of sharp contrast.) The end result still needed some hand-tweaking in picking out extra frames to import and rejecting 1 or 2 that could fool the heuristic, but it was much, much easier than what I tried to do originally.</geekness>

So here is the series, one day at a time. (Or more quickly if you enjoy hacking URLs) I think a reasonable Fair-Use argument can be made for it, or at least that no one yells at me for it. Once the series is finished I plan to make a simple app displaying the images together, with the option of embedding them in a calendar for any given year.

Art of the Moment

click for fullsize

"January" by Timna Woollard
from Where The Heart Is.

Painting Suggestion of the Moment
Stampede of Nudes

The trouble with most paintings of nudes is that there isn't enough nudity. It's usually just one woman lying there, and you're looking around going, 'Aren't there any more nudes?' This idea solves that.

What has frightened these nudes? Is it the lightning in the background? Or did one of the nudes just spook? You don't know, and this creates tension.