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Culture » Arts & Entertainment

Twisted Pictures

Cindy Roberts’ photography gets a digital distortion.



Cindy Roberts answers the age-old question of whether life imitates art or vice-versa this way: “My art, much of the time, is a metaphor for my life.

Life'any life, with all its upheavals and changes'can be represented accurately through Cindy Roberts’ unique brand of computer-generated art. Her abstract-looking works actually come from very real and concrete sources: photographs she takes herself.

Even though Roberts grew up in Kansas City, she considers Utah her home. She has lived in Logan since 1979 and has been involved in art from about that time. As a painter and photographer, Roberts has enjoyed creating art in its more traditional forms and still spends a lot of time on art photography. But there was something about manipulating photographs on the computer that caught her attention a few years ago. “I was doing the Bioneers conference and saw how they used computers to make these great natural shapes,” she recalls.

Roberts began creating art with computers at a time when her life saw several dramatic changes. The Greystone Gallery, which she operated with another local artist, closed. Roberts works at the Cache Chamber of Commerce as the chief operating officer'a job that dominates much of her time'and therefore found she needed an artistic outlet requiring less time than painting. Besides, Roberts noticed that she was developing allergies to her paints. She looked at the computer and saw “a great tool. It was interesting to see where it would take me.

“I’m more comfortable with cameras,” Roberts explains, “so it made sense to use photographic images. I used to take pictures as studies for my painting; now I use them for my new art as well.

When Roberts takes a picture, the image is uploaded onto her computer and she makes use of mathematical formulas to distort and manipulate a portion, or the whole, of the photo. The final piece is assembled in sections, depending on how the varying effects create different designs. The pieces are morphed into a seamless whole, which is then printed out on specially coated inkjet paper. The texture is that of a hand-pulled print, which can then be framed.

“You can see how it is a metaphor for life,” Roberts says. “I love how you can take this picture and put it on the computer and change it. It’s still there, but it’s a whole that is morphed into something different.

“Making this art is fun,” Roberts continues, “but it also has a meditative aspect.” She explains how she lets the design influence her, using her art as an exercise in guided meditation: “There is an energy that guides how I approach the composition.

Roberts’ art is more than just playing around on the computer; it is beginning to earn her some serious recognition. She has been featured in gallery shows and has sold some prints. With her husband, Roberts is starting a business called Cody’s Sky Productions, a business that takes its name from a children’s book she wrote and illustrated about a night of stargazing with her first grandchild. Roberts and her husband are creating a Website and developing a marketing plan in the hopes of taking Roberts’ art outside of Utah. She is also considering different subjects for her art, a necessity if she wants to reach an audience beyond the borders of Utah. “I want to be able to capture the flavor of different areas,” she says. “I’d need to be able to travel and see what makes an area special.

Roberts enjoys the prospect of finding a wider audience but admits that Cody’s Sky Productions plans have her a little worried. “I’m just starting to sell my art, and it is exciting.” She pauses thoughtfully. “The hard part is to start striking a balance. My art has been so much for meditative purposes, and I don’t want to be business-driven. I need to be business-minded, but I don’t want that to start driving my art.”

She laughs before continuing: “There it is again, my art reflecting my life and how I try to balance all the different things I try to do.

Roberts currently finds herself experimenting with a new medium: fibers. She says she’d like to be able to do more with fibers and that she’s currently working on a project now for her church, a large piece that will be both a wall hanging and a podium cover. Letting her Unitarian Universalist faith guide her, Roberts describes a computer “sketch” that includes a stylized chalice'a symbol of her religion'on a background developed in line with the rest of her computer art, incorporating gold and ochre to represent God, healing and welcome.

“I really think that we do influence people by what we do in life,” Roberts says. “And I hope that my art can influence others'at church, in the community'to find reasons to pull together.”