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Tricky Images

Artists blend technology and light to create holograms in Santa Paula show.


Andres Hernandez, 11, a Rio Lindo Elementary School student, visited a museum exhibit at Santa Paula Oil Museum this month that he loves to talk about.

"I really think kids should go," he said enthusiastically. Especially, he added, because his favorite object in the show, a microscope, "wasn't really there."

No, Andres isn't confused. He's a serious person who is quick to tell you, "I like science." Still, the microscope he saw at the museum, and looked into to examine some tiny electronic widgets, really wasn't there. It was a hologram: a little sheet of plastic that looks like a photo negative and produces a full-size 3-D image when you shine a laser beam on it.

More than two dozen such holographic marvels are on display at the museum in a special exhibition titled "Light Dreams." It features the work of holographic artists from around the world and includes 3-D movie-like images as diverse as lion cubs frolicking and Dracula rising from the grave.

To demystify the technology, there's a special videotape playing at the show's entrance. Watch it and you learn enough about holograms to make the show that much more enjoyable.

Andres' mother, Julie, took him and his 15-year-old brother, Arturo, to the show.

"I had heard that the 'pictures' in the show were unbelievable. But the boys were skeptical because they didn't understand what a hologram was," she said, "and now they are continually talking about it with me and their friends. We're going to have to go back."

The exhibit was put together by Douglas Tyler, a professor in the art department of St. Mary's College in Notre Dame, Ind. He's a pioneer in the field of "holographic art," which uses technology to create works not unlike those made by photographers but with results that literally pop out at the viewer.

"This particular show is more educational and instructional than [devoted to] artistic expression," he said.

There are four kinds of holograms in the show, Tyler said. The "embossed" type look something like the ones we see on credit cards and driver's licenses. An "integral" hologram produces an image appearing in a glass display box. A "reflection" hologram looks like a mirror--but something other than your own face appears in it. A "transmission" hologram looks like a little window, but the image you see looks like it's coming into the room.

"This is really interactive art," Tyler said, "You can move around and see it from whatever angle you choose--every view is only what you, alone, are seeing." It's also interactive because, as he observed, "People interact with each other. I see fathers and sons come in silent and then begin chattering like magpies about what they're seeing."


"Light Dreams," special exhibition of holographic art, Wednesday to Sunday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., through Aug. 30. Santa Paula Union Oil Museum, 1001 E. Main St. Free, information: (805) 933-0076.

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