In the 1939 film classic, "The Wizard of Oz," the Wicked Witch of the West peers into her crystal ball and conjures up a field of poppies--flowers from which the drug opium is made. Her aim is to foil Dorothy's venture to Oz by overwhelming her with beautiful flowers that make her fall asleep.
"Wicked Witch: A Video Installation by Diana Thater," on display at the Orange County Museum of Art, consists of hypnotic, blurry images of California poppy fields converging.
Just as the Wicked Witch overpowered Dorothy's senses, Thater hopes her installation will have the same effect on viewers.
The Los Angeles-based artist filmed the poppies in a field in Carlsbad in 1996. Using a hand-held 8-millimeter movie camera, she captured images as she moved up and down among the flower beds. Later she transferred the film onto video.
She shows them on the gallery walls with a circle of six projectors placed near the center of the room. The projectors' beams create a 360-degree panorama. Some of the video is projected onto the viewers, bathing them in shades of orange, pink and yellow.
The images are randomly arranged--large and small, rectangular or square. And they have been intensified; lenses were adjusted out of focus to induce a sense of disorientation.
Seeing the field of poppies this way creates a kind of visual delirium and blurs the line between video and viewer. Viewers are "very much a part of the piece because they are physically inside the art," Thater said.
The unusual perspective is de rigueur for installation art, said OCMA director Naomi Vine. "It's unique because it allows the artist to transform a room into a three-dimensional spatial experience," she said.
Thater's show is one of several museum-owned installations by California artists that will rotate every six months in a gallery devoted exclusively to video art. The space is ideal for the experience, Vine said.
"Being inside the exhibit room is almost as if you're inside the crystal ball."
"Wicked Witch: A Video Installation by Diana Thater" continues through July 16 at the Orange County Museum of Art, 850 San Clemente Drive, Newport Beach. Open Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. $4-$5; children younger than 16 admitted free. Admission is free Tuesdays. (949) 759-1122. Annie Loui and Company will present an interactive performance with Diana Thater's "Wicked Witch" at noon today at OCMA.