Eric Heller: Transport III

  • ©2000, Eric Heller



    Transport III


Creation Year:



    LightJet - using Lumniange process printer on archival color photographic paper, Fuji Crystal Archive


    48 inches x 32 inches



Artist Statement:

    “Transport III,” another image in the electron flow series, emphasizes the phenomenon of “caustics,” or lines of accumulation where we look edge on. Loosely speaking, caustics are edges, lines along which one object or space ends and another begins. But edges are usually much more. In a drawing, caustics determine where a line should fall, and where it should begin and end. If the object being rendered is a smooth, 3D, light will usually collect or diminish rapidly at an edge, and detail will accumulate there. This is because the caustic of a curved surface is where we look tangent to (i.e. along) the surface. If we imagine the surface as a thin shell of smoky plastic in front of a uniform gray sky, then the caustics will be very dark, because there light must pass through much more material to get through than at a typical place. Whether by training or by instinct, we associate a line in a simple drawing with a caustic in the real world. Even the cave painters 50,000 years ago knew these tricks and rendered some images of animals with subtle use of line to represent caustics.

    But caustics are not always found at the obvious places. Caustics are found whenever there is “projection” to lower dimension. When we see something which is really three-dimensional, we automatically are projecting it onto the plane of our retina, using only two dimensions. Nowhere are caustics as beautiful as when looking through a thin folded translucent sheet, such as translucent kelp. One of the caustics we are bound to see is called a “cusp.” It happens when a flat part of the kelp develops a fold as we follow up along a blade. At a definite point, we start to see two new edges or caustics arise where before there were none.

    Once again, nature has mimicked herself and given us the appearance of an underwater scene even though the medium is the flow of electrons on the micron (one millionth of a meter) scale. The fish was added to emphasize the aquatic allusions.

Affiliation Where Artwork Was Created:

    Harvard University