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Rita In Varying Degrees of Transparency

 Rita in Varying Degrees of Transparency (2015), Oil pastel on paper, Foam core, Arduino Micro-processor, buttons, headphones, audio recordings (13 x 11 x 1.5”)

What does it meant to be transparent? In optics, the difference between varying degrees of transparency is created by the amount of light particles passing through a surface. In the English language, the concept of transparency is given additional weight as it carries meaning in the context of how we communicate and present ourselves to the world. The degree to which we allow ourselves to be truly honest and vulnerable varies greatly depending on our personalities and social contexts. “Rita in Varying Degrees of Transparency” is a traditional portrait with the addition of an interactive component that plays with the experience of imagining the stories behind portrait subjects. Viewers can experience Rita from a distance with their eyes only. However, if they so choose, they may also step in to a much more intimate experience by donning headphones and touching various areas of her face. Just as the painting shows the subject on a visual gradient, the sound clips included exist on a communicative gradient: some are nothing but the sounds of her life: laughing, the call to prayer, working at a crowded cafe. One is a short, one-way excerpt of typical small talk. Others consist of brief monologues that delve into some of her most personal, intimate moments. By engaging with more than one sense, the piece aims to explore the process of mystery and imagination that happens when we engage with other people, even when face-to-face. [Displayed June 2015 as part of Nextfest’s ‘Sound Walk’ sound installation exhibit at the Stanley Milner Public Library in Edmonton, Alberta]