Friday, August 03, 2007


Check out the latest incarnation of the Hidden Talents exhibit in the Browsing Room!

More than a dozen quirky, colorful robots have taken over the main floor Browsing Room this fall with the newest installment of the Hidden Talents series -- Robocalifragilistic. “This is definitely very different from the previous Hidden Talents exhibits,” says artist Sharon Birch, an instructional technologist at the College, who named the exhibit after the nonsensical word supercalifragilistic (meaning “absolutely stunningly fantastic”) from the film Mary Poppins.

“Robocalifragilistic is a collection of paintings meant to resemble the visual layout of a comic. But, unlike a comic strip, there is no implied or intended story line – it’s up to the viewer to put together a sequence of their own choosing, which should be interesting since the majority of the paintings consist of robots having fun.”

The way the robot idea came to Birch is almost as unusual as her paintings. She happened upon a box of Bobbsey Twins books, the popular juvenile series written from 1904 to 1979. She started reading and was hooked, describing them as “hilarious -- every chapter or so there is a humdinger of a sentence that just begs to be exaggerated visually.”

At first she imagined transforming the tales into a comic strip or graphic novel. “Unfortunately, I was stuck with one fundamental flaw to my idea -- I can't draw people,” says Birch. “Most of the time, I get around this by drawing things that don't require representative precision, but to pull off a comic with about 23 human characters was beyond what I could do. Then I had a stroke of genius -- I would make all the characters into robots!”

She never finished the comic, but began using colorful acrylics to paint “robots in everyday life.”
She prefers acrylic because “I can paint a block of color, and come back in 20 minutes and paint the next color without affecting anything else on the canvas. This allows for quick, clean paintings and is ideal for my cartoonish, flat style.”

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