A Deeper Understanding: my LRMA Experience

Written by Harriet Monzon-Aguirre | October, 2021

Louis Markoya (American, b. 1951), We Are Stardust, 2020, Oil on canvas, 48 x 32 in., copied from "So Many Reasons to Visit the Leepa-Rattner" by Lynn Whitelaw.

I’ve driven past signs for the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art on the way to Tarpon Springs a few times, and I’ve always said I would visit one day. That day came right after I read the blog by Lynn Whitelaw “So Many Reasons to Visit Leepa-Rattner.” I read the blog and then I listened to the Creative Places & Faces Podcast highlighting the interview with one of the featured artists - Louis Markoya.

I could write about so many interesting topics that came up in the podcast and were present in my mind when walking the gallery space - from points of view such as whether or not artists’ written or scannable explanations aid or impede the viewer experience, to the relationships between master and apprentice, even the impact our reverence for certain landscapes have on our psyche. Add the works on display in the other exhibitions, it was a lot to digest.

Lynn writes in her article that the LRMA will “challenge the mind” but this complex exhibition did more than challenge me, it changed me. For Louis’ “art has its highest aspiration of making people see and hear things that they haven’t already” and the most important aspect of art is, “to provide the viewer with material that has them stop and think...that provokes deep thought, induces chemical interactions in the brain, and helps promote new neural growth.” I would say this was achieved, not only by Markoya’s work, but his retrospective in relation to the other exhibitions on display.


Louis Markoya, Ribbon Eels and Coral Head Fluidity
Holographic Lenticular Print with LED Backlight

Since the fifteenth century painters have used mathematics in the form of perspective to render three dimensionality on 2-D surfaces. Visual depictions of mathematics are riveting and I have always been fascinated by geometry employed by artists, such as tessellations used by M.C. Escher. Markoya took this a step further with his integration of fractals into his artwork. Even though I did feel a bit nauseous from motion sickness while viewing Louis Markoya’s interactive prints, I still appreciate them because firstly I learned what lenticular prints are, and secondly I admire the extremely technical process used to make the series.

Louis Markoya, Iris Van Herpen
Oil on canvas

Markoya suggests that computer imagery and special effects have improved so much and are now ingrained into our daily existence to the point that we expect it in our lives. He introduces technology into classical art by integrating fractals and mentions Google’s Deep Dream Generator, AI that generates pictorial matter by layering images together. Artists using technology in this way seems to be a recurring theme. I recently visited Studio 1212 and Ann’s Monroe St Gallery where I came across giclee prints and original paintings depicting images produced by the app - FotoDa. Considering the fact that phenomenal digital rendering that was not possible a few years ago is commonplace now, it is no surprise that artists are using technology to help portray our unconscious minds and dream states - the basis of surrealism.

But, alarm bells are ringing in my ears - will the process of painting endure the rising tide of technology? Will future artists depend on AI for image creation, will AI make painters obsolete? Will all art end up being digital? There is a LRMA Art + Tech Talk tomorrow, October 7 from 12:30-1:30 pm and 5:30-6:30 pm at the SPC Tarpon Springs Fine Arts Bldg. I hope this presentation will be available virtually.

Maybe instead of hand-produced visual representations becoming obsolete, there will be a new rejection of the digitally produced trend on a massive scale similar to what occurred with the Arts and Crafts movement when the industrial age came-a-chugging. Are these dichotomies occurring simultaneously? We as humans will always be drawn to things made by hand. Which led me to the LRMA “Elemental” Exhibit.

There was a placard on display about The Five Phases: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water. The Five Phases describes these five elements in two cycles: one creative and one destructive and has been a concept employed centuries before atomic theory. The ideas go back to their being some sort of balance. Where does technology employed by Markoya fit into this diagram? Software, binary, where do they exist around us? Is the World Wide Web infinite beyond our own Universe? Sometimes technology makes me feel like a dinosaur. It’s only hilariously fitting that the QR code for my website has a T-REX in the middle of it.

The Five Phases, Elemental Description

Bahia-Studios QR Code T-REX

Another painting by Louis Markoya which had a profound impact on me incorporated Salvador Dali’s nuclear mysticism entitled “We Are Stardust.” (top image) The description read

We Are Stardust ties the extremes of the pandemic together to unite us. We are all human, the virus does not recognize race, religion, state, or country borders. It should humble and make us understand we are the same. The elements of this earth, and that which make up our bodies, were only created once and through all the millions of years have existed in different forms, alive and not. The elements in your body right now were once an ocean, a mountain, and multiple life forms. The virus should teach us to care for and love one another.”

This reminds me of the TedTalk by Deepak Chopra “Reinventing the body.” We are all interconnected, and everything feels a lot more calming when we consider it all as a process, no?

I was only able to visit the LRMA for an hour, but there was so much more to see and enjoy. I will have to visit again soon.

The Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art is a unique gathering place where art, history, culture, and education converge and is located on 600, E. Klosterman Road, Tarpon Springs.