Pixel Clouds - Stuart Allen
Stuart Allen is an artist whose work deals with fundamental elements of perception such as light, time, gravity and space. He has shown photographs, kites and sculpture in galleries and museums throughout the U.S. and abroad. His work is found in many private and public collections including the Tokyo Kite Museum, the Crocker Art Museum, the DiRosa Art Preserve, UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, and U.S. Embassy collections in Canada, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, and the Republic of Georgia. Allen has completed permanent public art commissions for the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa, Canada and the Police Headquarters building in Davis, CA. His work has been published in a variety of books and journals including: Picturing California’s Other Landscape: the Great Central Valley, Terra Nova: Nature and Culture, You Are Here: the Journal of Creative Geography, Zyzzyva and Artweek. Allen has lectured or served as a visiting artist at many fine institutions including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Weisman Art Museum, the Atlantic Center for the Arts, and a number of university art departments nationwide. Allen studied architecture at Kansas University and graduated from the photography and video department of the Kansas City Art Institute in 1994. He lives in San Antonio, Texas with his wife Kelly Lyons, their daughter Aidan and son Vincent. Allen is represented by the following galleries: PDNB, Dallas, TX; JayJay, Sacramento, CA; Jan Manton Art, Brisbane, Australia; Haw Contemporary, Kansas City, MO.
Stuart Allen, artist, photographer, sculptor, public art, kite, kite maker, art consultant, Jayjay, haw contemporary, pdnb gallery, science and art
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Pixel Clouds

The Pixel Cloud drawings are 3 dimensional graphs of each unique pixel color in a digital photograph. Using statistical software, I export the red, green and blue values of every pixel in a photograph to a data file. This dataset is reduced to a set of unique color occurrences, and these pixels are plotted in 3D space along 256-step red, green and blue axes. Dotted gray lines define the plot boundaries. I rotate the Pixel Cloud about its three axes to find the most compelling view. The work’s title describes the content of the source photograph and the number of unique pixel colors.

The source photographs for the Pixel Clouds are images of food. The color of the food on our plates or in our glasses deeply influences our experience of flavor. The notion that we first “eat with our eyes” is a common theme in food-based experimental psychology, commonly labeled “gastrophysics.” Researchers have famously served wine tasters a white wine dyed red, and the manipulated color significantly altered the taster’s experience of flavor; a significant majority identified the dyed white wine as a red (reference). Other experiments suggest that our current foodie culture and the barrage of ‘food porn’ photography found in the media may fuel the obesity crisis (reference).

The color of food sets our expectations and drives our appetites. Humans tend to avoid blue foods due to the color’s association with spoiled and/or poisonous sources. We typically perceive green foods as healthy. The color red is often cited as an appetite stimulant, thus the preponderance of red restaurant logos (reference).

The relationship between color and flavor is complex and nuanced. Beet red sets our expectations for deep, earthy flavor, while strawberry red signals sweetness. When the pictorial information has been removed, only the color signal remains. The Pixel Clouds reside in this nuanced space.

Stuart Allen, 2021
Data science by Dr. Jennifer Rudgers