Dazzle painting sounds like something little girls armed with glitter and rhinestones would do, but the concept actually refers to a fascinating system of design utilized by the Allies during World War I.
Artists painted high-contrast patterns and stripes on warships in an effort to make the targets less visible to enemies. The idea was that the bold, abstract patterns would play with the enemy's eye, making them unable to determine the distance between ship and horizon. Hence, "dazzling."
Whether it worked as a military technique is debatable, but artist Michelle Weinberg is bringing the intriguing idea back in a February 19 workshop where attendees will get to try their hand at the art form.
Weinberg has been exploring this art form for awhile, and her work even graces the Miami offices of Facebook. She also created a mural inspired by dazzle camouflage painting of WWI warships for the outside of the Wolfsonian.
"I've been interested in pattern and color forever," she says.
"Dazzle camouflage has a specific function for the military to confuse people who were targeting warships with their torpedoes. I'm not sure if that worked, but I think it was a really cool idea."
"I think it was an instance in history in which artists and set designers and even graphic designers were engaged in a laboratory where they were analyzing and testing different ways of using patterns. I found that very inspiring."
"I became very interested in how pattern can change perception -- flattening and distorting spaces using pattern, that's kind of what got me interested," she explains. "I'm inspired by patterns that have their own kind of vocabulary, their own functions; it's not just decorative but it has some kind of unique tradition."
"I like to play with the rhythms of patterns by changing their direction, cutting them off, enlarging them, changing their direction, mirroring them -- any kind of formal play you can have with a rhythm," she says.
The workshop will introduce participants to the concept, and allow them to make their own dazzling creations. Weinberg will begin the event with a little presentation about her work, and the history of camouflage, pattern and dazzle technique.
"Then we'll go into making handmade slides. We're using a kind of obsolete technology," Weinberg explains. Participants will use transparent materials to draw, cut and paste, then view on a 35mm slide projector.
"It's kind of fun to see a tiny little drawing become a big environmental artwork in an instant," Weinberg says.
"After people make a few and project them, then they'll see what it's all about. Then they'll usually want to focus and make a series."
The workshop starts at 7 p.m. on Thursday, February 19, at the Wolfsonian Museum, 1001 Washington Ave., Miami Beach. The workshop is free with admission to the museum, and attendees are encouraged to RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org. Museum admission is free for members, $7 for adults and $5 for seniors, students with ID and kids 6-12.
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