Early Computer Graphic Art & Artistamps

In the article “Copy Art Exhibition” posted in my Behind the Scene blog I wrote:   
I used to spend hours late into the night working on Fortran programs for a class, using teletype and keypunch cards. The computer geeks – the ones working night shift running the mainframe so large it was housed in a separate building - would invite me into the inner sanctum to show me early computer graphics capabilities, enthusiastically discussing little known developments and inventions in the works such as the Cray super computer. They told me of the day when everyone would have their own computer and we would be able to create art on computer systems. I believed them!

This was back in the 70s before computers were on every desk and computer graphics became commonplace.  The word processors with small (minute according to today’s standards) memory chips were the closest thing to desktop computers. I’m sure this sounds like the stone age to kids today.

Having access to anything computer related was limited to very few university researchers and large corporate employees. One such researcher was Dr. Wolfgang Bauer, a physicist at UC Berkeley, who had left the university and had started a business developing a high end graphical system he called Gravitronics.
When I met Dr. Bauer in 1980 he was looking for an artist who could use computers or at least understood what computers could do to help him by testing the graphical possibilities, to try to find the limits. He’d had been running into walls just trying to find an artist not afraid of nor timid with computers. I described my limited background, including some of the things I wanted to try to accomplish in my art work. I sounded like a match to him.

I would meet with him at his place of business and we would test the computer. From that work I was able to create three issues of artistamps, called my Gravitronics Series, and postcards. To give you a perspective each of the manipulations of the stamp imagery was created from the same one image per issue. Sometimes entering in numbers on the image's axis was a shot in the dark but eventually I started to be able to predict an outcome.

Wolf as a person was a very interesting man in that he was friendly and open minded about art. Plus we would discuss what is now known as quantum physics at our meetings. I was invited to his home a few times to visit his large family and wife.

The system eventually went on to become the real-time meteorological graphic systems we see on the weather channel.
I’m grateful for having had the opportunity to work with Wolf for this led to larger opportunities such as: a space residency (to be written about), teaching computer graphics at a college (CAD, PC paint, and Macintosh desktop publishing) and training many of the company employees of the numerous startups and corporations in the Silicon Valley and San Francisco Bay Area.

Today using the computer to make artistamps is commonplace. In the history of computer graphics you may find early artists using computers but in the history of artistamps I’m recognized as the first artist to use computer graphics to make artistamps (per Artpool Research Center, Rod Summers collection and
John Held's Small Scale Subversion: Mail Art and Artistamps).

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