Experimental video artist combines light, math, and imagination
If you stay up late at Cherokee Farms, you might find yourself wandering through the woods. You might see a shimmering light off in the distance and think that you’re hallucinating—but it wouldn’t be a psychedelic vision. Though the experimental video installations that Merrill Val Love is orchestrating might resemble a trip, they are more akin to new life forms emerging from primordial slime.
In recent months he has been making a name for himself by creating complex works of art that involve multiple projectors, a unique computer system, and lots of experimentation. This scientific investigation of light and space has yielded some surprising and exciting results.
We sat down with Love to learn more about his art, his vision, and his process.
The Pulse: Who are some of your influences?
Merrill Love: My dad was a major influence. He wasn’t the kind of dad who pushed me into accounting or medical school. I’ve always liked art, and he was very supportive of that. My cousin, Jeff Crawford, worked with John Henry for a while, and he is a big influence. He has always stayed dedicated to art. Back in my painting days I was into Picasso.
TP: How did you get your start?
ML: Back in high school I couldn’t sleep, so I would stay up all night doing painting and drawing. Then I got out into the real world and had to pay bills. I changed my painting into being a chef, because I could create food, make some money, and still be artistic. I learned a lot really fast, and it was lots of fun. I got out of the restaurant business in 2009 when my cousin got me hired over at John Henry’s. I started painting for him and working on sculptures. Everything I have done has been with an artistic vision.
About a year ago I started getting involved with production companies and working on events. The fractal animation project came about as kind of a freak accident. I was projecting fractals on a sheet at Roots Fest, and it was blinding people as they walked by, so I looked for a different screen to use.
There were trees around, so I tried projecting on them, and it just clicked. When the mathematical hit the organic, they seemed to be together. The math was all there, and you could see it better with the fractals.
TP: What is the nature of the relationship between fractals and the structure of the trees?
ML: Fractals are just a mathematical representation of form, line, and light. That same math is in everything we look at. Everything out in nature has a mathematical pattern. As the fractal animations grow and move, they line up with anything they are projected upon—not just trees—shrubbery, buildings, cars, everything is based on math.
TP: What do you use to create your fractals?
ML: It’s more complex than just the golden mean or the Fibonacci sequence. With fractals, you have to use computers to generate the images. There’s no way that a human could process that amount of data. The fractal generation software I use is programmed with various formulas, and the fractals are made by changing parameters like scale, vector, and angle.
The fractal generators are the only thing out there that can be used to make these animations. There has been a bit of a learning curve, but I’m catching on to how it all works.
TP: How do you set up an installation?
ML: I started out with a single projector, but I had a vision of using more of them. I designed and built a system to do this efficiently. Now I am running four projectors at a time with multiple computers. For the Magic Forest Lounge installation, we designed a room in the middle of the woods.
We wrapped all of the trees in the area with white cloth, and hung more pieces of cloth between the trees to create the space. Then we did overlay with the projectors.
I added in fog at my last show, thinking it would give the installation another layer, and ended up making holograms. It was wild. It looked like they were popping right out of the clouds, you could walk right up to them and swipe through them. I was absolutely amazed; it really worked out well. I’m definitely going to pursue more holography in the future.
Love’s next production will take place at the Moonshine Music & Arts Festival on July 1-3 (get details at moonshinemusicfest.com)