There are many ways to think about optics and light today. A bit of history is always intriguing. Especially when it is interpreted in a bright new way in a show that would offer a great holiday family expedition.
Once upon a time, there were no motion picture shows, but people gathered in a darkened space to be entertained or educated with projections of photos and drawings from around the world, projected through a Magic Lantern, especially in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Illumination was first by candle or oil lamp, then by electric light bulb when it became available.
Lonnie Hanzon, â€śWizard in Residence,â€ť creative director of the Museum of Outdoor Arts in Englewood, is internationally recognized for his highly detailed maximalist art installations. The artist, inventor, philosopher and showman was naturally drawn to a collection of nearly 1,000 magic lantern slides at an archaeologistâ€™s estate auction, an art form unfamiliar, but compelling.
â€śMagic Lantern,â€ť a solo exhibit by Hanzon, is described as an installation that â€ścelebrates obsolete media in a digital age.â€ť He brings modern technology to the fore in designing a really fascinating showcase for his Victorian era slides, an assortment of serious-looking black magic lantern projectors, a sound gallery, â€śObsolete Audibles,â€ť with a tape of sounds we no longer hear, and some early 20th century silent movies.
Museum executive director, Cynthia Madden Leitner, explained the role of the museum: â€śArt reflects history. Lonnieâ€™s application of Magic Lantern brings obsolete art into modern technology, renewing it and keeping it alive. It follows his work in discovering archaic media to interact with todayâ€™s audiences.â€ť
Wall text is worth reading for the history buff because Hanzonâ€™s research took him back to fifth century China and Japan, where entertainment with candlelight and polished brass disk created simple images. Documents dating to 1589 speak of a lantern built in 1420, using candle illumination.
Hanzonâ€™s history continues through the centuries to traveling projectionists, â€śGalantee Showmenâ€ť or â€śSavoyardsâ€ť in the United Kingdom, akin to traveling players. Fast forward to todayâ€™s slide lectures at your school or library.
The move to moving pictures started with photographer Eadweard Muybridge, who set up a series of 24 cameras to record a horse race in sequence, then went on to record movement of animals and humans.
Kodak camera founder George Eastman worked on film, and inventor Thomas Edison improved a motion picture camera and shot film that premiered in 1896 in New York.
â€śMagic Lantern,â€ť runs through Feb. 13. Admission is free. Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays. Call 303-806-0444 or visit www.moaonline.org