Art moves toward digital technology 

By Anna Monroe

 Student Reporter

Associate Professor of Photography at Amarillo College René West, and Mark Penland, a freelance photographer and photography lab manager at Tarrant County College’s Northeast Campus, have teamed up to create art using artificial intelligence. 

AC’s Southern Light Gallery released a new exhibit titled “Poetic Science” in September. “The images, all in a sort of metaphorical way, deal with our relationship with technology and AI and algorithms and memes and bots,” West said.

AI is a modern tool that is still being discovered. People have included it in writing, mathematical equations and now art.

“I would call it more of a tool than a medium. 2023 seems to be the year that AI hit the mainstream. Midjourney5 blew up in my media feed last June, I pursued it out of curiosity,” Penland said. “It’s just another tool in an artist’s tool box. It’s also a lot of fun. Crafting prompts can be an art in itself.”

These detailed and elaborate collections of pieces have caught the eyes of students and artists alike.

“When I helped her frame those images and hang them up, I could not stop looking at them,” Nadia Colchado, a graphic design major, said. “I found them outstanding. I’m a surreal artist so my brain just went wild.”

The process of naming this collection of art started with discovering a woman of science and of imagination.

“We were looking into the early history of computers and Ada Lovelace popped up. Many attribute her to not only writing the first algorithm but also with predicting AI,” West said. “Her mother told her to go and study math and science, but her father was a poet, so she has this understanding of imagination and poetry. She referred to that as poetic science.”

Colchado said she hopes more artists start opening up more to AI. “Just to explore, have fun and learn. Just as we always should,” she said. 

Transitioning into a new era of art will bring opinions from critics and artists. “Poetic Science” is being used as an example of how AI can be turned into art. “It is a unique visual language that evolves constantly. It still surprises me, and I’m sitting at 5,000 generated images,” Penland said. “Organic, easy, satisfying.”

Each piece, more different than the last, is meant to tell a story. From money to the tree of knowledge, each one applies to modern society.

“Each one we think about an aspect of the world we live in or what’s happening in the world,” West said. “In each one there is kinda a backstory. I think it’s really important that you find your own interpretations in art.”

“Poetic Science” will be on display until Oct. 26. It is ope to the public and featured  in the Southern Light Gallery, located near the elevator of the first floor of the Ware Student Commons building on the Washington Street Campus. 

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