Las Vegas (2012)

Work metadata

  • Year Created: 2012
  • Submitted to ArtBase: Wednesday Dec 19th, 2012
  • Original Url:
  • Work Credits:
    • Anne Spalter, primary creator
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Artist Statement


Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else.” ― Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

These digital video paintings are based on footage I shot in March of this year in the desert cities of Las Vegas and Dubai. Both places spoke to my obsession with modern landscape and each provided compellingly unique visual detail to work with. Both cities were constructed and emerged suddenly from a desert. Each was designed with clear goals for commerce, entertainment, and lifestyle. No expense was spared in the hyper-luxurious Disney-like hotel and casino creations in Las Vegas, and, likewise, a vast fortune has been spent constructing Dubai with its iconic buildings such as the Burj Al Arab and the world’s tallest skyscraper, the Burj Khalifa. Whereas the cities of the East Coast and most of Europe have evolved over hundreds of years, these two are relatively recent, with Dubai, a city of almost two million people, being built in a mere 40 years.

“On the Strip” is based on footage I filmed with my camera wedged in the dash of a rental car as I drove down the Strip from the Venetian to the Bellagio. The pacing is based on this drive, which includes turning the corner to merge with Strip traffic and the stop and go of lights. Neon, signs, crowds of people, palm trees, and color of the desert light all caught my attention. The final piece features multiple and edited video clips which are layered and viewed within each other. The scale and timing of each layer is controlled to recreate the sensation of immersion in this world of visual stimulus overload.

The pulsing neon of Las Vegas is complemented by the “Dubai Desert Flower” piece, based on footage I shot on a desert safari. Both locations border large deserts and these are quiet and visually spare but quite beautiful. The dryness of the desert is contrasted with the water from the Bellagio Hotel Fountains that are featured in “Bellagio Fountains-Las Vegas.” Interestingly, the same fountain designer created a similar, even grander-scale work outside the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. These vertical works feature off-center symmetry and single layers of video. Both draw on the timing of objects in the environment, with, respectively, the fountain show faithfully recorded and the motion of plants and other objects moving in the desert wind.

Other pieces include footage shot from a plane (“Landing in Las Vegas”) and a helicopter (“Sky of Dubai”), with the aerial perspective lends a modern vantage point to these modern landscapes.

Although I am using video and custom software rather than brushes, I feel that these works are in the spirit of action painting movement. The end product is just one possible physical manifestation of my experiences and thought processes that are codified on the computer and realizable in any number of ways (at different scales, using projection or a screen, altering program parameters, etc.). Inspired by my background in painting (MFA RISD), math (BA Brown) and my interest in Islamic art, I use a symmetrical kaleidoscopic framework to bring order to visual complexity.

The symmetrical patterning satisfies a basic perceptual and aesthetic desire for order by reducing the overdose of complexity that video capture can confer. While recognizable objects and motions remain, they now have the context of a basic, highly structured visual language. Celebrating the same philosophy as the action painters and surrealists, my creative methodology uses automated computational functions that create random features and arrangements. The changing angles and centers of focus create a constantly emerging stylized landscape with the objects, motions, colors and atmosphere of the actual scene but without the uniform photographic Western perspective. The results are sometimes reminiscent of psychedelic art. Although my work is not related to any substance effects, I do believe that the computer offers a new tool for transcendental visual thinking and, in the case of these landscapes, serves to disorient the viewer and force a new perspective, both literally and figuratively.

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