Posted April 20, 2021
Gregory Little, LCCC associate professor of digital arts, says the question of “what medium do you work in?” is a complicated one for him.
“I work in an unusually wide variety of mediums and for me the choice of medium is conditioned by the idea,” Little says. The question, he continues, should be: “What medium or material is most appropriate to the expression of an idea?”
He primarily did painting, drawing, and some sculpture and installation art until he began working with computers in 1986. “By 1989 I was no longer painting and had devoted myself to learning everything necessary to make virtual reality artworks,” he says. This involved him learning 3D modeling, digital audio, animation, graphics programming, VR hardware, and digital imaging.
“I had no experience with computers. I devoted myself to this task for eight years and succeeded in learning enough about all aspects of VR to make my own virtual worlds.
Now I have returned painting to my toolkit, but also use all that I have learned to produce a variety of digital assets that I use and reuse in my work,” he says.
Currently he is making digital paintings that combine hand-ground pigments with digital assets and processes, small scale looping animations, and augmented reality works.
Maybe it was this breadth of experience that came through when he recently started to post some of his work to Instagram that caught the eye of the Adriaan Van Der Plas, director of the Van Der Plas Gallery in New York. “He contacted me and invited me to participate in the exhibition because he was very interested in what he saw of my work,” Little says.
The exhibition titled “A Visual Culture – All Art+” was held in the New York gallery from March 24 through April 4. Now it is featured in the Van Der Plas virtual gallery for one year. Works will be available for viewing and purchase. It includes a virtual reality walk through of the physical gallery for people to experience the artists’ works.
“The show is focused on unique and diverse artistic responses to today’s cultural, political, and social conditions and transformations of society,” he says.
Little has three pieces – titled “Tiny Quantum Dream Series” – in the exhibition. All three are laser etching, collage and hand-ground water-based paint over a color laser print on archival paper and were completed in 2019. The individual piece names are: Tiny Quantum Dream-1, The Satyr’s Caress and Jaipur.
“This on-going series represents a world within our world; an unseen world at the edge of our perception, at the edge of what our most advanced tools are able to measure,” he says in describing the “Tiny Quantum Dream Series.”
Little lives in Oberlin with his wife Sarah Schuster, an artist who teaches painting at Oberlin College, said he has been expressing himself through image-making since kindergarten. “It became part of my identity, and I have always considered myself an artist, even though, in addition to teaching, I have worked as a carpenter, house-painter, waiter, bartender, and baker,” Little says.
An instructor at LCCC since 2010, he currently teaches Digital Imaging, Digital Illustration, 2D Animation and Motion Graphics, 3D Modeling and Animation I, 3D Modeling and Animation II and Computer Programming for Artists.
Continuing as a working artist while teaching keeps him sharp as an instructor. “I believe that in the long term it makes me a better instructor to be creating my own work. The relationship between creating and teaching requires a balance,” he says. “When the situation is out of balance and one is not going well, both go poorly.”
Little is also the Director of Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality Research and Development in LCCC’s Campana Center for Ideation and Innovation, which houses a 5,000-foot Fab Lab and a VR Cave.
He and student Jenna Johnson have worked with other students doing demonstrations in the VR Cave and his 3D Modeling class has built models of Leonardo DaVinci’s machines and put several in the VR Cave.
Little has also engaged LCCC students in a two-semester collaborative project with Professor Holly Handman-Lopez’s Dance class at Oberlin College that explored the intersections of Virtual Reality and dance. The project included drawings by students from one of LCCC Art Instructor Josh Eiskamp’s drawing classes, posters from LCCC Graphic Design Instructor Dennis Ryan’s digital imaging students, and 3D work from two of Little’s classes.
“Holly and I shared our project at the CRCI Conference (Conference for Research on Choreographic Interfaces) at Brown University. It was sponsored through a 4D Liberal Arts grant awarded to Oberlin and LCCC from Bringing Theory to Practice,” he says.
For his artwork in the Van Der Plas Gallery exhibition, he used the laser cutters in the Fab Lab to etch images into layers of pigment and for cutting wood for framing of the “Tiny Quantum Dream Series.” He is also in the process of creating a VR world from the series for the VR Cave.
“In creating these works I combined our most advanced digital tools and processes with ancient traditions of making,” he says.
For more information on digital and fine arts at LCCC, visit https://www.lorainccc.edu/liberal-and-creative-arts/.