About the Artist
Austine Wood Comarow
I explore the mysteries of pure light. I use no pigments whatsoever, but I create colorful images. Using polarizing filters and clear cellulose, I break white light into its pure component colors.
My work invites the viewer to participate, to draw out the color and control its movement. Involving the viewer elicits surprise and wonder at a new experience, a new way of seeing.
In that sense, the participant becomes part of my medium.
My work primarily explores the environment, focusing on invisible nature – what we don’t notice because we don’t take the time to look. I love to study the architecture of a leaf, stare at a twig to learn how the buds are set, or depict the iridescent colors in a butterfly wing. I translate what I see into images that incorporate movement and change. I often juxtapose two subjects, not in space like a diptych, but temporally, creating two images that occupy the same space, emerging separately in time.
The work also allows me to explore contrasts. Contrast between the minimalist first impression and the revelation of color. Contrast between technology-derived material and organic images. Contrast between viewers’ assumptions and the unexpected. Contrast between the cosmic mystery of light and the intimate mystery of an unfurling blossom.
I explore the nature of time. As the work changes, either through viewer interaction or by automatic means, it creates an awareness of the passage of time. Time slows down as the body relaxes into the sense of flow.
Just as I am drawn to new ways of understanding, I am also drawn to exploring new materials. When I first encountered polarizing filter and experienced how it could break light into colors when combined with clear cellulose, I was instantly hooked by the colors and the magic of their appearance and change. I had never experienced anything like it. To me, this changing nature parallels my belief in the essential mystery of existence.
To me, putting together colorless materials and suddenly revealing an explosion of color is a metaphor for how our brains interpret abstract sensory input to create a whole world inside our heads. Making something that changes and moves in a controlled way is like composing music. But, much like a movie, my work is “watched” not “looked at.” In that sense, that is the difference between my body of work and that of a painter or sculptor. My work draws the viewer in, like being drawn to look at a glowing hearth. It is both relaxing and thought provoking. It can be seen on so many levels.
Although I have occasionally created abstract pieces, I feel that recognizable imagery adds an additional dimension which creates another level of appreciation. I don’t consciously limit myself to any particular subject matter, although most of my images are of the natural world. I am endlessly curious and fascinated by the creatures who share our planet.
– Austine Wood Comarow
Austine Wood Comarow grew up in postwar Europe where her father directed the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, which won the Nobel Peace Prize under his leadership. Having lived abroad for many years, she speaks five languages fluently. After attending Swarthmore College, she obtained a B.A. in Russian Language and Literature at the University of Indiana, and later earned an M.F.A. in illustration from Syracuse University.
At a crucial point in her artistic development, she discovered that certain transparent materials produce colors when they are illuminated with polarized light and are viewed through polarizing filters. Most of her work since then has been devoted to controlling this phenomenon and creating an entirely new artistic medium. Austine is also an accomplished painter. Known professionally as Austine, her work is held in private, corporate and museum collections worldwide. James Mann wrote a book about Austine's life and work entitled “Austine Wood Comarow: Paintings in Polarized Light”.
Syracuse University, 1979-1981: Master of Fine Arts
Catholic University, Santiago, Chile, 1970-1973
Indiana University, 1961-1964: Bachelor of Arts
Swarthmore College, 1959-1961
Ecole des Beaux Arts, Geneva, Switzerland
Ecole Internationale, Geneva, Switzerland
SELECTED EXHIBITIONS, COMMISSIONS AND COLLECTIONS
1997 - 2017 - Maui Jim Sunglasses, Peoria, IL (numerous commissions)
2013 - 2015 - Spring Mountains Gateway Center, Mt. Charleston, NV
2009 – Botanica The Wichita Gardens, Wichita, KS
2009 – Lakeview Museum of Arts & Sciences, Peoria, IL
2009 – Washington Square East Galleries Small Works Exhibit, New York, NY
2007 – Lakeview Museum of Arts & Sciences, Peoria, IL
2007 – Children’s Hospital Boston, Boston, MA
2005 –Ingham Regional Medical Center Greenlawn Campus –Women and Children’s Center, Lansing, MI
2005 – Las Vegas Art Museum, Las Vegas, NV
2004 – Riverview Medical Center Foundation, Redbank, NJ
2004 – Fairview-University Medical Center, Pediatric Cardio-Vascular Radiology, Minneapolis, MN
2004 – Kaiser Permanente, San Marcos, CA
2004 – St. Joseph’s Mercy at Macomb, Clinton Township, MI
2003 – Aesthetics, San Diego, CA, October, 2003 – January, 2004
2003 – List Gallery, Swarthmore College, PA, June
2003 – NYU Washington Square Windows, NY, April 18 – June 2
2003 – Children’s Hospital Boston, Boston, MA
2002 – Philadelphia Museum of Art, show of motorized works
2002 – Celebration of the Arts, Maui, HI (Selected for Poster)
2001 – Interactive Polage for Discovery Center of Idaho, Boise, ID
2000 - NuAire Inc., Plymouth, MN
1999 - El Dorado Hotel and Casino, Reno, NV
1998 – Roxbury Latin School
1998 - Materials Research Society, Warrendale, PA
1997 - Boulder Dam Federal Credit Union, Boulder City, NV
1997 - Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum, Boulder City, NV
1996 - Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, OH
1996 - Great Lakes Science Center, Cleveland, OH
1995 – Burgess Junction Visitor Center, WY
1995 - Oregon Coastal Refuges Hq., Newport, OR
1994 - Technorama, Winterthur, Switzerland
1994 - Paradise Valley Medical Arts, San Diego, CA
1994 - Tijuana Estuary Visitors Center, National City, CA
1994 - Butterworth Hospital, Grand Rapids, MI
1993 - Singapore Science Center, Singapore Airport
1993 - Great Bay Research Reserve Interpretive Center, NH
1993 - San Diego Children's Hospital, San Diego, CA
1992 - Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, San Diego, CA
1991 - Cleveland Children's Museum, Cleveland, OH
1991 - EuroDisneyland, Paris, France
1990 – Rubbermaid Corp., Wooster, OH
1990 - Sanrio Headquarters, Ginza, Tokyo
1990 - Seiko, Puro Village, Japan
1989 - la Cite des Sciences et de l'Industrie, Paris, France
1988 - Hearst Broadcasting, WCVB, TV-5, Boston, MA
1988 - Montgomery Museum of Art, Montgomery, AL
1988 - Southern Nevada Heritage Museum, Henderson, NV
1988 – Better and Better, Inc., Sedona, AZ
1988 – Roberson Museum of Art and Science, Binghamton, NY
1987 - Boston Museum of Science, Boston, MA (Sponsored by Polaroid Corp.)
1987 - Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson, MS
1987 – Ryder International, Arab, AL
1985 - New Mexico Museum of Natural History, Albuquerque, NM
1984 - Alexis Park Resort Hotel, Las Vegas, NV
1982 - First Interstate Bank, Farmington, NM
1981 - EPCOT Center, Kodak Pavilion and Living Seas Pavilion, Orlando, FL