FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Polage Art & Austine Wood Comarow
Where does the color come from?
There are no colors in the raw materials, just as there is no color in a prism. It is only the interaction of light that is polarized passing through the molecules of “optically active” (birefringent) materials such as cellophane. Linear polarized light beams are all vibrating in parallel. When a polarized beam enters a cellulose molecule, part of the energy of the beam rotates. But, when light travels through such an optically active material, The energy vibrating on one direction travels through the molecule faster than the energy vibrating in a different direction. These portions of the light beam interfere with each other and create elliptically polarized light. This light appears colorless when viewed with the naked eye, but when viewed through a linear polarizing filter, such as polarized sunglasses, appears to have a color. That color shifts as the polarizer is rotated.
I rarely think about the physics of the materials I use any more than a painter thinks about the chemistry of paints. But many scientists and engineers are fascinated with my work and have become avid collectors. Some physics departments have bought my art to demonstrate principles of light. For an example, for an advanced discussion of the physics of my art, please read an article by Donald H. Lyons, Professor Emeritus, Department of Physics, University of Massachusetts.
How do you display a Polage® art work?
There are several ”types” of Polage art that have evolved over the years. Some are just like a painting or stained glass and require no special interaction or mechanism. Some, perhaps the most fun, are interactive and are viewed though a filter or polarized sunglasses. Some change constantly and automatically by themselves. Those use either a rotating polarizing filter and motor or a special liquid crystal panel and electronic circuit. Many of my motorized pieces can be lifted off the light box, turned around and shown interactively. Be sure to switch the motor off when the image is the brightest.
How do you design a Polage® art work?
I constantly sketch in a sketchbook that is always with me. Since my art always starts with a line drawing, I adapt, combine and otherwise integrate my sketches into a “cartoon” which becomes the pattern for a Polage artwork. I put the full size drawing under a sheet of glass or acrylic (Plexiglas®) onto which I have adhered a sheet of polarizing filter. Then I use pieces of cellophane and other special birefringent materials drawn from an array of different thicknesses to cut tiny shapes, following the lines of my drawing. I may use multiple layers, some at varying angles to each other. If there are to be silhouettes, I layer cut-outs of polarizing filter over the collage of clear birefringent pieces. I often have a copy of the drawing onto which I record the details of what I did so that I can refer to the notes to make another piece using the same drawing. That is how I have made “editions” over the years, although most of the work I do now are one of a kind (with the exception of the commissions I do for Maui Jim). Finally, I laminate a proprietary protective layer over the entire surface to protect it from moisture and UV light.
My Polage® art isn’t changing in the lightbox any more.
First, be sure the motor switch is turned on. It is very common for this switch to be turned off by accident. Some light boxes have a small black toggle switch on the back. Some have switches on the side or bottom. If you are certain the switch is turned on, listen closely to the light box and see if you can hear a difference between when the motor switch is on and when it is off. If you need a new motor, it is HIGHLY recommended you return the light box to the studio. We will completely refurbish the light box to the newest standards and be sure it is operating properly. While we discourage self-repair, some people are very handy and familiar with electrical wiring. If you absolutely want to replace the motor yourself, for 12 inch and 19 inch light boxes, motor replacement kits are available here.
Replacing motors in larger light boxes is much more complex. Please call the studio if you have an issue with a light box over 19 inches in diameter. Liquid crystal Polage artworks must be returned to the studio for repair. Please call.
My very old Polage® art seems to be delaminating.
Some very early work that used primitive materials can usually be fully restored even after suffering delamination or moisture attack. Please call or email us photographs of the damage and we can discuss what is needed for us to restore the work.
Do you license your art for reproduction?
Austine selectively licenses her art for reproduction and other uses. For information, please contact the studio at (702) 260-1600 Tuesday to Friday, 8 am to 4 pm Pacific Time. All of Austine’s art is protected by U.S. and International copyrights. The marks “Polage” and “Austine” are registered on the U.S. Trademark Office’s Principle register. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly forbidden. Links to videos and images on this website are permitted, however.
Do you teach people how to make polarized light art?
Sorry, I do not currently give instruction . This may change in the future. If you are interested, please send me an email and I will put you on a list to notify if I decide to give classes or write a “How To” book.
Do you have a patent on your techniques?
The basic Polage process is not patented, but there are certain aspects of it that are proprietary. My images are all protected under U.S Copyright law. I also have registered trademarks on the marks “Polage” and “Austine”. My husband is a Patent and Intellectual Property attorney and enforces my IP rights worldwide.
I saw something like this in a sunglass store. Are those made the same way?
I have a exclusive agreement with Maui Jim, Inc., manufacturer of high quality sunglasses. Since 1997, I have created a wide variety of original works for them that are displayed in optical retail shops throughout the world. I have also developed a method for making small, simple point of purchase displays that are visible only through polarized sunglass lenses.
Where can I buy a Polage® art work?
All my work is available through my website. Custom commissions may be arranged by calling the studio Tuesday through Friday, 8 am to 3:30 pm Pacific Time. I am also represented by a select group of fine art galleries. Please note, the price for my artwork is the same whether you purchase it here online or at a gallery.
Do you ever hire assistants?
On very rare occasions I may hire art and technical assistants. However, all my current art assistants have worked for me for many years, some as long as 30 years. So, please do not expect any turn-over soon.
Do you have light boxes that run on 220 volts?
We can make special light boxes that will operate outside the U.S. on 220 volts, 50 Hz.
The Liquid Crystal Polages will operate on either 110 volts or 220 volts.