Photographic artist Lisa Frank is Beckman Senior Fellow

Senior Fellow Lisa Frank incorporates nature photography into an immersive 3D virtual environment.
Senior Fellow Lisa Frank incorporates nature photography into an immersive 3D virtual environment.

Lisa Frank, a photographic artist, was appointed a Beckman Senior Fellow in July 2012.

Lisa Frank, a photographic artist, was appointed a Beckman Senior Fellow in July 2012. The Senior Fellows program gives established faculty from other universities the opportunity to do short-term, onsite, interdisciplinary research with other Beckman researchers. Frank’s work brought a brand new field of artistic science to Beckman.

At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Frank focused on creating 2D nature scenes. As she was completing her master of fine arts, she was challenged to take the 2D planes and create an immersive 3D virtual environment using a newly built Cave Automatic Virtual Environment (CAVE).

The Beckman Institute invited her to recreate her 15- minute art exhibition consisting of six explorable artworks using the CAVE found at the Illinois Simulator Laboratory (ISL) at Beckman.

“This exhibition presents the outcome of collaboration between two different disciplines, computer science and the visual arts,” Frank said. “I reinterpreted my nationally exhibited artwork using a combination of programming strategies that endow the imaginary settings with a deep sense of spatiality.

“The process of creating this virtual art exhibition began far away from the CAVE’s projection screens. As an artist, I find wonder in nature. Over several years, I have taken thousands of photographs in the natural settings of forests, prairies, and wetlands. Culling through this library, I isolate elements of the photos, regroup them into motifs, and stitch them together. The resulting images are constructed patterns of substantial size and complexity, referencing traditional wallpaper design. In the CAVE, these are reinvented as interior and exterior spaces that become expansive, exploratory worlds, allowing the immersant to consider the wonders of nature from atypical perspectives.”

Since completing her yearlong fellowship, she is continuing her work at Beckman with research led by Art Kramer and Ed McAuley. The study will utilize the CAVE and Frank’s virtual landscapes, but she is now creating 3D video that participants will walk through.

“We will use a treadmill [within the CAVE] and provide 20 minutes of 3D video of nature scenes, so we will simulate a walk in the woods,” Frank said. “Then there will senior Fellow lisa Frank incorporates nature photography into an immersive 3d virtual environment. be 20 minutes of an urban environment. We’ll be examining the effects of these different virtual environments on different aspects of cognition including memory and attention, as well as the role of physical activity on the beneficial effects of exposure to nature.”

The fact that Frank’s artwork is being used for scientific research is still hard to believe for the artist.

“If you had asked me three years ago if my artwork would be used for research like this, I would have laughed,” Frank said. “It’s totally surprising, but in an exciting way. It is great to see my art evolving and also to be able to merge these two disciplines in a way that can help people.”