“If you could paint anything, what would it be?” a voice from off-screen asks.
In Keaton Fox’s “Green Screen Dreams” videos, people standing painting canvases answer—and then their answer magically appears on their painting. For one person, it’s a swirling galaxy. Homeless folks appear in another painting when a person answers: “I would paint portraits of people who need it. People who don’t see themselves.”
“I’m adopted from China,” another painter says, describing a desire to remake Chinese communist propaganda posters, to address the “one-child policy. … I want to change the narrative.”
“Green Screen Dreams”—on view at Cambridge Community’s Karen Aqua Gallery, 438 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, through the end of the day this Friday, March 15—is a series of seven paintings (all sort of haphazardly filled in with the same emerald green) hung along one wall and then screens showing corresponding videos of people painting them as Fox, off-screen, asks them questions. Fox is taking advantage of the green screen video special effect that allows that particular green to drop out of the video and be replaced in the footage by other imagery. It’s often used in movies, for example, to place actors in fantasy worlds.
“I love green screen because for me it’s a source of magic,” Fox says. “In the eras we live in, we don’t take the time to think how exciting these now technologies are. Granted green screening is not a new technology. But I think there’s a lot of magic in it that people haven’t explored.”
Fox, who works part-time at the Cambridge cable access station and part-time for the Boston Cyberarts Gallery in Jamaica Plain, says the project was a way to get herself away from her computer (“I feel like my brain’s melting”) and do more collaborating with her community.
“I thought it would be a fun idea for people who are not painters to paint something,” Fox says, “and have it look exactly like what they want it to be.”
What people say they wish they could paint, somewhat unexpectedly, offers glimpses into the painters’ hopes and desires. One man says he’d paint “my view looking out of my cabin in New Hampshire, two big pine trees, mountains and blue sky. … My cabin is my favorite place in the world.” A rendition of it magically appears on the canvas he’s painting.
“It’s not just people trying to capture realities in front of them,” Fox says, “but also trying to capture past and future realities.”
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