Head in technology, heart in art
LiQin "Lee" Tan draws connections between disparate worlds
Archived article from Feb 15, 2002
By Caroline Yount
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"This is his life, not just his job," says senior Tony Gore. "He believes in all of us and never gives up on a person. Lee offers a lot of encouragement. He's very passionate about what he does, and it rubs off on his students."
One of his current projects is an interactive CD-ROM on the history, culture and spirituality of the indigenous peoples of the Americas titled "The Spirit of Turtle Land -- Through Indigenous American Eyes." The project, which is funded by a Rutgers University Research Council Grant, explores Native American spirituality through two- and three-dimensional computer multimedia.
Tan says that while his head often leads him toward state-of-the-art technology, his heart remains in the artistic realm. His artworks, which include his early paintings and folk art drawings mounted on bamboo, have been exhibited nationally and internationally, in solo and group shows, most recently at William Paterson University.
"Animation is an expressive art vehicle when its principles are applied in exaggeration," Tan says. (According to his students, Tan's favorite maxim is: "You don't have animation without exaggeration.")
"This exaggeration gives the artist tremendous freedom to create works with striking impact. Classical hand drawings can portray the artist's inner feelings, while digital technology limits it to a simple option layer. Yet, the digital techniques can interpret human emotions and yield artistic interpretations. The digital box is a tool, but it's an incredible tool."
In his own art and in the training of his students, Tan wrestles with the relationship between classical animation and digital animation. He questions how artists can apply classical animation principles to digital animation and how "one can maintain even harmony between advanced technology and aesthetic perception."
Yet for all his questioning, Tan never seems to lose sight of the needs of his students.
"He has an uncanny ability to look around a classroom and see who is frustrated," says senior Morris Gargiule. "Lee can help people find what computer modeling techniques work best for them; he can see not only where a person is, but where he should be."
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