The Maya Marriage

The present series pays tribute to Jan Van Eyck’s The Amolfini Marriage. The Almolfini Marriage is largely acclaimed for Van Eyck’s ability to create realistic portrayal of reality, especially evident in the mirror reflection. Today, through software, we can easily create a more realistic portrayal through mathematical simulation of lights as well as physics and easily do what was once technically challenging.

Is there still value in the mimetic art when the technical challenge has been abstracted and detached? Granted, there is value in the developers and associated algorithm that makes this possible, but does that come to the surface, and should the value be attributed then to the artist?

In The Maya Marriage, The Amolfini Marriage is loosely created in Maya, a 21st century paint brush, then modified to exacerbate its attempt to portray reality, exploiting Maya’s ability to calculate the technical challenge of optics and physics.


The first image attempts to recreate largely the original, though, the mirror is reflecting the artist casually doing the work on a computer in an ordinary 21st century room, almost jocularly, rather than the seriousness of a painter with an easel and stewards in the back as in the original.



In the second image, the capability of Maya is explored. Given that creating reflection becomes trivial to the artist, since the tool does the work than his ability, what does it look like to make everything reflective—something Van Eyck probably could not have done manually—exemplifying the medium.



In the third, we take the final step and push the attempt to recreate reality by allowing the software to focus on its computation ability and reflect upon itself. Here the artist is removed completely from the software and the image reflects only itself and what exists within the tool.

More interestingly, one can argue, that such image is the result of the artist’s marriage with the tool and its consummation since here the artist has inserted himself via the models, but the work has become detached from the artist, and gestated by the tool—that is: the final result is not controlled by the artist’s aesthetic, but rather the computation of light tracing, and all the artists does is wait for Maya to compute.


Originally done for Jennifer Steinkamp, with John Brumley as T.A, at UCLA DMA.