Sydell Lewis is a dancer-turned-painter and an admirer of op art works that inspire darting eyes and unusual perspectives. Small wonder, then, that her latest paintings are in perpetual motion.
The abstract canvases are mounted on rotation devices; some turn at battery-powered intervals, while others invite gallery visitors to rotate them at random.
As the acrylic paintings turn, viewers can see new aspects. Vertical rippling lines morph into ocean waves and then go vertical again, becoming rain trickling down a window. Symbols emerge from the layers of paint, calling to mind aboriginal creations or totem poles.
That's Lewis' goal with her rotating works: to encourage viewers to look again and again. As she wrote in a recent artist's statement, "My intention is to create energetic surfaces that keep the eye and mind in an active elated state."
Today, Lewis stands under the pools of light in Palo Alto's Gallery House, looking up at her rotating paintings on exhibit.
"People find all sorts of things in my paintings. That's the beauty of abstract," she says.
She pauses in front of "Infinite Relief," which incorporates a subtle geometric pattern. One gallery visitor, she recalls, stared at the painting, then turned it and found something new: "Wasp's nests," he announced.
When Lewis paints, she sometimes has concrete subjects in mind, such as the vapor and rain of "Quiet Flow." Other times, she's caught up in the nature of the paint itself, matching colors or creating ridged, corduroy-like textures with a knife or comb.