"Fractals Don't Look Like Anything"
Alien Supplicant (2007)
I go on a quaternion fractal kick for a few weeks almost every year. There's something very special about these sculpted, rolled in Play-Doh, Tootsie Roll forms. I find them fascinating because they seem more tactile and three-dimensional than most other kinds of fractals. They can also be more visually evocative. Maybe that's because they occasionally break the restraints of abstraction. Moreover, they sometimes share important traits with literary works: tone and mood.
Out for the Season (2003)
Because fractals are generally so highly abstract, generating a mood along with an image can be an added plus. And while it's true that other kinds of fractals, like L-System forms, can produce life-imitating shapes like ferns and branches, quaternions sometimes bear a resemblance to more complex living things. But these imitations, perhaps because of the 3-D nature of the forms, are far from flat planes or "stick figures." Rather, they can contain a powerful, emotionally-charged resonance.
I'm sure none of this surprises many of you. We see ourselves in fractals all the time. It's not uncommon to find faces peering out from the tiled nooks and accidental recesses of our images. I still remember the first time I stumbled into the main page at Bill Rossi's Fractopia and saw him and his fractal family. And some fractal artists have produced stunning self-portraits -- like these by Jurgen Schwietering and Damien M. Jones. I've even made a few fractal replicas of myself -- like this one that Stan Hood once told me "looks like I've seen the movie The Fly one too many times."
I guess it's the semi-anthropomorphic, I-recognize-that features of quaternions that fascinate me. Maybe the image above doesn't suggest the pop diva of Dreamgirls to you -- but I see her languid body and graceful movements on display. Over the years, I've seen so many curious things cooking away on my computer: ravens, dictators, male models, meter maids. So, don't let anyone tell you -- as a painter recently said to me -- that "fractals don't look like anything." Quat nonsense.
All images were made in QuaSZ and mildly post-processed in Photoshop and other graphics programs.