... Sure, one can always put a pretty girl
in front of a beautiful fractal...

A simple sally? I used to think so but... please read the following. I am less affirmative now.

I was browsing through old papers when I stopped short in front of a series of Marylin portraits that were cooked through various recipes by Ilene Astrahan (IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications, Mai 1992, p.9), and specially a picture "Marylin & Julia" showing a solarized face of Marylin above a Julia fractal, i.e. a close relative of Mandelbrot. Of course, a face does not have the erotic dimension of a feminine nude, but the choice of Marylin Monroe is rather significative by itself.

Since Ilene Astrahan was considered an artist in the paper, and since making art is peculiar to artists, the sally suddenly takes on a touch of seriousness. A short investigation on the Web (for instance, ask "Ilene Astrahan" to Altavista) confirms this artist status through a few recent exhibitions in which she took part –though it seems that only the same old pictures are quoted.

In fact, though the paper was devoted to the computer art, the occurrence of other Marylin variants rather made them a kind of exercice, all the more as the artistic possibilities of personal computers were then under investigation. I am afraid that this picture -not reproduced here- would not be very attractive by now, but one must advocate that Ilene was working with a mere Amiga 2000, a rather primitive machine by current standards, and also that the paper was poorly printed.

So it is tempting to resume the exercice with today's tools -only six years later, but six years of incredible technical development.

Marylin126 Let us go! Let us stick a movie face, the same Marylin to begin with, over a beautiful fractal, exactly the same that we quoted several times. Contrary to a naive expectation, this does not make the picture twice more beautiful; even worse, it does not work at all, as long as one keeps Marylin's face with its natural colours. Probably Ilene Astrahan already came to this conclusion since she chose to solarize the face. I am less brutal since I simply applied a blue toning -poor Marylin, with everything permitted since Andy Warhol!

Well, this looks fine enough, does not it?

Maybe not, after all. The face was made artificial so as to better match the background, but is this enough for the success of the image? Are there not too many colours in the background? I tried to remove some of them, but I got nothing more pleasant -to my taste, of course. On the other hand, what kind of relationship can be found between the face and the background that could bring an internal necessity to this juxtaposition? Even blue-painted, Marylin carries a highly fleshly aura with little in common with the abstract ornaments in the background (could this suggest the unfortunate marriage with a too intellectual Arthur Miller? Unlikely...). I feel that the picture specially holds through the power of this face, which is now a symbol for all of us and I am not sure that the background helps the symbol.

Audrey126 But the exercice can be repeated with other faces. Here is Audrey Hepburn. This is a kind of miracle, because there is no need to work on the face, while the fractal is hardly modified (only a light desaturation)... And I think the picture works better. The heavy sensuality has been replaced with a witty smartness closer to the cerebral background. It could be an elegant gold digger over a background evocation of luxury and jewels.

Probably you guessed that I have a soft spot for Audrey Hepburn and that my judgement could become less safe with her, so that this new trial could be less conclusive than expected. We thus have to begin again, but now with a new face, unknown from readers and carrying no peculiar fantasy.

Thus I borrowed the face of a Morgane from a friend, and then I looked for a Mandelbrot picture that could match it. I did not use the same picture again, because, obviously, one cannot shove any face over any background image. This choice is mainly a matter of intuition ; only afterwards can one explain how it works. Here is the result.

morgane Must I say, I am not dissatisfied with this?

The picture can be analyzed in various ways. On a pure graphical ground, there is an obvious contrast between the triangle of the face and the circular shape below it; this contrast is enforced by the life/abstraction opposition. The off-centre location of the face gives it great strength. On the other hand, one can also speak of this dreamy face, without any special expression, in front of the esoteric background. The replica of the circular pattern, blurred and dulled, gives depth to the picture -also to its mystery...

As a conclusion, I feel it unlikely that three interesting trials would be merely three pieces of luck. Undoubtly, there is something to work out deeper behind the sally of the pretty girl. However, let us remember that the trivial erotism behind the sally was ruled out by using faces only in the pictures, and not bodies.

Nota :  The faces of Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn come from a CD-ROM of pictures freely reproducible. Probably the permission does not extend to the above graphical treatments, but I hope that I shall be forgiven, for the sake of Pedagogy.

The original Morgane photography is due to Pierre Le Cabec


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Discovering the fractal world:
Introduction - Mandelbrot Exploration - Lyapounov Exploration - Von Koch Curves - IFS Fractals - Fractal Dimension - Mandelbrot Relatives - Finest Fractal Pictures - Software - Biblio and Links

Fractals and mysticism:
Introduction - The Mysticism of Infinite - Non-Euclidean Art?

A new Art?
Introduction - Fascination of Fractals - Fractals and Photography - Definitions of Art - The Colour Choice - Other Colour Choices - Fractalists Painters - Compositions with Mandelbrot - Put a pretty girl - Algorithmic Art - Beyond the "Fractal" Art