Lou Black

Musician, Researcher

"Historically, the most creative and innovative works have arisen during periods when life was highly restricted or regimented, or where everyone is doing the same thing and someone finds a way to be different."

Describe yourself as a maker/artist/creative 

By nights and weekends I am an artist living in University Park, MD, who works across multiple media, visual and auditory, these days it is mostly video, photography, graphic design, and music. By day I am a statistician researcher who has used visual design to help communicate complex ideas. There is a long story to all of this, but this is what happens when your science parents steer you away from art school.

What are you currently working on?

 

I’m currently working on a variety of pieces in support of one project, my upcoming studio release of my song single, “Your Superman, You Are Superman.”

 

First there is the cover art for the single where I decided to incorporate a childhood photo of me in a Superman costume superimposed within the image of a Philco Predicta TV, classic mid-century space age art deco design. Spotify suggests creating 4-8 second looping video to be displayed when folks are playing music off their smartphones, so I had to create one of those. To promote the music I’ll need to create a series of short video ads. Since I don’t have the final mixed video yet, I’ve only created one silent video teaser, and then there is the “big megillah” (an old Sephardic expression), a music video to accompany and support the song release.

 

As with most of my music videos, they are crazy montage videos, lots of snippets related to one theme or one lyric. For months, I’ve been piecing together footage of me in costume with a green screen, cartoonizing myself into 1940’s Max Fleischer Superman cartoons, and using public domain footage, including some old 1940’s Superman serials. I colorized the Superman serial footage with AI software. Colorization of video is very time consuming, but modern viewers prefer color imagery over black and white. I needed some dance footage, so I was able to work in a snippet of my Flamenco dancing cousin Gabriela into the video. I was also able to make comic use of footage from an old Mao era Communist ballet. The original ballet needs no translation, the actions and movements speak for themselves, “capitalists are evil slave masters, and the Chinese Communist Red Army is good.” By taking scenes from the ballet out of context, I was able to make it work for a Superman video, and anyone who ever studies the final video they will notice that there is a new and subtle message that is conveyed in the video.

 

In any event, the video is 90%-95% complete at this point. I still need to add some additional footage here and there to fill the gaps, I should “suit up” again for a few more comic scenes. I recently put out the word for footage of pets in Superman costumes and received a lovely clip of a dog in costume, quite adorable.

Has your work shifted in response to the pandemic? How?

To be honest, up until the pandemic my artistic endeavors had been very minimal. The weeks of social isolation during the pandemic actually inspired me to become more active. I wanted to bring any type of art back into the world. I have been more prolific and energized to create art than ever before. I’ve created quite a few videos over the past year.  Once, out of boredom, I gave myself a 48 hour music video editing challenge, reminiscent of the time limited sketch drills in art classes. This actually improved my efficiency/productivity, because under an artificial deadline I had to figure out a few shortcuts to my existing work flow.  One musician friend of mine was impressed by the speed by which I could now create a montage video that he asked me to create one for one of his rockabilly-esque songs. This led me for create several more for him, two of which were for his experimental instrumental pieces and this led me to focus more on the purely visual interpretation of the soundscape. Oddly enough, I found these instrumental pieces to be more liberating, I was no longer being restricted by lyrics and could focus on tone, mood, and emotion, and create short experimental films.      

 

In your opinion, what role does the creative process play in helping us confront our “new” reality?

 

During the pandemic, the idea of shooting new video with scenes and actors was certainly not a possibility, so I learned to explore the world of public domain video, finding all of the imagery I needed from home. I learned to make better use of everything that was readily available, and I learned a variety of new skills to support my art. Creativity can be enhanced by the external limitations. As a researcher, I’ve read many studies on the creative process across a variety of fields from literature to science to engineering. Historically, the most creative and innovative works have arisen during periods when life was highly restricted or regimented, or where everyone is doing the same thing and someone finds a way to be different.

Anything else you'd like to add?

Isolation, the lack of resources, restrictions, and deprivation have always inspired creativity. During the Cold War, many Eastern European artists were offered asylum in the West, but many refused.  As one artist put it, “an artist needs a wall to bang his head against.”  There is a lot to be said about this idea.

See more of Lou's work here.