A Haven For Digital Storytelling

An eight-year-old guest interacts with DIMONscape of Havens House.

The Shelter Island Historical Society has been eagerly working to expand its center for the past four years, with a newly renovated Havens House. Now, it has teamed up with visual arts creator, Roz Dimon, to install a permanent digital piece. It’s a juxtaposition of storytelling, where historic wheels, beams, and artifacts meet a new age of artistic narrative through DIMONscape of Havens House.

How did you get involved with the Shelter Island Historical Society?

They heard about the work I was doing in digital media. I had invented a new kind of storytelling process. Executive director Nanette Lawrenson worked with the board and they approved commissioning me to do a piece after I showed them a few other DIMONscapes I had done. I applaud them, because they took a leap into the unknown. It is a new kind of art. You look up, and right above you are the beams from the 1700s. So, it’s interesting. It’s permanently installed; anybody can go in.

Describe the piece.

It’s 36 inches high by 48 inches wide. It’s called DIMONscape of Havens House. It has a bronze plaque dedicated to Phyllis Wallace, who worked for the historical society as its archivist. And it was a surprise for her. So, it’s a great way to commemorate someone. It also has a QR code in the bronze plaque, and you can go off with your phone or any digital device.

How did you wind up in this field of artwork?

Accidentally. I started as a painter. I was living in New York City and in the 1980s, my paintings began to fill up with squares and pixels before I even knew what a pixel was. That really threw a curveball into my painting career. I took the earliest courses in digital art at the School of Visual Arts, and have been in digital media ever since . . . painting with it. I also do other works on oil and other things. But that’s been my primary medium.

What’s your process?

I make the art in the computer with a digital brush and digital canvas, which has been very sophisticated. My graduate school was the World Trade Center, where I headed up these new media teams, and I learned a lot about doing business and corporate design, and I really enjoyed that. I like to bring all that together when I work with a someone who positions a DIMONscape. It’s a business process, and it’s artwork. I like to invite everyone into a piece, so they aren’t intimidated by a contemporary work of art. It’s been fun to watch.

Aside from Havens House, where can we find another piece?

I have a DIMONscape that had been acquired by the National 9/11 Memorial Museum in Manhattan. It’s part of its permanent collection. It’s four-foot high by three-foot wide — a piece about finding hope, when all is lost. You can take any smart device and click on the label beside the painting. It’s still, but it’s a digital collage. You can go inside the painting as it’s being built. There’s a voiceover and it’s almost like you’re like the artists making the art. You go deep inside the layers of the piece.

How has the next generation responded to you?

I’m meeting a lot of young people through those interested in digital because I’m really dealing in the space. You’re going deep in a painting. It has a story that’s analog. That’s one of my mission statements, to bring people into my art and have a different relationship with the viewer, but while still being a serious work of art.

What mark on the art world are you hoping to make?

It’s a serious work of art to be contemplated, but it’s also a website. It’s a very different kind of website that actually goes with a painting so you can learn history. We’re overwhelmed by imagery. Everybody has to compete with iPhones. I think young people will be using this. I think I’m part of something that’s growing. A painting of a painting of a painting. I think it’s in a sort of Renaissance. Digital media is where it’s at.

See more of Roz Dimon’s work at www.rozdimon.com and visit the Shelter Island Historical Society at 16 South Ferry Road on Shelter Island. Its website is www.shelterislandhistorical.org.

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