Chris Hardman explores connection between reality, fantasy in ‘Transforming Art’

Where do reality and illusion begin? How much is in the art and how much is in our brain, in our perception?

Sausalito artist Chris Hardman explores these questions in “Transforming Art,” his stimulating, interactive exhibit now on display at the Officer’s Clubat the Presidio in San Francisco through May 4.

Fusing light, 3-D art, mirrors, sculpture, slotted furniture and sound, the show immerses the viewer in an environment that reminds us we are all active participants in the world we experience.

In “Flower #2,” his coral-colored, flower-like wooden sculpture in the show’s Reflected Symmetry section, Hardman uses mirrors to show how our minds alter the visual information we receive. In this case, we see the “flower” as a whole object, rather than just a portion of it that is set next to two 90-degree mirrors.

“I want to change the way we experience the world, so I’ve created art pieces that reveal how our minds are involved in the process of perception,” explains 56-year-old

Hardman. “I use art forms that reveal the visual clues we commonly use to view the world. With this information, we can rethink our relationship to our surroundings and experiences.”

Hardman is artistic director of Sausalito’s Antenna Theater, which he founded in 1980 to experiment with sound, sculpture and live performances. Much of the work has been presented at the Smithsonian Institution and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

In “Transforming Art,” visitors are given headsets that not only explain how their minds are tricked into seeing whole objects instead of reflected portions, but also serve to immerse them in a different world, a world of the senses.

In a room featuring fascinating and beautiful slotted-wood sculptures of sea creatures, sounds of the sea are mingled with those of sea birds and whale songs.

In another room, visitors use 3-D glasses to see “ocular ghosts,” a visual phenomenon invented by an English professor and used as a theatrical illusion in the 1860s. In this case, the glasses create the illusion of seeing whimsical sculptures hanging from the ceiling ad infinitum.

Located in the heart of the Presidio, the Officer’s Club is a lovely old building featuring a historic lounge and fireplace where Army officers once gathered; it is said to be haunted by their ghosts. Outside, a row of refurbished historic brick buildings edge the parade grounds, opening to a sweeping vista of the San Francisco Bay and Golden Gate Bridge.

IF YOU GO

Transforming Art: The Art of Chris Hardman

Where: Presidio Officer’s Club, 50 Moraga Ave., San Francisco

When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays-Sundays; closes May 4

Admission: Free

Contact: (415) 561-5500 or www.presidio.gov

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