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S E C T I O N 2 Community ■ June 15, 2011 People and performances in Arts and Entertainment. A LSO INSIDE CA LE N DA R Looking at 28 |RE A L E S TAT E 29 |CL AS S I F I E D S 37 art through science David Stork of Portola Valley develops computer imaging methods to look beyond the paint of great artwork Photo by Michelle Le/The Almanac Scientist and art lover David Stork poses in front of “Firuzabad” by Frank Stella, which is part of a local private collection. By Renee Batti Almanac News Editor I t’s lunchtime at Quadrus Cafe, a short distance from scientist David Stork’s workplace on Sand Hill Road. Tables in the naturally lit dining room on this late spring day are covered simply with white paper that might have been chosen so as to not compete with the striking modern paintings on the walls. Mr. Stork arrives a few minutes late for lunch and an interview with the Almanac, arranged so that he can talk about the groundbreaking work he’s doing in an area that straddles the often-alienated worlds of art and science. The conversation moves energetically, and by the end of the meal, the stark white paper beneath the soup bowls and drinking glasses has been transformed into a sketchbook of ideas, explanations and emphasis. There are images of optic lenses that might eventu- ally find their place in a more efficient digital camera. Swirling, flat-noodle lines suggestive of Van Gogh’s brushstrokes in a famous selfportrait. There’s a rectangle with two horizontal lines and several vertical slashes — in the style of Piet Mondrian, it’s an example of an image that naturally satisfies the eye. If Mondrian had put this vertical line over here rather than there, Mr. Stork says, planting his unrelenting silver pen in the center of the rectangle, the painting wouldn’t work. Ultimately, the impromptu sketchbook represents a number of key aspects of the Portola Valley resident’s life: his work as chief scientist at Ricoh Innovations (that’s where the optic lenses come in); his intense enthusiasm for the fine arts, and how meaning is conveyed by images; and his independent scientific work in developing computer methods to uncover various secrets of great artists’ work. A recognized leader in the field of pattern recognition and computer visioning who holds a doctorate in physics, Mr. Stork spends his evenings, weekends and, sometimes, vacation time outside the office on his arts-related pursuits. He and several collaborators have developed computer methods of analyzing light, patterns and textures in paintings that he hopes to see applied widely to the study of art history and interpretation. He has used those methods to examine nuances of paintings by Caravaggio, Vermeer, Velazquez and other esteemed masters of centuries past. His examination of Van Gogh’s “SelfPortrait in a Grey Felt Hat” uses a method first developed with colleagues in Stanford’s Department of Statistics, where he is a consulting professor, to digitally “peel away” seven layers of brushstrokes from the work to ascertain the artist’s approach to laying down the paint. “Wouldn’t it be good to be able to see Van Gogh paint?” he asks, looking up from his tabletop sketch. “Well, this is the best we can do.” Although Mr. Stork’s interest in art was sparked when he was a child, growing up with a photographer father and a grandfather who collected works by major American painters, the multi-discipline scientist’s entrance onto the world stage of art history and appreciation was not exactly planned. The grand entrance In 2001, prominent American artist David Hockney published “Secret Knowledge,” a book pushing his claim that Renaissance painters used lenses and mirrors to project images onto canvases and other surfaces that would then be traced by the artist. It was that technique, he argued, that explained why paintings after around 1425 took on characteristics of threedimensionality and depth. See LOOKING AT ART, page 27 On the cover Scientist David Stork in front of “Hadrian’s Court I” by Al Held, part of a private collection of modern art. Photo by Michelle Le/The Almanac. June 15, 2011 N The Almanac N25

The Almanac 06.15.2011 - Section 2

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