.Art and Artificial Intelligence: Terraforming the Uncanny Valley

A conversation between art and artificial intelligence

A new exhibition inside Kaleid Gallery, “Terraforming the Uncanny Valley,” displays original paintings by Julie Meridian and invites viewers into a realm where the boundaries between nature and technology blur. It offers a blend of traditional and innovative artistic techniques.

The genesis of this work lies in the collaboration between Meridian and Lucidbeaming, a technologist and artist. Lucidbeaming’s generative AI imagery served as the catalyst inspiring Meridian to reimagine his “synthetic sketches” as textured, poignant landscapes. 

“Lucidbeaming did these experiments by setting up his own GAN, [generalized adversarial network] a specific type of generative art and then he approached me,” says Meridian. “He shared the images and I found one subset that I thought was interesting, it was landscapes.”

Meridian’s work delves deep into the intersection between humanity, technology and the ever-evolving landscape, offering a glimpse into a future shaped by both natural forces and artificial intelligence.

“I’ve done a few shows previous to this where I’ve gathered up found landscapes from thrift stores. The kind that people paint on canvas, same image, at a paint night together.” The artist approached the AI-collaborated work in a similar way.

“I masked off part of the paintings and I finished them. You could see part of the original art and then you could see mine next to it. That contrast was interesting, because mine is more ‘realism’,” says Meridian.

Drawing from her background in traditional art mediums—primarily acrylics with occasional forays into oils and charcoal—she navigates the delicate balance between realism and impressionism with digital imagery generated by Lucidbeaming.

“I saw a thread in these landscapes…I wanted to figure out where the Uncanny Valley was. As an artist, I know what to look for in lighting and what human perception does over distances. But I challenged myself to find one characteristic in each that hinted at technology, maybe something that continued to exist after humanity is not there anymore,” she says.

One such painting, titled “The Eroded Shore,” is a testament to Meridian’s immersive process. Inspired by her time along the coastside in Half Moon Bay, it is a dynamic interplay between land and sea—where the relentless forces of nature carve out the landscape over time. 

“Watching the ocean come and go, knowing what it can do over time to carve out land…I wrestled more into the source image for this painting,” she says. “I had to do things like introduce a horizon line because there were huge blocks of maybe generated rocks and other elements I needed to pull back to bring the landscape back to reality.”

Central to Meridian’s artistic ethos is the ethical exploration of AI experimentation within art. “The companies that have released these tools know that these are in murky legal waters,” she says. “They’re not clear about their sources, but very clear in the terms and conditions about who will be held liable regarding the output.” 

From questions of authorship and liability to the broader implications for the future of art, she continues to navigate the emerging technology and generative AI space with a keen eye for integrity and responsibility.

“We talk about these things as tools but really it’s a medium of its own because it’s creating something new. All the liability of new works being created by these tools is being passed to the users, and that’s a problem, and so is the ability to copyright these generative works,” says Meridian. “There are lots of gray areas and discussions happening in the space. I am on the artist’s side, always.”

Beyond the confines of the canvas, Meridian’s artistic journey is deeply intertwined with her background in computer science and user experience design. Her formative years were spent playing video games and participating in online forums, while her professional tenure at Adobe offered her a more advanced and mature look into technology.

“I look at artificial intelligence similarly to how I look at the thrift store paintings: it’s an idea of a thing, we can imagine it’s a real place. Now, how do I as an artist keep the spirit of the thing by adding details that work?” 

Meridian’s paintings blur the boundaries between natural and artificial words, giving rise to a vision of the future shaped by humanity’s enduring quest for expression and exploration.


Terraforming the Uncanny Valley

KALEID Gallery

320 S 1st St, San Jose

[email protected]

408.947.1785

Now—Feb. 24

Free


Artist Talk

Feb. 22

Free

Melisa Yuriarhttps://www.melisayuriar.com
Melisa is a features writer for Metro Silicon Valley, covering music, arts and entertainment in the Valley. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, the journalist has bylines in Dancing Astronaut, Gray Area Magazine, Festival Insider and Saint Audio. She is a member of the American Copy Editors Society.

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