Walter Wick's world of hidden objects apears at the Walters Art Museum

Friday, September 24, 2010

Walter Wick does not have a red thimble. Silver thimbles, yes. Antique thimbles, you bet. Even a ceramic thimble -- but no red thimbles.

Which seems almost unbelievable if you're a fan of Wick's photographs in the "I Spy" and the "Can You See What I See?" books, which challenge young readers to find objects hidden within an intricate scene or collage of knickknacks. Wick's library of objects has grown to "tens of thousands" since his first "I Spy" book in 1991.

Just how he crafts the scenes is the subject of "Walter Wick: Games, Gizmos and Toys in the Attic," an exhibit at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore through Jan. 2. Visitors can see 55 large-scale photographs (some of which are from his books) as well as six models that span the Connecticut-based artist's 30-year career. The exhibit also explains how Wick pulled off some of his elaborate illusions.

Wick, 57, spoke to us from his Connecticut studio about his techniques and his knickknacks. Here are some edited excerpts.

-- Amy Orndorff

Do you identify yourself as a photographer or a modeler?

Well, I was just wondering about that myself. I identify myself as a photographic illustrator. I build many of my own models, but as you have probably figured out with the show, I do employ a number of freelancers who I direct. I design and direct the construction of models and then photograph them.

How much of your images are Photoshopped and how much are traditional photography?

The show spans at least 30 years of work, and I haven't really done an inventory of which have been Photoshopped and which have not, but it is an interesting question and there are some surprising answers. There are some things that could look like they have been done by computer that haven't been touched by computer. There are constructions that are cleverly engineered or arranged to create the illusion that objects are floating through the air.

The image "Yikes!" was one where I looked at it and wondered.

Not even a speck of retouching done at all, it came straight out of the camera that way!

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