CLAIM TO FAME
Doug McLarty ’66 is an artist who uses a flatbed digital scanner to create fresh and striking pictures of natural objects. His art has been seen in venues ranging from the Ohio governor’s residence to the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
McLarty studies the details of nature all around him to find his source material. Mostly, he uses common plants, such as daylilies, known as “ditch lilies” in his Ohio home because they proliferate next to farmers’ fields, or an invasive vine that grows in Florida, where he spends his winters. Collecting, however, is just the beginning. “I take apart nature,” he explains. “Most photographers, when they want to take a picture of a flower, they take the picture of the flower. I like to take the entire thing apart, piece by piece, and put it back together the way I think it should be put together.”
TWO AND A HALF DIMENSIONS
McLarty arranges his collections of flower parts, leaves, sticks, stones, and more on the glass of a flatbed scanner, and then scans them in a darkened room. This technique is known as scanner photography or “scanography.” “The depth of the process of scanning allows almost a new dimension. It’s not quite two dimensions and it’s not quite three dimensions. It’s somewhere in between, like two and a half dimensions, where you actually feel like you can see around the side of the picture I create. You can almost feel the back of the leaf.”
A native of East Providence, Rhode Island, McLarty majored in English and education at Wagner; but art classes, art major friends, and visits to museums also opened his eyes to art appreciation. Another lasting influence of his Wagner years was meeting a freshman named Linda Louise Hagenbucher ’68, whom he married in 1968. They have two sons and six grandchildren.
THE ROAD TO SCANOGRAPHY
Before becoming an artist, McLarty had two careers: first as a public affairs officer for the U.S. Air Force (he retired at the rank of colonel), and then as the owner of a communications consulting business. In both of these careers, he used photography and graphic design. He also loved doing his own landscape photography. But one day as he was taking photos in the mountains near Salt Lake City, he realized, “I can’t do this anymore. I can’t do better. It’s just pointing and shooting, and the camera does all the work.” That’s when he started seeking a new creative outlet.
LESS IS MORE
About 10 years ago, he saw an exhibit in Florida of scanned nature images. He liked the technique but thought he could improve on the concept. Influenced by principles of graphic design, he wanted to go minimalist. “I’ll build a picture, then I’ll look at it and say, ‘There’s too much,’ and I’ll start taking things away. … I want to create something simple, clean. I’m looking for sticky images. I want people to remember it three weeks later.”
McLarty’s purpose is simple: “The enjoyment that people can get from taking a closer look at nature, because the designs are phenomenal and the textures are wonderful! … People say to me, ‘I have this leaf or this tree in my yard, and I never noticed this.’ I encourage them, ‘Go home and pull a leaf off and study it for two minutes, and you’ll see what the possibilities are!’”