Art Beat: Seeing Double

Dec 26, 2019

Stereograph images of Colleen Woolpert and her twin sister

Colleen Woolpert is an artist, inventor, and stereograph curator based in Kalamazoo. She creates still and moving images as well as interactive installations rooted in photography that explore the meaning of vision. Woolpert creates stereographs and is the inventor of the TwinScope Viewer exhibition stereoscope.

“When we were 11 years old, my twin sister and I were watching a 3D movie,” Woolpert recalls. “I realized when objects appeared to be jumping out of the screen, my sister didn’t respond.”

Woolpert soon understood that her twin sister had no depth perception. She had an eye condition called strabismus that prevented her eyes from aligning correctly. Although her sister had therapy to correct the condition, she was not always able to perceive depth the way Woolpert could. It became an inspiration for Woolpert to create the TwinScope Viewer to help her sister see the same way as she did.

Stereographs are small cards with two nearly identical images set side by side. Viewing them through a stereoscope gives the impression of three dimensions. Stereographs were popular in the late 19th century.

Colleen Woolpert with her stereograph viewer
Credit Courtesy Colleen Woolpert

When Woolpert experimented with creating stereographs, she couldn't find a modern stereograph to view them. So, during a sleepless night in 2011, she made her own. It would become the prototype for the TwinScope Viewer that she now sells to curators exhibiting stereographs. The TwinScope Viewer has been acquired by many institutions, collectors, and artists around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York and Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

For her own exhibitions, Woolpert has created a stereograph series called "Red Twin Blue Twin," with images of herself beside her twin sister. Viewed through the TwinScope Viewer, the sisters blend into each other, virtually indistinguishable.

“My mother used to dress one of us in blue and the other in red to tell us apart,” she says.

Woolpert has a stereograph series called “In-Depth Kalamazoo.” The first in the series was “Our City” at the Kalamazoo Public Library in November 2019. A second show in February 2020 called “Life of the Mind” will be shown at the Zhang Legacy Center at Western Michigan University. A third exhibition in May 2020 called “Hey, Ladies!” will be at the Ladies Library Association in Kalamazoo.

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