Termes spheres
Artist Dick Termes makes worlds of his own on spheres that capture the eye. Some will be exhibit on the coast.

Dick Termes doesn’t think outside the box. He thinks inside a sphere.

Termes describes his painted Termespheres as a three-dimensional exploration of an entirely closed universe, meaning the entirety of the scene is laid bare to see. Though you can view his work on termespheres.com, the pieces should be seen up close to be truly appreciated.

The Coastal Arts League Gallery will host an exhibition with 21 of Termes’ spheres from Feb. 13 through March 8. Termes, who lives in South Dakota, got connected with CAL while on vacation in Half Moon Bay last year. He’ll be at the opening reception from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday.

Using polyethylene plastic, which is commonly found in light fixtures, Termes, 78, creates spheres one-eighth of an inch thick with diameters ranging from 7 feet to the more common 12 to 24 inches. Some of his content appears to be a room or natural setting, like “The Pantheon.” Others, such as “The Eye” and “Arching to Infinity,” are colorful optical illusions.

His intricate work is as much an exercise in science and math as an art form. A key element in creating the spheres involves what he calls a “six-point perspective.” In summary, on a grid system, a one-point perspective involves taking one of the three sets of parallel lines from the cube and projecting them into a single vanishing point. Five degrees of complexity and a few more sets of parallel lines later, you have a six-point perspective, a 360-degree image.

Termes, who does not come from a mathematics background, believes his geometry-inspired methodology is a transferable skill. 

“I especially feel like teachers should want to know all about it because it’s a real teachable thing,” Termes said. “In art, you don’t have a lot of things that are teachable, but this stuff is.”

What you don’t see in these final products is the years of work Termes at first put into them. He was raised in Spearfish, S.D., and he received his bachelor’s degree in education from Black Hills State University. After four years of teaching high school art and biology, he realized art was his true calling.

It was in 1968, while getting his master’s degree in art from the University of Wyoming, that the process began to take shape. His Termespheres continued to develop as he pursued his thesis during his time at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles. As an internationally acclaimed artist, he receives just as much attention from scientists and mathematicians as from artists. His spheres are displayed in science hubs around the world, including the Glasgow Science Centre in Scotland, the Singapore Science Centre and the Department of Mathematical Sciences at West Point Military Academy. 

For Termes, the ability to visualize the world up, down, and all-around provides a sense of artistic freedom. 

“I really do feel it’s the geometry of total visual space that I play with,” he explained, “because you can do anything with it. I can capture any world, cathedrals, interiors of buildings. Everything reads accurately.”

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