"Self Portrait," Louis J. Boston II. The artist headlines Westinghouse Castle's first gallery exhibition. Photo courtesy of Louis J. Boston II. All images copyright 2020-2023, Louis J. Boston II. All rights reserved. Copying and/or distributing these images without permission is strictly prohibited.

At first glance, his work may appear like simple raindrops and hearts. Sure, they are nice to look at, but wait, are they moving? 

“Heart Beats” and “Feel the Rain” are works by digital artist Louis J. Boston II, who launched Westinghouse Castle’s first gallery exhibition on Sept. 16.

Boston, who lives near Westinghouse Castle in Wilmerding, is a self-taught artist from outside of Albany, New York, who has sold digital art prints for more than a decade. His initial works involved mathematical symbols like Pi and infinity. But Boston says that math was a limited niche and so he ventured into a new style: optical illusions. 

Boston’s inspirations for optical illusion artwork are Bridget Riley, the “Godmother” of Op art, and Akiyoshi Kitaoka.

“Kitaoka came up with a breakthrough optical illusion called ‘Rotating Snakes,’” Boston says. “I looked at that one day, and I was stunned. I thought, ‘How can I approach doing something like that?’”

Boston uses geometric patterns and vibrant colors to create “optical tuning,” a style to evoke visual and mental sensory experiences by fine-tuning color spectrums into optical illusions.  

“Inner Circles” uses a variety of shapes and colors to create an optical illusion. Op art tricks your brain into seeing movement. Image courtesy of Louis J. Boston II. All images copyright 2020-2023 Louis J.  Boston II. All rights reserved. Copying and/or distributing these images without permission is strictly prohibited.

“Some people find the art to be, I’ll say it, dizzying,” Boston adds. “Some of the works people find to be tranquil, like the raindrops. But if it’s a challenge to your senses, I’ve done my job as an artist to challenge your senses. People have a variety of reactions.”

Optical illusion art, or Op art, tricks your brain with two techniques. Perspective makes an object appear farther away, closer, larger or smaller. The juxtaposition of color tricks your eye into perceiving movement.  

He notes that both artists who inspire him have been plagiarized and that is why Boston limits digital copies of his work. 

While some digital pieces can be pleasing to look at, the real deal is in the fine print. Boston uses a variety of materials, including photo matte papers, permanent vinyls and an Epson printer.

Louis J. Boston II before the opening of his exhibition at Westinghouse Castle in Wilmerding. Photo courtesy of Ed Blazina/Pittsburgh Union Progress.

“It’s essential to view Louie’s work in person,” says Curtis Scott Dunn, managing director for Turtle Creek Valley Arts. “There’s a number of his works that really don’t translate well until you’re standing in front of them with your face in them.”

The nonprofit arts organization began in 2021 and evolved out of Westinghouse Arts Academy, an arts-based public charter school. The mission is to leverage the performing and visual arts center on campus and to bring arts to Wilmerding. 

“The hope is that the arts will help boost our businesses and attractiveness to residents and to improve the Turtle Creek Valley as a destination to live and play,” Scott says.

Westinghouse Castle was the original home of Westinghouse Airbrake Company’s General Office. Priory Hospitality Group hoped to convert it into a destination resort in 2016. But Westinghouse Arts Academy acquired the building and founded Turtle Creek Valley Arts, which operates the castle.

The first floor has been refinished into an art gallery. The second floor houses offices and classrooms, and renovations will soon bring science labs funded by the Westinghouse Corporation to the third floor. Plans are for the fourth floor to host a culinary arts program and banquet and events center. 

“The big thing for this year is the premiere of the art gallery,” Dunn says. “I’ve never run an art gallery before. Louis has been very helpful to me in figuring out how to do this.”

 Artist Freddie Bainbridge is slated to exhibit next month.

“Surface of the Sun” and Boston’s other works are best viewed in-person. Image courtesy of Louis J. Boston II. All images copyright 2020-2023 Louis J. Boston II. All rights reserved. Copying and/or distributing these images without permission is strictly prohibited.

“Westinghouse Arts Academy believes that showing our students local and regional artists’ work inspires them to accomplish their dreams of one day becoming professional artists,” says Nadine Dunne, director of engagement for Westinghouse Arts Academy. “The gallery will teach them what it is like to curate a show and run a gallery.”

The optical illusion craze is growing. The Museum of Illusions is set to open this fall on the North Shore.

“It’s a bit different than going to the movies,” Boston adds. “Come to an art gallery and see something close-up.”

The exhibition is open from 3 to 7 p.m. through Friday, Sept. 22, and from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 23. The last day of the exhibit is Saturday, Sept. 30, from noon to 4 p.m.

A Pittsburgh native, Ethan is a freelance journalist interested in telling the stories of people doing great things to build community and sustainability. Ethan served as Editor-in-Chief of Allegheny College's newspaper, The Campus.