Jaime Byrd always was ahead of the action. She started writing music as a kid and was performing in nightclubs, she says, by age 12 or 13 — long before she was legally allowed inside. In her twenties, she interviewed for a job as a receptionist for a recording studio, “but hey, it was the ’80s and anything could happen back then,” she remarks. So instead, they made her a production assistant, and she worked with Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor, Bonnie Raitt, and Bruce Hornsby, among others.
“That overlapped with my jewelry business,” she recalls, “which later overlapped with my move into filmmaking and I’ve been painting on and off for more than 20 years. But I didn’t move into painting full time until the pandemic hit.”
That stay-at-home period was a catalyst for many artists to experiment with different directions and mediums. For Byrd, it was an opportunity to reestablish a palpable sense of home after years of extended travel making films.
She also found an innovative way to coalesce a lifetime of creative skills and interests in music, filmmaking, and painting by incorporating augmented reality into her oil and cold-wax artwork. The technology empowers her to expand the sensory depth of her paintings, adding immersive elements and dimensions of sound and movement.
To activate the AR component, viewers download a free online app called Artivive. Using the app, they point the phone’s camera at one of the AR-enabled paintings or prints and are treated to a spectacular multi-layered audio-visual experience. “It moves you into the painting and helps tell the story of how I felt when I painted it,” says Byrd. She offers an example of one of her landscape paintings. “When it’s animated with AR, you see what happens as the scene goes through all four seasons. The mood changes drastically. During winter the tree dies back, and there is wind and rain. Then springtime turns it green, there are birds, and the lighting changes.”
The awareness of the creative potential of AR technology came suddenly, Byrd says. “It was a complete epiphany. It happened all at once. I realized that I can actually do all these things I love and have it be really unique, cool, and something people are interested in.”
“Interested” may be an understatement. Seventy percent of Byrd’s new AR-enhanced work sold out on the night she introduced it last June, during a Trackside Studios exhibit. “Nobody had seen this before. They were completely blown away, experiencing the painting in a different way. They didn’t know how I did it and they thought it was fascinating, confusing, and magical.”
Nevertheless, Byrd’s basic approach to painting hasn’t changed. “With AR, there are so many options that I just try to stay focused or my head might explode. Not every painting gets augmented reality, and I don’t think about AR at all when I’m painting. I just try to do my best work, and my process for everything I do is emotional and intuitive.”
Jaime Byrd, Fairview. The artist’s work is represented by Trackside Studios, 375 Depot St. in Asheville’s River Arts District, tracksidestudios375.com, where an exhibit of her work, Home and the Journey There, will be hosted through Sunday, July 31, with a champagne reception Saturday, July 2, 4-7pm. For more information, visit jaimebyrd.com and on Instagram: @jaimebyrd