Take for example our illustration of a sphere. Similar to scientific demonstrations conducted by your second grade teacher, the sphere may be taken as planet Earth.

 

When a light source (the sun) is shined upon the sphere, only the portion of the sphere which faces the light source will receive illumination. The other side of the sphere will remain in total darkness. Hence, half of the planet is in daylight and half experiences nighttime. Areas which receive partial light experience dusk or dawn.

At this point we need to make the distinction between a two-dimensional shape and a three-dimensional form. The former remains on a flat plane without any visual integration with its environment, or reality, as perceived by the human eye. The latter integrates with our space, responding to the same atmospheric conditions as do we. In a two-dimensional work, there is no definition/distinction between figure and ground (objects or shapes may be simply laid upon the surface of other objects or shapes), whereas in a three-dimensional work, the figure seems to assert an independence from the flatness of the canvas or piece of paper on which it has been drawn and appears to protrude outward toward us.

Compare the following images:

Bearden’s She-ba is composed of flat shapes placed or laid upon each other. We read the arms, body, face, hands, and elements of the environment as flat cut-outs. In contrast, Ingres’ Princess three dimensionally projects out of the darkness of the room. The light areas of her face, dress, and chair appear to almost come towards us or spill out of the picture into our own space. In the latter, hills and valleys defined by light and shade are masterfully created and make the princess look like a real person in real space.  

 

IN THIS BOX INSERT, FROM THE NEW IMAGES – “SHE-BA” ON THE LEFT AND “INGRES’ PRINCESS” ON THE RIGHT