Wednesday, July 20, 2011

One of my favorite pieces

In 1998 I was working as an assistant art director at Scientific American. It was a special time for me. It was there that I began to fall in love with science. I began to see the connection between art and science; the editors, in their passion for what they wrote and edited, resembled artists to me.

While there, one of my assignments was to design a physics article entitled "Glueballs." I was usually given the obscure physics articles. When Ed Bell, the art director, assigned the story to me he gave me the scrap, a collection of Feynman diagrams, and said sarcastically, "Good luck." This was an article that was considered hard to "art" because what the subject dealt with was at the subatomic level. There's no real-world representation or reference for us as flesh-and-blood humans. The processes that are described are only understandable by the lines and squiggles that compose a Feynman diagram.

I looked at the scrap. I was struck by how anthropomorphic the diagrams looked. They also reminded me of Miro paintings. The diagrams were completely incomprehensible to me, but I could sense an inner logic the same way one can see a logic in a written language that one doesn't understand. So I redrew the Feynman diagrams and blew them up large.

Here's the piece:

I'm posting this because as I rework my artist statement what keeps coming up is the connection to science my work has.

I'm rereading a book of Einstein essays entitled "Ideas and Opinions." It's a wonderful collection of essays. One of the themes he writes about a lot is the connection between art, science, and religion. He puts religion into three categories: a religion that is based in fear, one that is based in morality, and one that he calls cosmic religious feeling. It's this third type Einstein is interested in as a scientist and human being.

I'll quote one paragraph that stood out for me:

How can cosmic religious feeling be communicated from one person to another, if it can give rise to no definite notion of a god and no theology? In my view, it is the most important function of art and science to awaken this feeling and keep it alive in those who are receptive of it.

He concludes his essay with:

A contemporary has said, not unjustly, that in this materialistic age of ours the serious scientific workers are the only profoundly religious people. 


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Breaking the hiatus

It's been a few weeks since I last posted. I feel the need to check in.

My blog-silence has part to do with what I'm currently working on: a proposal for a six room installation that explores my childhood. It's been a intense process. I am inspired by how it is shaping up. I've decided not to post the progress on the installation. When it's complete I'll do an extensive post on it.

I'm also reworking my artist statement. What a god damn process that is! Once it's complete you'll be able to see it on my website. The thing that has been interesting for me in reworking it is that I'm noticing that I'm veering away from spirituality in my work. At least conscious spirituality. I'm much more interested in emotion now. I'm interested in the physicality of emotion. I keep coming back to the fact that science is one of my main inspirations. I'm also realizing that for me art is a tool I use to try to make sense of the pain and emptiness I experience. I'm addressing the fact that I only create images of women's bodies. I've been thinking about why this is (and no, it's not only because I'm a heterosexual male!) and looking at what women represent to me. Putting this on paper is a vaguely disquieting experience for me. Once it's written it just lies there staring at you in black and white. It seems to me that part of the process of creating an artist statement is to get comfortable with the intentions of my work. For me the process reminds me of therapy a bit. I force myself to talk about this crap, put it out there in a hope that by unearthing it life or my art will make more sense.

I have been taking photos. Here's one I just took:

I don't think these out of focus pieces translate well on a computer screen. I'm really happy with how they print though. I've printed a couple of proofs at 24" wide and they look better the bigger they get. I like the way the color mixes. I like the interplay between abstraction and representation. I've been getting positive response from these. I'm interested in the connection these have to the body work. There is a connection I feel intuitively. But I've been having a hard time verbalizing it. Both my body work and my architectural work deal with objects that contain something. For the architectural work the thing that is contained is us; people, and our possessions. For the body work it's our emotions, our spirit and consciousness. I'm feeling that the two bodies of work have to do with memories on some levels. Both our bodies and the structures we live in contain us, whether it's our physical body or our emotional body. There's something here about the connection between the tangible and intangible too. Intellectually, it's all feeling vague now, so I'll continue to take pictures, create images and write about them.

My process is cyclical. I have periods of intense almost effortless output followed by dry spells. I wouldn't exactly call this period I'm in now a dry spell, but things just don't seem to be coming to me easily. Again, here's that Chuck Close quote I love, "Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us get up every day and get to work."

So I'll keep on keeping on. And I intend to post more regularly.