Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Mixing The Old and New In Mixed Media

Interpretive Landscape 4
2005 - mixed media, 9"x12"

During my years as a graphic designer, I spent a fair amount of time in front of the computer. So when I decided to return to making fine art, I re-discovered the joy of tactile experiences. Materiality is very much a part of my process – and yet the computer remains a familiar tool.

I enjoy mixing old and new technologies/media. In my Interpretive Landscape series I combined digital collage with pinhole photography and encaustic medium. The digital component enabled me to seamlessly execute my vision with disparate mediums (photo and abstract watercolor) while pinhole photography and encaustic require the physical engagement I find so desirable.

The concept of an image captured through a tiny pinhole was around long before photographic processes became available to make the image permanent. (It was the basis of the camera obscura - a drawing tool used by many artists in the 17th and 18th centuries. However, documentation of such a device can be found as far back as the writings of the Chinese philosopher Mo-Ti in the 5th century BC.) The pinhole camera is based on a simple law of the physical world. Light travels in a straight line and when some of the rays reflected from a bright subject pass through a small hole in a thin material they do not scatter but cross and reform as an upside down image on a flat surface that is parallel to the hole.

Encaustic (a medium comprised of bees wax, resin and pigment) is another "old process." This sensory-rich material was used by ancient Greek and Egyptian painters and is currently undergoing an overwhelming surge in popularity.

So today, when it is so easy to capture an image with a digital camera, it is utterly appealing to “go at it from another angle” – to bring physical engagement to the process – and to combine ancient technologies with modern. For me, the computer is a tool among many.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Why Do We Make Art?

In some of my previous posts I have shared reading responses - writings I did while pursuing my MFA. Reading plays a large role in the shaping of my art practice. It helps to solidify my ideas and identify my direction. In other words, I find it inspirational. I also often confess to getting my best ideas in the shower. (I don't know what it is about warm running water - but it's a conduit for my imagination.) Basically, I am always thinking and try to respond to my thoughts in a genuine way.

I was recently asked, “How do you stay fresh and come up with new ideas?” This person might as well have asked me, “Why do you make art?” I found the question difficult to answer. Continually asking “What if?” is just simply how my mind works. So one thing always leads to another. I guess I approach my art practice as I would a puzzle – constantly seeking a solution, yet recognizing that the achievement of the ultimate solution would mean the demise of my art practice. You can imagine that all this seeking can be somewhat frustrating because I never really experience a sense of completion.

So to be an artist is to be in the constant state of frustration of one pondering a puzzle with no hope for an answer. Because our work is really about the process of response – not the response itself. Heck, half the challenge is figuring out what the question is in the first place. The “why” should come before the “how” but sometimes we don’t even know “why” we do something. Often, we have to do it first and then figure it out. (To read more on this idea, take a look at Relying on Process.)

I believe we make art simply because we have to. It is our way of functioning in this world.