I have always been curious and drawn to the deepest questions. At a young age my dad presented two possibilities:
The Universe had a beginning
The Universe was beginningless
This blew my mind and I felt great satisfaction from entering this mysterious realm of abstract thought and pondering the imponderable. Both possibilities seemed problematic, which set me on a journey into the sciences and then into various philosophies to try to understand life, the cosmos, myself, consciousness, and human behavior. I love to inquire and am not easily satisfied with existing answers.
My art parallels this journey of ignorance, curiosity and discovery. My greatest fear as an artist, and perhaps as a person, was that I was mechanical, and it has been my endeavor to understand myself so that I could transcend this. I believe I felt a sense of security exploring the abstract realms of thought, finding a kind of order and beauty there apart from a world of contradiction. I always thought of myself as a realist, but to be honest I am a hybrid between realist and idealist, which are at odds with each other.
Below are some of my questions and thoughts on various topics that inform my art.
- UNITY AND FRAGMENTATION
Observation is the basis and source of all human experience, covering thought and action: art, science, literature, religion, philosophy, inspiration and creativity. Observation is the ground for life. This might seem obvious and not very useful, but I have found we take the most obvious things for granted and miss tremendous insights and value as a result. The most valuable things can be intimate and immediate, but are the most easily ignored. An observation can lead to transformation and something new.
Our senses bring the world to us and at times the richness of sensory experience gives us a feeling of completeness and even sacredness. Unfortunately, this is quickly interrupted and made dull by the return and continuity of our thoughts. Our thoughts then hook us back in and contain us by their framework of meaning.
If we have humility, we realize inspiration comes though observation, which requires openness and the suspension of our conditioning. We can participate in the creative process if we minimize our interference with receptive observation. If you are having difficulty being creative, simply observe, be receptive.
Our perception is shaped by the content and nature of our thoughts. Our thoughts are then shaped by our perception. This fog of perception creates a challenge to see what actually is and has even led to the abandonment of belief in an Actuality altogether.
How do we observe, experience? Through memory? Through our judgments and reductive statements? Through our desires and fears? Through our insecurities?
We act in the world based on our perceptions, understanding and take them as truth. Our actions then create a world that manifests our fears, desires, and insecurities.
It is worth looking at how we observe. Can we observe without thought entering?
We are so caught in words that we believe that something must be spoken about something for it to have meaning, but in most cases, the contrary is true. Our language is built on the premise that this means that and the whole web of symbolic consciousness is spun from this.
Is there significance, meaning, apart from words? From endless interpretations, judgements, opinions, conclusions, and beliefs? Does life have significance apart from the relative meanings produced by thought? At times I have a feeling of deep significance, fulfillment and completion, in an experience and it does not seem to come from my thoughts about it - it feels intrinsic and unassailable, eternal. I realize there is a great danger thinking and speaking about it after the fact, because the tendency is to then assign meaning to it through words, packaging it into an existing paradigm, usually for security. I once listened to astronauts telling their story of seeing the earth for the first time from space and it was clearly a tremendously sacred experience of unity and perspective, but to my dismay, many had time to form it into words and pack it into their existing beliefs and worldviews - essentially destroying it and my hope that something like this could change humanity.
Meaning emerges from the relationship of content and context. This context could be an individuals personal experience, it could be the space around a piece of art, it could be a broader context of society or even the Cosmos. Meaning can be attributed to a work when the work isn't powerful enough justify that meaning. I vowed to avoid attributing such meaning to my work, but have recently chosen to use my work as a vehicle to say something with full understanding that the work itself is insufficient for that message.
A thing is not only its relation to its environment and viewer, but it is also in relation to itself. One way in which this expresses itself is through proportion and composition. The viewer will feel satisfied if everything is in its right place, in comfortable proportion, while maintaining energy and vitality.
Nothing can exist in isolation. Even if the piece is devoid of representational or symbolic meaning, it is still interrelated and interdependent on its environment and viewer, from which it gains meaning. In this way the piece participates with the viewer and the viewer participates with the piece.
Life and the Cosmos is a network of relationships. An Absolute web of connections crossing space and time. Our linear and binary tendencies of thinking make it nearly impossible to see the intricately woven fabric of interconnectedness and interdependence. Nothing exists in isolation or on its own accord. This can remain a fanciful view that becomes an inert belief or it can be seen as an obvious fact. Actuality is unrelenting in teaching this fact, but we are stubborn, perhaps to our ultimate demise.
Our relationship to the world and others is actually our relationship with ourselves. The ultimate fact is that the division and conflict exist in the mind and then projects outwardly.
From a relative point of view it is true that everything is interconnected, but with varying degrees of influence. A distant object may have nearly zero influence on a local one, but they share a common history and origin in time, thus linking them temporally. Causality does not capture this sort of relation.
But there is another equally valid view. Every thing we know of is an abstraction. Not a single ‘thing’ has held up over time as being a thing in itself. The search for Democritus’ atom continues. It is my view that this is merely an inevitable process of the mind. As soon as an object is named by the mind it is inevitably deconstructed into parts through analysis and inspection and then synthesized to create a relative whole.
Are there any ‘things’ at all? We take for granted that there are. Perception and conception tell us there are. But I am fairly certain not a single ‘thing’ has been found, rather just useful abstractions – abstractions of relative independence. So, from this view, the independence is actually relative, not the connection. The Cosmos is absolute in its relation.
There is a clear difference between the order we create and the natural order. It is fairly difficult to sum up the natural order, but the human order tends to have some common qualities: linear, planar, mechanical, rigid, contrived, functional, formal but also chaotic. This is not to suggest that the organic order doesn’t play a role in human creation, that would be a position difficult to defend. We are, in a sense, made up of both. The mechanical order emerged from the organic order through thought and representation and it has had tremendous utility, but it is our blessing and curse. I feel the future of humanity is a discovery of how to bring these two orders into better harmony.
The mechanical order is lifeless, repeatable and empty. The organic is rich, flowing and has tremendous depth and breadth. The diversity of markings on birds and butterflies exceeds the entire body of modern art and does not easily fall into categories.
My burden has been the escape or transcend the mechanical. At a young age I was dominated by fear and this tended to mechanize aspects of myself – leading me toward an overemphasis on technical skill in art. I felt quite a bit of emptiness as I tried to create art with emotion and feeling through skill or through a technical understanding of composition or movement. Something was missing. This set me on a 15 year quest to understand myself and consciousness better to find something beyond the mechanical, because I could never get from the mechanical to the organic, from the mind to the heart, in other terms.
I am a cerebral person, so this has not been an easy journey, but the transition from wildlife to contemporary does feel freeing. This does not mean that I have discarded the mechanical. Swan is a kind of harmony between these two orders, possessing complementary qualities from the mechanical and the organic. It is neither truly representational, nor truly abstract. It is based on compound curves and surfaces, yet still has a formal order, maintaining symmetry.
We are all drawn to beauty. But what is beauty?
Is beauty just appearance, or is it much more? Is there not beauty in a kind act; in the way we relate to each other? Is there not beauty in function, in immeasurable complexity and elegant activity of the human body, from our DNA to our brain? Is there not beauty in the fact that our galaxy and its star production depend on a supermassive blackhole at its center, that the stability of our earth depends on the moon and all life depends on the light and warmth of the sun? Is that not all beauty?
Is beauty in the observer or the observed? Does beauty depend on structuring, interpretations, and high-level opinions and preferences of the mind? Or is beauty in the observed? Perhaps beauty covers the activity of observation, encompassing both. Is there not beauty in the very fact and possibility of observation?
When you think of beauty in a relative and comparative way it's hard to avoid concluding it is only in the perceiver with their idiosyncrasies acquired through culture and evolution. But is this the only way of seeing beauty?
Beauty has significance, tremendous significance. There is beauty in interconnection and interdependence. We live in, and as, a cosmos that is threaded together from the smallest fiber to the largest structure. There is beauty in our state of being — in silent awareness and presence. Beauty IS.
If something is striking, it has the power to suspend the mind. And when the mind is still, it has the power to see beauty in all things. The experience of beauty seems to be accompanied by a sense of significance, simplicity, sacredness and clarity. The observation of beauty not only shows what is, but also what can be. What humanity can be.
With humility, I am exploring what beauty is with its sensuality, balance, subtlety, mystery, fluidity, simplicity, grace, and elegance. My guide in creating is often ‘what looks or feels right’. But where does this sense come from and is it shared, universal? Is it solely the product of evolution and experience? Or is a sense for beauty more fundamental? No doubt, much of what we speak of as beauty is relative and dependent, but is there beauty beyond the relative?
In the observation, the state of beauty, there is almost a compulsion to share in the state. I would like to share my observation with you.
Can something be simple, yet compelling? That is a question and challenge that inspires some of my current work. “Unity” is one answer to this question. It is a contemporary exploration into the simplicity of pure design. The piece’s goal was to remain simple yet captivating and engaging. Even something very complex can have a simple essence.
“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.” – Einstein (reduced form by Roger Sessions)
There is an apparent union of simplicity with complexity. Something very complex may have simple principles, quality or essence. One of the activities of art is to lay bare a thing or an issues' essence, to distill it for observation. Comedy does this as well, reducing a complex issue that seems incomprehensible or unresolvable into a simple punchline of instant insight and laughter. I think this is something very important, to suspend the mind, if only briefly, for a perception, an insight or for beauty to shine through and between the complexity of meaning.
Our everyday life seems dominated by duality, but this says more about the ways we think and perceive than it does about actuality. Ancient mystics and even modern physics had to confront apparent dualities, contradictions and realize an underlying complementarity, where two opposing views must be seen as having a unitary underlying reality, even if our mind cannot resolve that paradox.
I’ve always been captivated by art that exhibits opposing and seemingly contradictory qualities in a balanced and harmonious way. This quality is also what makes people and life in general interesting. Underlying this is the principle, yin-yang
“Yin-Yang describes seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they may give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another.”
I’m experimenting with keeping the following qualities in balance:
Stillness – Movement
Simplicity – Complexity
Softness – Firmness
Balance – Imbalance
Subtlety – Boldness
Ease – Tension
Independence – Dependence
Organic – Inorganic
Linear – Nonlinear
There is movement. This is a fundamental truth. My view is there is grand, vital, immeasurable flow and things and people are abstractions from this movement. We are not just part of this movement but are this movement. This is where we reach the limits of language.
We mistakenly resist and ignore that change is inevitable. We imagine how things should be and deceive ourselves about how things are. We attach ourselves to ideas and images of what is and then suffer as a result. The observer and observed are movement.
I enjoy creating work that is unpredictable. I want a viewer to be surprised as they walk around a piece or as the piece rotates. We find things uncompelling if we can quickly and easily understand and conceive of them. The same is true in relationship and in life. What makes life interesting is that it is not reducible. We seek spontaneity. But we also seek stability. The stability is that things are as they are. The surprise is in our discovering and experiencing of them.
UNITY AND FRAGMENTATION
Our world seems dominated by fragmentation, division, and conflict, which has persisted for millennium. This fragmentation has its roots in thought, language, and specifically, identification.
Our relationship to the world and others is actually our relationship with ourselves. The ultimate fact is that the division and conflict exist in the mind and then projects outwardly. Our individual and collective mind is fragmented and in conflict, this is the origin.
If one’s mind is ‘still’, this fragmentation dissolves. This is the place where the artist and viewer meet, as well as the viewer with other viewers. A place of communion, where the cosmos opens and the individual recedes.
I am inspired to see and share hidden unity behind apparent division.
Observational and theoretical sciences act as a strong influence and have inspired representational pieces such as Convergence, Ribbon of Life, Radiolarian, Neuronic and Attraction.
Nature is the ultimate source of creation and observation is the basis for all the arts and sciences. Recognizing this truth forces a certain humility, as an artist, scientist or human. Science is the investigation of Actuality and the focused effort to understand and organize it. Its movement reveals aspects and viewpoints that would be missed without its approach. There is a near infinite richness to the Cosmos and seeing or understanding it at different scales or from different points of view lets us peer into the endless mystery that we have found ourselves in. I maintain that Actuality is much more creative, surprising, splendid and, actual, than any mythology devised by the human mind.
The scientific method is unmatched in its ability to unravel the mysteries of the Cosmos, but we should be careful in applying its reductive and analytical method to form a final view of life and Actuality. It is a method that uses certain analytical tools that inevitable breaks things into mechanical bits and their relationship within well or ill defined domains. As a descriptive method this will continue to be successful for a very long time, but it does not necessarily make an absolute statement about the Cosmos - it still remains a description and the description is never the described.
I am excited to create more works that draw their inspiration from science.
What a thing is not, is as important as what it is. The negative space that intimately envelopes a piece helps define it. In the same way that silence gives meaning to sound, stillness and emptiness give meaning to a thing. This applies to people too. Discipline and virtue are as much about what someone is not, as it is about what they are.
There is always a relationship between the thing and its absence. I try to give attention to the negative space created by a form and attempt to make this as compelling as the form itself.
It has value to contemplate something in the context of emptiness. For example, how would I experience this taste, or seeing a living thing for the first time if I had nothing to compare it to? Imagine traveling the universe and only seeing dead planets and then seeing one single flower on a moon. It would be a sight impossible to comprehend, but we take for granted this sight everyday.
It is an interesting thought or experience experiment. Paradoxically, having no context (of the simulation of it) can give a new perspective and the ability to see something afresh.