‘Sculptural objects from patterns in nature’ – that’s the tagline of the hour. Everything I produce is supposed to relate back to that central concept, but somewhere in the material experimentation and production this year, it felt like that focus took a back seat to getting a volume of work out. My resolution for this coming year is to return to that concept and really explore in depth how far it can be pushed visually, and if it needs revising. One thing I know I’m bumping up against is that it appears to be too vague, and too common – everybody borrows from nature, so what’s unique about how I do it?
Canned Beets & Rabbit being cured for consumption. It’s the circle of life, baby.
Some of my favorite sources for inspiration are 19th century zoological drawings, like those of Earnst Haeckle, and images captured with electron microscopes. I’m sure that if I hadn’t gone into the arts, I would have been a natural scientist. Growing up being cut loose in the St. Croix River Valley, swimming across the river (don’t do that, it’s stupid!), scaling limestone cliffs, discovering animal signs and bird languages, biology was a close runner-up in college. Because of this, wildlife conservation is very close to my heart, and disrespect of the environment profoundly angers me. These feelings drive me to want to take up a cause in my work as well, so there’s a lot to distill down into a simple catch-phrase.
These test tubes have become the temporary homes for a colony of brine shrimp.
There’s also a lot of art-science cross-over out there. Eduardo Kac (the glow-in-the-dark bunny guy), Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr of SymbioticA at the U of Western Australia, are three of the better known examples working in this vein (pun intended). The BioArt Lab at SVA, in New York, is another institution raising the profile of BioArt in the U.S. While I don’t have access to a high-profile program like these, I’ve been a fan of using grade-school science experiments to try growing small organisms, moss, algae, mold, bacteria and salts in deliberately artful ways. You can set up your own DIY bio-lab for about $500.00 and try these things too.
The next few installments of this blog will be to present working drafts of some of the concepts that I’m trying to nail down. These aren’t definitive, they are living documents, and will most certainly change in the next year, but I feel like I have to drill down into these layers of analogy to get at the heart of what I’m trying to say. There’s some universal theory I’m on the cusp of uncovering at the bottom of the pile, but can’t quite see yet. Once I grasp the outline of this idea, I think I’ll be better positioned to explain my concept in relation to what I actually produce. They don’t quite integrate with each other yet – there’s necessary work to do here before I can move on?