My conceptual pursuits center on the inexplicable. Humans question in order to find satisfaction in learning and understanding. This is how we develop as children and also how we progress as a society. Answerable questions become building blocks for more sophisticated questions, which eventually lead to reasonable solutions. Earlier solutions remain relevant only in a historical sense. Above all, the most ubiquitous questions are those that can never be definitively answered. These are woven into the fabric of our culture and become the basis for such uniquely human pursuits as religion, ethics, philosophy, politics, and science. For many, the very act of enquiry is a sublime process.
My work attempts to identify and exemplify many of the more inscrutable mysteries of everyday life. I hope to distinguish common threads of recognition and understanding in order to exploit those associations, thus leaving the viewer with a number of open-ended questions. Our lives are not logically linear, there is seldom closure, and rarely is there a clear-cut answer to life’s next critical issue. These qualities might lead to frustration, but being on the edge of decision is more stimulating and probably more meaningful than retrospection.
Just as I am determined to avoid didacticism in my work, I feel a responsibility to encourage certain interpretations by guiding viewers through specific narratives. Interiors become “deja vu” spaces, along with a false sense of security. My symbols may only symbolize symbols, but they imply great meaning and proffer intellectual emotion. Objects assimilate human qualities, including distinctive quirks and foibles. A sense of threat often seems imminent, but never really materializes. Humor is present, but it is not clear how or why. Some aspects of these veritable enigmas make total sense while others do not, just as most “real life” experience unfolds illogically. Like in poetry, there are as many interpretations as there are readers; none totally correct, none totally incorrect, all valid in that the search for understanding becomes the creative act. Bewilderment can function as a valid aesthetic experience.
Because of these concerns, my work continues to remain visually objective and conceptually narrative. In the beginning, the challenge to create narratives within still images was met by finding scenarios that could be likened to a phrase or sentence, as if from the middle of a much larger story. Later, I found that a longer time line could actually be generated be physically constructing miniature environments, sequenced and kinetically active with motors and lights. Now I have found digital animation an answer to more extended narrative goals.
My educational background was focussed on the fine arts of drawing and printmaking. Encouraged in these areas as a student, I became deeply involved in the process of craft as a vehicle for expression. It is my nature to invest large amounts of time and to use a great number of processes as a program for refined solution. For years, I used two-dimensional space as a place to employ realism in an ongoing description of this unreal world. Theories of linear perspective were just one set of tools employed in an effort to build believability, yet the need to expand this world into the dimension of time became more important.
Not dexterous enough to render thousands of pages of hand drawn animation, I struck on the notion of creating miniature environments and began the first in a series of twenty-six constructions built over twenty-four years. Each fifteen-inch cube in the series contained a realistic, miniaturized room interior, created at a scale of about one inch to one foot. Except for titles on the outside, the pieces were all identical, giving no clues to the scenes contained within. Lights and motors activated by the viewer from a switch at the top of the piece animated unusual scenarios placed in commonplace settings, such as a bedroom or a basement. A single peephole allowed composition and organization as in two-dimensional work, yet three dimensions heightened realism and drama.
In the mid 1990s, I became aware of three-dimensional modeling and animation software. With no intention of replacing my current media, I saw a potential in the creation of perspective underlays for my drawings, a time consuming process when done by hand. I soon became engaged with the 3D modeling process and saw the possibilities for generating complete, rendered images. Though the application’s tools were “virtual,” they clearly paralleled real world tools and construction processes. I approached these digital works with the intention of only creating still images, in a sense replacing the hand drawn prints and drawings. Considerable time was spent in the research of consistency and archival issues of ink jet printing in an effort to apply traditional notions appropriate to the printmaking aesthetic. I created thirty-four of these limited edition prints, over nine years time.
In 2002, I finally felt prepared to begin animation using this three-dimensional digital medium, and it remains my current mode of expression. Now I am able to create a facsimile of reality that extends the visual narrative temporally, coupled with considerable visual veracity. It is a medium limited only by skill and imagination. Years of composing still images encourages me to see each frame, or point in time, as a discreet visual statement that might exist on it’s own merit. Having always been engaged with process, I am willing to invest generous amounts of time in the satisfaction of this refinement. Just as a craftsman becomes enamored with tools and materials, I am fascinated with the tools within the software application, never feeling I will quite master them all yet willing to give it a try. This medium also allows me to add the important element of sound. Earlier experience with music recording prepared me for concepts, techniques and nuances of audio manipulation. This synthesis of dynamic visual imagery and sound is a force that defines contemporary media. I have now completed a number of animated narratives and have never been more excited about my work.
Contrary to some misconceptions, the process is quite time consuming. “The Realm of Possibility” (2009), took eight months to complete. Hundreds of hours of creation time can be added to hundreds of hours of computer processing time, all directed toward the result of less than ten minutes of animation, but for me, every minute gratifying. I see this process as a kind of distillation of creative intention and energy with an end result that indicates completion to the very best of my own ability. Though I enjoy the challenge of an extended project, it is comforting to see the scrolling rows and columns of individuals needed in the production of any feature length commercial animation.
Most three-dimensional computer animation seems to exist in the categories of Hollywood special effects, science fiction, cartoons, gaming, advertising or rather narrow niches of popular culture. The ability to bring a fine art background to a medium which has great potential for meaningful expression places me in a rather unique position to challenge stereotypes, create legitimacy, and add to the artist’s list of potentially expressive media. Other professional animation work with which I compete is remarkably technical, due to greater resources of time and economics, but my successes have proven that content and originality are, as always, a most valuable commodity in art. My animation, “The Whole Truth,” was included in the 2008 Prix Ars Electronica international festival of arts and new media in Linz, Austria. This work competed with and screened along side work from large production houses such as Sony Imageworks, Framestore, Beijing Film Academy, Supinfocom, Gobelins/Talantis Films, and others.
Because the professional promotion of this medium differs considerably with past museum and gallery experience, the film festival venue has proven to be a credible alternative for distribution, accreditation and critical response. I have become more familiar with the independent film industry and the prestigious festivals promoting those filmmakers. “The Whole Truth” (2009), has won a number of awards and has been included in twenty festivals to date. These festivals represent regional, national and international venues.
Starting my career as a printmaker was partially based on the appealing notion that many people could share one visual statement. Sharing digital work is now a worldwide reality. This intersects with my goal to affect as many people as possible by creating work with an accessible artifice. Presumably, an artifice that falls away to encourage speculation, reflection and insight.
As my work evolves, I will continue to investigate the mysteries of human experience, yet would be very surprised to find any final answers.
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