Thoughts About: Art

Artist Statement about Chemistry Series

I have been told that it reads like a lesson, but background is important.

Nietzsche pronounced, “God is dead.”  In his time, he saw that religion failed to keep up with the state of knowledge and needs of Humanity. Stephen Hawking, contemporary renowned physicist and thinker, has recently made the declaration that “Philosophy is dead;” similarly, philosophy has failed to meet the needs and knowledge of Humanity today. With impotent religions and obsolete philosophies, we are left with our own humanity and the compiled factual knowledge and wisdom of our forebears to help us find our way. Consistent with Nietzsche and Hawking’s dramatic proclamations, the driving undercurrents of today’s culture are related to technology and science.  They are the magics that support everything from our agriculture, commerce, and the media used by PBS and the increasingly popular mega churches. Even music and art are reliant upon the workings of technology with computer-numeric-controlled manufacture of violins, chemically engineered paints, inks, and resins, and the digital recording and distribution of performances. In the most traditional harpsichord workshops of Europe, copyrighted formulations of plastic are used for the very plectra that voice the strings (See composition of plectra in instrument specifications  of the Paris Workshop.).
Despite the exhaustive integration and dependence upon science and technology in our culture, there is uneasiness if not outright fear of it in many communities, especially in the humanities, and far right and far-green politics. Among the general populace are those who use computers, automobiles, and cell phones everyday that have only a vague understanding of their workings. We’re rather like a culture of alchemists wishing our way through the world on inklings and passions with little substantial understanding of how our environment works.  In fact, there are sweeping movements shunning empirically derived knowledge altogether, rather like the biblioclasms that have plagued civilization since the attacks on the Library of Alexandra in 48 BC and the House of Wisdom, in Baghdad in 1258 AD. Ironically, the growth of these movements is supported by the most current available information technologies coupled with the reflexive psychology of fear and reward.
Historically, human beings have demonstrated the capacity to know, choose, and control science and technology (or whatever the prevailing paradigm), and therefore, master culture itself. Science and Technology are not the property of a secret class of laboratory-bound geek eunuchs.  Science and Technology are siblings (knowledge and craft) that can empower us to shape our world and our selves, if we accept them and embrace their value.  The historical and highest calling of the artist is to generate culture rather than to simply reflect it. In effort to help reclaim Art’s proactive and generative role in culture, my art offers reconciliation between art and science.
Themes in my work range from busts of champions of Humanity and Science like Nikola Tesla, to sculptures of our hominid ancestors that combine both modern forensic reconstruction technique and the expressiveness associated with traditional figurative art.
My current works explore chemistry through portraiture. Chemical elements hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon are portrayed as assemblages of classicized human features. The number of sets of features on each element relates to the chemical properties of that element. For example, Hydrogen has one set of features, relating to its one free electron and subsequent reactivity. Similarly, Oxygen has two sets of features for oxygen’s two reactive electrons, and Carbon, four sets.  The features represent propensity for chemical reaction as our facial features enable environmental and social interaction. These portraits are then combined in the spirit of traditional ball-and-stick molecular models to form water (H2O) and glucose (C6H12O6).  The proximity of the portraits of elements in social groups suggests interactions and bonds among atoms within a molecule.
Through my work, I try to communicate that knowledge can replace outmoded and destructive paradigms such as fear and literally interpreted mythos. We perceive the world with our squid-like eyes and neurochemical brain (that possesses identical composition to that of rats) and perceive beauty and hatred and make remarkably similar judgments of good and evil whether we are atheists, agnostics, or deists.  My work asks people to embrace what we can all clearly share: knowledge, passion, biochemistry and unquenchable curiosity.

Posted on 03/26/11 _________________________________________________________________________________________________