Our information-decoding minds are naturally attuned to pattern in the world around us. Finding pattern and information within noise is deeply rewarding–and a critical survival skill. Work in the Scan series considers pattern-detection in the context of linguistic symbols. Abstracted text elements from construction material labels are transformed into powerful, elegant forms that tempt the viewer to decode and decipher. Expanding beyond the linguistic context, Scan 5.1 incorporates pattern and information from architectural elements found in the urban landscape.
Every time we drive the Chicago Skyway, I attempt to take images of the industrial corridor around Gary, IN. I can’t resist the intricate geometry and repetition in the steel structures. The concepts of permanence and ephemerality are also present in the mismatch between the encoded information about structure and stability and longevity and the evidence of disrepair and decay and ruin.
In Scan 5.1, a collaged composition of abstracted architectural elements and linguistic elements, presents a broader approach to information-finding and and an entirely optimistic view of our interaction with place: there is beauty and information in structure. The geometry of a central pulley is reduced to its essence. Cut in warm ambers and animated with small points of iridescence, the form is re-imagined as an organic element. Stringer creates a lattice work, a kind of urban vine, based on smaller steel and cable structures. Grout creates the image of massive beams with the negative space completed in glass. Abstracted linguistic forms were cropped to emphasize curved and linking elements, pointing to the idea of letter forms as organic forms with endless creative potential.
My daughter and I attended an awe-inspiring 2 1/2 hour concert by the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra on Sunday evening. My daughter is in her fourth year of cello and has a truly gifted friend playing violin with the CYSO. We had no idea what we were in for. After the thrilling and familiar Tchaikovsky (Symphony No 4 in F minor) performed by the Concert Orchestra, the Symphony Orchestra (seriously?! there’s an even more advanced group of these ridiculously talented young musicians!?) performed music from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey with work by Gyorgy Ligeti, Aram Kachaturian and Richard Strauss. The work is instantly recognizable and watching it take form on stage was spell-binding. Neither the Ligeti nor Strauss pieces adhere to typical symphonic structure. Ligeti’s Atmospheres is described as sound mass–incredibly complex, layered points of sound are massed into a sound shape with tremendous depth and texture. Richard Strauss’ Also sprach Zarathustra was played in its entirety–another seriously complicated, densely textured tonal poem. Conductor Allen Tinkham spoke briefly about the CYSO philosophy of music education as not about reading many, many individual notes, but about learning how to read individual notes as ideas that lead to more ideas and add up to big ideas.
Love that. And see a tiny connection with how my work is progressing technically. It is critical that individual cut pieces, or tessera, are understood within the broader context of the full composition with each piece contributing to coherent progression in the movement of line or construction of form. Each individual piece contributes to the whole idea and in that each cut matters.
Attending a concert always raises the issue of the interplay between ephemerality and permanence for me. This music has been experienced by countless music-enthusiasts across the decades…and centuries. And each experience has been a unique interaction between score, conductor, musicians, instruments, performance space and acoustics, audience and individual listeners. A magical evening, now gone. In my work with glass, idea and aesthetic are permanently encoded in glass and grout. The work will, however, shift and shimmer with light and movement, offering the viewer a moment soon gone, yet filled with radiance.
Full images of Impel 5.1 | 12″ x 24″ can be seen here.
The concept for Scan 5.1 is taking shape. The Scan series is about detecting pattern and information using a linguistic context. Scan 5.1 extends the idea of finding information to the urban landscape. Forms were abstracted from a bridge or pulley or crane that I attempt to photograph every time we drive over the Chicago Skyway and get a glimpse into the awe-inspiring industrial landscape around Gary, IN.
This particular commission is a wedding gift and a bridge certainly works as an interesting metaphor: a carefully designed and rigorously constructed structure to support, connect and move across an otherwise inaccesible span. Aesthetically, this will be an urban, collaged piece with significant black grout component. Getting to the right resolution for a small 14″ x 14″ piece presents some challenges. The plan is to use grout as the positive space and gray tint glass as the negative space for the element on the left. Stringer will be used to create the intricate structure on the right side of the piece. The pulley form was reduced down to a geometric shape that could be rendered in glass. Cut in pale amber and medium iridescent amber, I am expecting it to read as an organic element as well as an industrial form. This connects with the idea of beauty in structure.
I really need my micro-moment images in the fantastic overwhelm of spring to find specific geometries and patterns that at any bigger scale are impossibly intricate and complicated.
I’m working on a next step in my Scan series. Scan originated as an exploration of our inclination to detect and decode pattern using a linguistic context. This impulse to decipher abstracted letter forms leads to the cognitive engagement I strive for in my work. Scan 3.0 is a series of collaged abstracted letter forms using paint and ungrouted glass. I loved how glass literally layers against the painted elements, functioning as both a form and a lens to access additional information.
I want to figure out the grouted version of this work. The challenge is the limited resolution for layering using only cut glass elements. I have experimented with using underpainted elements but there are technical issues with not being able to use thinset and not having a perfectly clear adhesive alternative. An under-painted image in a grouted piece is also difficult to perceive at small scale.