March 8, 2012

The art of a lifetime (so far)......

Even when I was a child, I had a strong interest in science and engineering. I always had a talent for drawing. As a teenager, I got interested in becoming an artist (I also got interested in becoming an economist, but that didn't have worked out purely on principle). I wanted to go to art school, but my art was not "critically acclaimed" enough to impress people. I have a very technical style of drawing that I freely interchange with "cartoonish" features and obscure references to create what I consider art. It is very much the opposite of the good aesthetic form and practice typically learned in art school.

My art avocation has been expressed in two periods. I have posted most of these works on my personal website. The first was from 1998-2003. During this period, I focused on using mathematical/ technical concepts and hand-drawn (digitized) cartoons to create abstract art. The following works are examples of this:

 "Meltdown meets the Domino Effect"

"Sequential Spike"

"Chaz Rodders II"

"Van Gogh meets the Samurai"

Some of these works (e.g. Van Gogh meets the Samurai) resemble the narrative structure of conventional sequential art. Others (e.g. Poincare Recurrence) feature made-up characters as actors in scientific theories and real-life situations. Still others (e.g. Chaz Rodders II) feature made-up characters as actors in purely fantastical scenarios.

The is a gap comprising the years 2003 through 2008. The reason: PhD programs (e.g. coursework, finding a research voice) are time-consuming. Since I spent time in a lab that developed and experimented with virtual worlds, there is probably something in this experience to inspire some interesting artwork that I will explore over time.

The second period was from 2009-present. During this period, I started focusing more on merging pop culture and images from the internet into composite, abstract images. The following works are examples of this:

"Judgement Day"

"Obscure References, obscure references, obscure references!"

"Crazy Eyes"

"Razor-faced Spy"

"Decapod vs. Cephalopod"

These works take less time to create, and also reflect a more conventional "mash-up" style. I have also taken to interesting juxtapositions that have little semantic value but have other, more subtle relationships. For example, in "Crazy Eyes", there are three characters (Egon Spengler from "Ghostbusters", a robot avatar from Second Life, and Kramer from Seinfeld) that share a certain physical set of congruities. Other works (e.g. Razor-faced Spy, Obscure References 3x) are simply modifications to references and icons from pop culture.

Having said that, I feel that art is about more than pure subjectivity. I feel that artistic creativity has an underappreciated value in science and engineering. I had a professor at the University of Florida (Dr. Paul Fishwick) who has developed an approach to programming called Aesthetic Computing. Aesthetic Computing uses artistic representations to map out data structures, algorithms, and algebraic relationships. I have found that this approach is somewhat useful in conveying complicated scientific concepts and theoretical advances to audiences from diverse backgrounds (e.g. biologists and mathematicians). I am also a fan of using devices such as the Feynman diagram to describe advanced mathematical concepts. In the future, I would like to take my early period style of art and apply it to problems I have encountered as an academic scientist. This is fertile territory for the communication and popularization of science, mathematics, and advanced technologies, so if anyone out there is interested in developing this further, contact me.

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