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Don Relyea: Art Technologist

In Art, Feature on March 14, 2009 at 4:53 pm

Blue Recursive #4 by Don Relyea

Blue Recursive #4 by Don Relyea


“A man paints with his brains and not with his hands”

— Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564)


Rotation 8 by Don Relyea


Art Unfolding

Commentary by Don Relyea


I spend a lot of time thinking about what I want to say with my art. Sometimes it is simply a visual statement of how I feel at the time, sometimes it is a direct response to what I see going on in the world. As part of my practice I consider weaving cultural, social and political dimensions into my work. I am also very influenced by nature and mathematical forms.

I create my art with c++ in an open source project called openframeworks, subsequently my primary tool for art creation is a compiler.I have had a day job as an engineer/developer of applications and games since the early 90’s. For some time I resisted mixing my technical skills with my art practice in favor of traditional mediums. I hit a low point after the dot com crash where I had a lot of computers and no money to buy art supplies. At that time it clicked that I should just make art with what I had.

As an artist who is rooted in traditional mediums (printmaking and painting) my creation process, at least from a methodology standpoint, has remained unchanged even though I now use a compiler to create instead of a brush or printmaking tools. I decide what I am trying to say, chose a set of tools (algorithms, and C++ classes) to create and get busy.

Hairy Bush (detail)

Hairy Bush (detail)

With political works I already know what I am going to say so it is a matter of fine tuning imagery and algorithms though programming. With the hair particle drawing (demo) of Bush I chose and fine tuned a very specific algorithm for unwanted hair to make a very pointed political statement. I don’t always tie the algorithm to my statement as tightly as this but if I can incorporate it somehow I usually try.

Paulson (detail)

Paulson (detail)

“Stick ’em Up” is a direct gut reaction to the first 700 billion US bank/ Wall St. bailout by Paulson, Bush and Bernanke. I started work on this piece before it was confirmed into law. With “Stick ’em Up” (image and image detail) I wanted to make a large piece that would read well from a distance but present the viewer with an abstraction of the bigger picture up close. I employed a particle based process that re-draws an image using a generated matrix of concentric monochromatic rectangles, this code was developed as part of the Monochrome Generator. The concentric rectangles blend at a distance into tones.

Stick Em Up

Stick 'Em Up

The cowboy bodies in “Stick ’em Up” are from The Great Train Robbery (1903), directed and photographed by Edwin S. Porter from the close of the movie where the leader of the outlaw band, takes aim and fires point blank at the audience.

Rotation #5

Rotation #5

My 3d slit scan project employs twisted, fragmented, swirling 3d plastic shapes with a “wild style graffiti” feel to the composition. This body of work is about a general feeling I have had for the past year, a feeling that the world around me is flying apart. The technical process (interactive demo) behind it is more closely related to traditional slit scan photography methods very similar to Ansen Seale’s work, except that instead of sampling fragments of time from video or high speed photography I sample from a generated world of 3d primitives. I have been working on this project for a year off and on with each tweak of the algorithm taking the image to a more twisted and turbulent feel.


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