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Autodidact Chat: Andrew Reach Interviews Max Eternity (part 2)

In Art, Feature, Interview on December 30, 2009 at 10:21 am

“Start Stop #5b”

***

Okay, so we’re back.  Hello again, I’m Andrew Reach, artist and architect, and I”m here continuing my conversation with Max Eternity, founder of Art Digital Magazine.

In “part 1” of our interview Max and I talked about his childhood–how he found his way into becoming an artist, and what it has been like for him being an autodidact polymath in an age of specialization.  We also discussed some of the issues surrounding commercial gallery protocols and the importance of advocacy and education.

As the dialog continues we’ll take a look at some of his architectural renderings, also addressing what he calls “The Afro-Euro Fine Art Construct.”  And of course, we’ll talk a bit more about art theory and the future of digital technologies.

“Start Stop #5a”

***

____________________________________________________________

Autodidact Chat:

Artist-Architect Andrew Reach Interviews

Polymath Max Eternity (pt 2)

by Andrew Reach

____________________________________________________________

AR: I’ve been looking at your architectural compositions that you’ve shared with me–created using Google Sketch-up. I’d like to ask you about them, because I find the pieces rather intriguing. Your composition “Lean” has a narrow rectangular base topped by a Cubic form that aligns flush on the short sides of the rectangular base. On the long sides of the rectangular base it cantilevers on one side and leans out on the other. The volumes are fenestrated with bars, dots, stripes and concentric boxes. Each elevation has a different pattern. Is this a building? Is it sculpture? Or are you blurring the lines?

“Lean” (architectural illustration #6)

ME:  That’s a great description, really pointing out the essence of the building’s sculptural elements.  It’s observant of you, and thank you for those kind and generous words about the piece.

Answering your question, this illustration is a sculptural rendering of a building.

In its present form, it’s an illustration, 2’D visual art, though it’s also the blueprint for a sculpture and a CAD rendering for a building.

Now in regards to how the piece was made, I must say even though Google Sketch-up is not the best architectural program for rendering photo-realistic imagery, it is the best for creating architectural designs in an intuitive manner.

Of course, like a tube or can of paint, the software and computer don’t do the work.  The technique and talent comes from the mind of the artist-creator.  However, just like a good paint brush and quality canvas make for a better portrait, user-friendly software does the same.

“Lean” (architectural illustration #1)

AR: Let’s continue that line of thought about the function of technology.  Could you tell us how you use digital technology to advocate for social justice?

ME:  For a freelance article I’m working on, I provide a quote by Nelson Mandela, where he says

“In the twenty-first century, the capacity to communicate will almost certainly be a key human right. Eliminating the distinction between the information-rich and information-poor is also critical to eliminating economic and other inequalities between North and South, and to improve the life of all humanity.”

It’s a very powerful statement that Mandela made.  And in response I coined the term “Electronic Apartheid” as a simple way to describe what I’ve witnessed in recent years.  This is to say, a shift in the way basic services are being purveyed is currently under way.  In so far that what used to require no computer or typing skills, now require both, as many basic services are now provided and applied for online.  So the simple task of filling out applications for jobs or doing research for school means being able to afford the hardware and software required to do these things.

There is abundant data that shows great disparities of wealth between Blacks and Whites, so it doesn’t take rocket science to figure out that Blacks are disproportionately being affected by digital literacy and associated access therein.

That said, a solution that I’ve put forth where I live, Atlanta, is a digital arts program for underprivileged children.  It’s been a long process, yet I’ve had the good fortune to meet Mayor Shirley Franklin, and she has directed—after 5 years of my advocacy—the Office of Cultural Affairs to implement a pilot program based on my syllabus.

“Step Aside #1”

AR: African Americans have historically been relegated to the sidelines of art history. You shared a documentary with me about this called Colored Frames, highlighting brilliant artists from the civil war to the present and the road blocks and prejudices they have had to endure. And the disparity still exists in 2010.

The disparity of black “Superstars” in the art world between Blacks and Whites is beyond obvious. There was Jean-Michel Basquiat, and currently Kehinde Wiley has received some critical acclaim. There are a few more I can name, but the point is, there are way too few black talents getting into the galleries.

What are your thoughts on this?

ME:  I am not a sociologist, just an experienced observer, which is to say that I do not have all the answers as to why this has occurred.  The easy answer is to say it’s racism.  But in today’s terms, what does that mean beyond being called the “N” word?  Consequentially, I would say to anyone wishing to learn about this particular dynamic, that they take the time to watch the Colored Frames documentary, because in my opinion, this film really seems to have captured the essence of these types of occurrences–this painfully biased legacy.

In addition to this, if one is interested in learning more about the Afro-Euro fine art construct–the role African art played in the founding of European Modernism, I would recommend reading the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Helibrunn Timeline,  the section written by Denise Murell.

“Step Aside #6”

AR: You mentioned earlier how Marcel Breuer’s Atlanta-Fulton Central Public Library captured your imagination as a child. You are among those on the front lines on a long fought fight for its preservation. To this, you mention on ADMAG that you are an autodidact. Did you frequent this library as a child to teach yourself things you couldn’t learn in school? And what was it about this building that struck your imagination?  Also,  could you give us an update of the status of its preservation?

The Atlanta-Fulton Central Public Library (Google screen capture)

ME:  Well, I wasn’t exactly a child in the literally sense.  I was a teenager about 15 or 16 when I first saw the building from the outside.

Words cannot describe…the building is epic in every way.   And after an intense couple of years of advocacy, I’m happy to say that my 17-paged nomination to the World Monuments Fund was well received, resulting in the building being added to the 2010 World Monuments Fund WATCH List.  At just 29 years old, it’s the youngest of all the nearly 100 sites, one dating back 2 million years, to be added on that registry.

Breuer completed the site in 1980, when I was 14 and just starting high school.  He died a year later, and a year after that I got my drivers license and starting hanging out in the city.  However, it wasn’t until I had rented the basement of a warehouse on Trinity Avenue, a few blocks away from the building, that I actually went inside and starting reading the books—people watching—learning about the formalities of art and design.

Now about being an autodidact, that simply means being self-taught to a certain level of proficiency—basically having the equivalent of a college degree(s) without actually having gotten a degree(s).

For me, it’s been the best way to learn, because formal education never worked well in my favor.  I mean, I was always put in classes with the smart kids and I was tested with an exceptionally high IQ, yet I almost flunked out of high school, even though I loved learning.

That’s why I ended up teaching myself.  I love learning.

After high school I did attend college for about a year or so, but as strange as this may sound, I felt that college was getting in the way of my education.  It slowed me down.

“Black White Red #2c”

AR: Digital prints are changing the perception of what it means for a work of art to be called a fine art print, as it were. On a completely pragmatic level, you have recognized that we are in a period of the “wild west” when it comes to digital art.

There’s all this art being created in a way never done before in history, there’s the question of what will happen to these works of art making sure their physical integrity and monetary value is maintained for future generations to enjoy? What to do with all the digital data which is invisible to the viewer in the final ‘hard copy’ but nevertheless intrinsic to its creation and an important part of the prints provenance?

ME:  Indeed, these questions must be answered, although many good practices are already in place.  Structural organization does exist for those who want it, and yet as with all things, new information is constantly emerging.

“Black White Red #16”

AR:  You have tackled these and many other issues in a paper you wrote entitled Collecting Digital Prints and most recently you wrote a great piece for Artworks Magazine titled The Digital Dilemma.

This I would have to say, is digital missionary work.

How did you get the calling and could you give us a little more detail for everyone else what you lay out in these writings?

ME:  I love that term, “digital missionary”, and it certainly feels like that’s what I’ve been doing.

But ultimately, the best way to understand these writings is to read them.  ArtWorks Magazine is available at Barnes and Noble bookstores and most all of my other papers are available online to download for free.  Anyone can Google my name and these links will pop up all over the place.

Though to answer your question about how my excursions in prose came about.  Basically, it was a situation where I had been collecting notes and other forms of documentation since first discovering the Breuer Library some 25 years ago.  I had been a traditional artist even in elementary school, middle school and high school.  I was also into performing arts, in addition to my drawing, sculpting and painting.

By 1995 I had done my first digital painting and print.

I didn’t think I was an “expert” of anything until others started telling me how much I had taught them.  Then this all came to a head when I met Mayor Willie Brown of San Francisco, subsequently meeting artist adviser—Richard Weedman—when I returned back to Atlanta.  It was Richard, who essentially instructed me to start writing formally, so as to prepare myself for publication.

The rest is history, as they say.

“Into Forever #4”

AR: You are also an inventor, having shared one of your inventions with me. I’ve signed a non-disclosure agreement not to discuss any details of it, yet without giving away anything, I think I can safely say it is a product that utilizes digital technology in a very utilitarian way. Is the inventor side of you an outgrowth of your studies of the Bauhaus and modernism or were you always an inventive mind?

ME:  Design is the key.  Thinking in design and living a life that is design based, means incorporating visual beauty and technical finesse seamlessly.  Of course none of this comes with first attempts, but with practice and discipline, cultivating inventiveness can and will become second nature.

The Bauhaus has no exclusive claims to this experience.  That said, they did employ the concept exceptionally well.

AR: I understand December 2009 marks the YEAR ONE Anniversary of AD Mag. How did it begin, how do you find the artists you feature and what future plans do you have for it?

ME:  I began thinking of the concept that would become Art Digital Magazine about 4 or 5 years ago.  Initially I envisioned it to be a print publication on traditional paper, sold in major bookstores.  I never really turned away from that idea, though what did happen, is that I started to discover all these wonderful publications that were published exclusively online.

A light bulb went off, and I decided…hey, why not.

That was exactly one year ago and would you believe that the magazine has received over 12,000 hits in its first year with absolutely no advertising?  I mean, that really speaks to the hunger there is when it comes to a greater understanding of digital media and fine art.

As far as discovering new artist, I talk a lot and I know a lot of people, so that kinda makes it easy.

AD Mag book cover design (currently in production)

AR: When you first contacted me earlier this year to do a feature about me and my work in AD Mag I must say it was exciting to have been contacted out of the blue. I realized the reason I was so excited was not only being recognized for my work but also that this was an example of potential of the digital times we live in. I have a much easier ability to get my art out into the public realm now than in any time in history.

Do you think the internet is having a democratizing effect on art as people would argue it has for music and if so how does ADMAG fit into the picture?

ME: That’s a good question.  And particularly in your case when one observes an architect who’s also a digital painter, it tends to beg the question of what possibilities lie ahead.  Combing this then with the fact that you also have a disability that keeps you housebound, and yet you live this robust life with an active, successful career, and the evidence really becomes telling as to how many boundaries no longer exists.

If one can afford access, the internet is definitely a democratizing tool, provided you don’t live in China where there’s heavy censorship.

And as far as AD Mag is concerned, with an international roster of artist having been interviewed in the first year, including college professors and others scholars, I think it’s fair to say that AD Mag has a central role to play looking ahead.

AR: When you look back at the past year and all the artists you featured on ADMAG, it’s amazing to see the diversity of work, ideas, methods, software… and you begin to realize that the potential possibilities of the medium is broader than perhaps any other art form in history. There are digital technologies I’m sure that haven’t even been invented yet that will change things even further. Is this because the engineer element of TADAE factored in opens up so much potential?

ME:  It’s that, yes.  Yet more importantly, I would say that it’s a courageous curiosity that compels one down the road of the unknown.

“Colors #4”

AR: What place to you see digital art playing in the history of art in the 21st century?

ME:  Whoops, I just dropped my crystal ball.  Humm, so I don’t have an answer for that.  Thus I suppose, we will have to just wait and see.

AR:  That seems to be the way it works.

ME: Yep

AR: Well Max, I’ve totally enjoyed this conversation.   Good luck to you and the magazine.

ME:  Thanks, and Happy New Year!

AR: And a Happy New Year to you too!

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About Andrew Reach:

Andrew Reach, architect-artist (b.1961), spent his formative years in Miami. From an early age he had an appreciation of art, graphic design and architecture and enjoyed drawing and sketching as well.  Decades later, Andrew’s work has been exhibited in solo and international juried exhibitions in Miami, New York, San Francisco and Chicago.

On his way to becoming an architect, Reach studied at New York’s Pratt School of Art & Design.  And at various points in his architectural career, he worked with such notables as Yann Weymouth and Harold Zellman.

Reach was the Project Manager, who oversaw the building of the Frost Museum in Miami, also having been deeply involved in the restoration of a couple of houses by Lloyd Wright; son to Frank Lloyd Wright.  Reach was also directly responsible for the preservation of Wright’s Warwick Evans House and  the  Jascha Heitz studio, both located in Los Angeles.

Andrew and life companion, Bruce, now reside in Cleveland Ohio.


Autodidact Chat: Andrew Reach Interviews Max Eternity

In Art, Feature, Interview on December 21, 2009 at 12:23 pm

“Butterfly Kiss #6”

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My name is Andrew Reach, and I’m an architect-artist.  For the following interview, I invite you to join me in exploring the origins of AD Mag, as Art Digital Magazine reaches its YEAR ONE Anniversary.

I’ve been given in depth access to the maestro’s mind, where I’ll be delving into the inner workings of one of the world’s most complex, art figures practicing in the field to date. Which is to say that, for the occasion I’ve come aboard to conduct an exclusive interview with the founder of this publication–autodidact polymath, Max Eternity.

Eternity is a painter, sculptor, inventor, architectural illustrator, industrial designer, dancer, graphic designer, musician, singer, poet, published writer and art theorist, whose many contributions in art, advocacy and education serves as a visionary model of entrepreneurship.

Earlier this year he and I met when he interviewed me and featured my art on AD Mag.  So first I’d like to say thank you to Max for that, not only for the wonderful article about me but also for helping to educate me and others about a variety of topics relating to cultural heritage, electronic innovation and fine art, including the digital arts.  I’d also like to take a moment to express thanks, in that by creating AD Mag, Eternity has established an international forum for a wide range of artists and ideas.  So please join me now for what is sure to be a one-of-a-kind, memorable experience.

“When I Get to Heaven #10”

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Autodidact Chat:

Artist-Architect Andrew Reach Interviews

Polymath Max Eternity (pt 1)

by Andrew Reach

____________________________________________________________

AR:    Hello Max.

ME: Hi Andrew.

AR: You are a polymath in an age of specialization. Could you first tell us a little about your background that set the stage for your wide array of multidisciplinary talents?

ME:  As a child it was my dream to be a race car driver.  But an early childhood trauma left me legally blind in my right eye.  That trauma combined with other psychic wounds resulting from internalized negative messages originating from institutionalized racism and heterosexist social constructs at school, church, home and other places thrust me deep into inner contemplation before I had even entered the 1st grade.  From there the story splinters and becomes even more bizarre—mainly because while all this was happening on the inside, I was otherwise living a very “Leave it to Beaver” kind of life…albeit in a concrete housing project.

“Halcyon Atlantis #1”

AR:  Your writings: Collecting Digital PrintsTADAE, Negro-Electro’s Artistic Hypothesis and Visual Markers, and Bauhaus Evolution, are all like manifestos. I say this because, as you know, artists and thinkers in the 20th century organized in allied groups—Blue Rider, the Surrealists, the Bauhaus–for the purpose of promoting their paradigm shifting ideas.

In September you also wrote an article for ArtWorks magazine entitled “The Digital Dilemma.”  Yet, I don’t know of many thinkers there are like you who are hypothesizing about the digital age in regards to visual fine art.  That said, do you see your writings as a catalyst to promote a new paradigm for the 21st century where the rules are once again being totally rewritten because of technological changes?

ME:  Is it deliberate on my behalf to personally imprint my belief on others, no…absolutely not.  And yet, when one injects his or her thoughts in the public sphere, inevitably those ideas will either be ignored, embraced, rejected or stared at weirdly.

Though I do hear what you’re saying about manifestos, and certainly your point is well taken.  Nevertheless, I think more than a manifesto is a rhetoric that’s sweet to the ears, it is the underlying substance that functions to support the written or stated manifesto–which ultimately will suffice the longevity of such realizations via natural selection and intellectual meritocracy.

AR: I was trained as an architect, practiced architecture for over almost 20 years.  And because of disability, I became a self taught digital artist. You on the other hand have been an artist for many years and you’re now creating architectural compositions. How did you first become interested in the Bauhaus and Modern Architecture?

ME:  Before I had even heard the words Bauhaus, I had other artists and collector friends referring to my work as Bauhaus, specifically saying that my drawings and paintings were Vasily Kandinsky inspired–like the painted wall sculpture from 1993 “SVR ” and the mixed-media drawing I did around 1995 entitled “Invasion of the Spiders.”

All told however, I knew nothing of this,–the Bauhaus and Modernism–having only a high school education. I was just doing what came natural.


“Invasion of the Spiders”


Then I suppose shortly after creating “Invasion of the Spiders”, I finally gave in and decided to educate myself a bit about what all the Modernist hullabaloo was about, in part because I had been for some years frequenting a building that had captured my imagination, The Atlanta-Fulton Central Public Library by Marcel Breuer.


Eternity stands near the entrance of the Downtown Atlanta Library.  Image Credit: Velisa Caldwell

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The Atlanta-Fulton Central Public Library.  Image Credit: Brian Boyer


AR: Your Hypothesis Bauhaus Evolution is very simple and elegant. It’s like you are trying to bring art full circle in a way by distilling in form-making, how earliest humans did it; from the psyche and connecting it with the next phase of human evolution–the digital age.

How important a role do you see digital art playing in the future of art?

“Circle and Line (black)”

ME: Well, once one understands that the entirety of computer code consists of zeros (circles) and ones (lines) it becomes abundantly clear that a primitive connection is inherently built in.  To this, the fact that the human body, the earth and the cosmos are all humming with electricity—as are computers and digital programs—et voila, the connection becomes undeniable.

All this points to an inescapable truth that deserves billions in research dollars, for whatever organizations or individuals willing to further cultivate this road.

“Circular Dreams #1”

AR: Now if we could, I’d like to talk specifically about some of your digital art. Your digital works are very beautiful.

You did a series of portraits that are conceived and sourced with an orchestrated economy employing a variety of shapes all derived from arcs–curves, circles, ovals. In these works, you clearly are following the tenants of B.E.

Bauhaus Evolution logo and font by Max Eternity

ME:  Sure, that’s a fair statement.  Though I’m not sure what particular series you speak of.

AR: You use the circle in works like Target #10. And since the circle is one of the most fundamental archetypal forms in human history and culture, could you give us a little more insight into how you use archetypal forms in your work?

“Target #10”

ME:  Walking, meditating, praying…these actions function on multiple levels so as to bring one into the circle of life, as it were…resonating and harmonizing things seemingly incompatible.

Decades later, I continue to grieve the loss of my vision.  And one must remember, what represents the eye?  It’s the circle, of course.

Right?

That’s one fundamental level, naturally there are other levels.

I also practice Falun Gong, which by the way in China right now the government there is persecuting people for.  Falun Gong or Falun Dafa literally translates as law wheel.  And this is to bring to bear a comprehension of what it means for laws to govern the orbit, rotation and dynamics of the wheel, whether that be the wheel of a car or the infinite galaxies rotating in concert…governed by laws we do not yet fully understand.AR: Your shards are a wonderful example of the reductive minimalism you talk about in B.E. The simplest of forms are folded and interact with each other as if they were in a dance or dialog. With monochromatic colors the shards read as smaller broken forms, but dually read as folded origami wedges. Could you give me a little insight into how you conceived these works and how it relates to B.E.?

ME:  I think you just described Minimalism.  How can one, using the least amount of material, create something interesting and useful?

This also ties into Bauhaus Evolution…interlacing primitive symbolism, minimalistic modernism and digital design.

AR: Digital technologies have transformed Engineering and Architectural design with new ways of visualization and computation. Architects and engineers have embraced the digital age.  Even scientists have embraced it so much that a movement of scientist/artists is emerging. Yet the visual, fine art world is lagging way behind.  Do you see The Traditional and Digital Artist Engineer as a way of bridging this disconnect?

ME:  Well, let me say this.  Long before I articulated my TADAE statement, there have been people who knew of the synthesis of art and technology.  Which is why Walter Gropius said nearly 100 years ago “Art and Technology: A New Unity.”

Earlier this year, one of the first artists I interviewed for AD Mag became quite put out when I suggested the notion of an artist-engineer.  He would have none of that.  Though, since that time we have become friends, yet to revisit that topic again.

That said, I would concur that a terrible lag exists in the visual, fine art world-at-large.  Perhaps this is because in the age of unmitigated capitalism, too many commercial gallery owners are neglecting an aspect of business that gallery owners–from the Harlem Renaissance era through the Leo Castelli age—once included as part and parcel to their overall mission…OUTREACH and EDUCATION.  Examining these phenomena further, as with corporate media outlets, it seems that a tremendous loss of independence has taken place, and this has resulted in the default creation of a less than acceptable/desirable homogeneous soup of falsehoods and self-absorption.

An awful lot of commercial galleries are choosing to become carbon copies of one another.  Along with this, too many artistic gate keepers have settled for blowing smoke up each others ass, instead of reinventing themselves—casting aside outdated modalities.

I mean, look no further than to the insurance, banking and automotive industries and it’s quite apparent that a hermetically-sealed socio-economic aristocracy has engulfed nearly the whole of civil society.

Some heavy pruning is long overdue.

AR: I would have to agree.

I’ve been looking at your architectural compositions, and that’s where we’ll pick up next time, as we move toward the second phase of this interview.  But for now, this concludes Part 1.

“Mec de Mystery: Tribe”

AR:  Thanks for your time Max.

ME:  My pleasure.

AR: And for AD Mag readers, return next week for the second half of my talk with AD Mag publisher, Max Eternity, in an interview I’m calling “Autodidact Chat.”

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About Andrew Reach:

Andrew Reach, architect-artist (b.1961), spent his formative years in Miami. From an early age he had an appreciation of art, graphic design and architecture and enjoyed drawing and sketching as well.  Decades later, Andrew’s work has been exhibited in solo and international juried exhibitions in Miami, New York, San Francisco and Chicago.

On his way to becoming an architect, Reach studied at New York’s Pratt School of Art & Design.  And at various points in his architectural career, he worked with such notables as Yann Weymouth and Harold Zellman.

Reach was the Project Manager, who oversaw the building of the Frost Museum in Miami, also having been deeply involved in the restoration of a couple of houses by Lloyd Wright; son to Frank Lloyd Wright.  Reach was also directly responsible for the preservation of Wright’s Warwick Evans House and  the  Jascha Heitz studio, both located in Los Angeles.

Andrew and life companion, Bruce, now reside in Cleveland Ohio.

C Nguyen’s C Prints

In Art, Feature, Interview on December 1, 2009 at 12:01 am

“Avalange”

***

Christine Nguyen represents the latest embodiment of “New Art” in America…multi-disciplined, highly expressive, fresh and techno-savvy.  Her interpretation of the unseen combined with a humble reflection on sentient beings–things, and her deep understanding of visual media speak to a focused, yet liberal  approach.  In her own way, Nguyen provides a cutting-edge artistic template,  demonstrating how art and artist can and should function in the public and private sphere.

Much like another artist recently interviewed at AD Mag, Sally Grizzell Larson, Nguyen has a reverance for the natural–interpreting a distillation of oceanic and cosmic phenomena through her own supernatural lens of imagination.

Her creations have a potent presence.

Nguyen’s  pieces are stunning, beautifully composed, rare, unique and interesting. Creating photo-esque C-Prints and assorted mixed-media drawings on Mylar, it is impossible to ignore what she’s doing, all the while wondering how it’s done.

Being a long-time fan of the independent record labels, especially the ones that sprung up in the early 80’s, like 4AD, I find myself intoxicated in a symphony of visual “sounds” like the otherworldly lullaby’s of the Cocteau Twins or This Mortal Coil…each and every time I’m in the presence of Nguyen’s harmonic imagery.

Indeed.

“Radiance”

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C Nguyen’s C Prints

An Interview with Christine Nguyen

by Max Eternity

_________________________________________________________________

Hi Christine, welcome to AD Mag

Hi Max

I was just looking over your resume and it seems you keep a very busy exhibiting schedule.  It seems like a lot to manage?

I think it’s good to be busy. I usually don’t know what is going to come up next and it’s all unpredictable. I take it as it comes and grateful that things come my way.

I ask that question, because I think it’s important for less experienced artist to understand how much of a commitment goes into having a successful art career.

It’s definitely work; a real effort.  The business side of art requires much focus, wouldn’t you say?

It does require a lot of commitment and effort. I feel like I’ve been working at it since I was an undergraduate student. I would try and exhibit my work anywhere, from coffee shops, random juried art shows, and such. You really have to start somewhere and you never know who will see your work and who will remember your work in the future. You have to put yourself out there no matter how intimidating it may be because you’ll always learn something from it. As far as the business side of it, I’m still figuring that out.

So tell us a little about yourself.  Where are you from?

I was born in Mountain View, California, but grew up in San Jose.

Do you come from an artistic family?

Well, my mom is pretty crafty and my father is pretty talented in building things. I’m sure I inherited some of that.

Where were you trained, and how long would you say you’ve been an artist?

I went to CSU Long Beach for undergraduate where I studied photography and then went to UC Irvine for grad school for Studio art. It’s hard to say when I started to be an artist. I’ve always been into making things since I was a little kid. I think shortly after school I started to tell people I’m an artist.

Walking in Fields of Nebulas”

***

So let’s talk about some of your work, and we can start with a pair of mixed-media pieces you created entitled “Waking in Fields of Nebulas.”

I was thinking of the ocean floor and the plankton floating and then would day dream of it being in outer space. My drawings are quite intuitive sometimes. I was doing a residency at the Headlands Art Center in Sausalito, CA when I was completing the second half of the piece and was quite inspired being in that area. The Marin Headlands is beautiful and surrounded by nature I saw various colors in the rocks, soil, and succulents which inspired me to paint the multicolored mountain like images in the works. The piece is reminiscent of a day dream.

Sea Vents and the Star Moon” (installation)

***

You do drawings and photography, which came first and why?

I would have to say, I’ve always been a drawer since I was a child, but also became interested in photography when I started using my dad’s camera when I was in Junior High. In High school, I took both photography and art classes and in college I decided to focus on photography. Towards the end of my studies, I realize I could incorporate the two (drawing/painting and photography) through my photographic process. I’m attached to both mediums and it’s difficult to separate the two. I do think my drawing skills got better when I focused on it more in graduate school.

I like your work because it demonstrates technical proficiency, feminine sensitivity, artistic articulation and a sort of peek behind the ethereal veil of nature and the cosmos.  That’s my interpretation, but how would you describe your work—the place within, where it comes from?

“Migration over the Woods and Its Strange Powers” (detail of whales)

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It comes from my interests in nature and space. I have an interest in the micro and macro-worlds and how both worlds are very similar and how everything is connected to one another. And I also have an infinity to the ocean as well. My dad was a commercial fisherman and I was fascinated to see the various things he would pull up from the ocean while growing up.

Migration over the Woods and Its Strange Powers” (installation)

***

So, tell me about this installation you did in 2006 at the Armand Hammer Museum.  I’ve seen photos, but it’s difficult to get a full understanding of the scale of the project.  How many rooms and walls did the installation encompass and why did it end up being presented at that particular venue?

The project was in the lobby of the Armand Hammer Museum. There were three different sized walls- the largest being about 20 ft. height x 40 ft wide. I envisioned the piece going from left to right as you entered the building from the street. You could see the journey and transformation of the bird like creatures being transformed into narwhal like creatures in the end. The piece worked in that space because you could see it from the outside too. People walking by, taking the bus, or driving by at night could see the piece. It had this glowing effect that made it look like it was back light, but when in fact it’s just the nature of the photographic pieces.

Migration over the Woods and Its Strange Powers” (detail)

“Migration over the Woods and Its Strange Powers” (detail)

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I am familiar with C-prints, but for those that may be unaware of what they are—how they are produced—could you talk a bit about that?  Why do you use that medium and process?

The photo-based works is a combination of drawing and a photographic processes. “Negatives” are drawn on layers of Mylar, which are projected onto light-sensitive paper.  The paper is developed in a color processor, creating a camera-less, photographic image. What you are seeing is a negative of the drawing. I use paints, inks, pens, pencils, and also grow salt crystals on the mylar to create my drawings. The photographic process creates a glowing effect that I appreciate.

I often tell artists that I encounter how much I love their work.  It sometimes feels like I’m just saying it because I’m interviewing them for the magazine, but truly that’s not at all the reason.  Quite frankly, most of the art I see these days, I have no interest in.  Because, a lot of it is insensitive and ugly–so much work out there is just not beautiful.  It’s not beautiful, there I said it.  But your work…it’s very, very beautiful—so alive—sentient and present.  The colors and figures and light—all elements come together in an ever so quiet symphony of naturalistic wonder, magic and harmony.  The art you create is bold and commanding, but also soothing–serene.  That’s a tremendous feat.

Thank you, you are much too kind with your words. I often would like to think that my work offers some sense of harmony or meditative escape from our chaotic world, but also a sense of awareness to our environment. So, it’s nice to read your impression of it.

The Great Bear Writes a Song for the Cryosphere” (installation)

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“The Great Bear Writes A Song For the Cryosphere”, now that’s a great piece.  But what’s a Cryosphere?  What’s going on in that work?

The  Cryosphere is part of Earth’s surface that is frozen from water which includes glaciers, snow, ice caps, etc.. At the time I made the piece, years ago, Ursa Major (The Great Bear) constellation was in clear visibility in the spring time sky which was a coincidence. Also, I remember watching a nature documentary about the polar bears and the melting glaciers. It was heart breaking. I thought I would make something for them, as if it would help in some way. But, besides that I find glaciers to be amazingly beautiful.

“Rockweeds and Blue Skate Escapes” (on Mylar)

“Rockweeds and Blue Skate Escapes”

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I look at your work and I see, for instance in the piece “Rockweels and the Blue Skates Escape”, an East-Asian composition kinda like an Ikebana or of the style of art I’ve often seen along side haiku poetry.  Too, with the color and all the luminosity, you work also reminds me of Dale Chihuly’s glass sculptures.  Your thoughts on this?

Art is pretty subjective and everyone brings in something personal with them to work. So, it’s great to see what you see in it or to make reference to. I do like the idea of Haiku poetry with some of the compositions in my work, but I can’t say it’s something that is intentional. I could see how the work reminds you of some of Chihuly’s work because of the organic nature form of his pieces, but his work isn’t something I really look at.

Christine, thank you for taking the time to speak with me and keep in touch, because I definitely want to talk with you again as I expect your career to blossom quite well.

Thanks for your kind words, Max. I appreciate your interest in my work.

“Refractions”

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A full listing of archived interviews can be found here.  Visit the AD Mag artist galleries here and Christine Nguyen’s website here.