One of the most interesting aspects of digital technology in the civic arena is the way in which it has redefined the nature of communication, business and socialization. In the arts community, with the employ of the Internet, more and more creatives are taking to the web, operating webpages and online galleries very much in the same way they might have otherwise presented their work in a traditioinal brick and mortar gallery space.
Because the Internet is such a flexible medium, creative freedom is closer at hand, allowing for a broader range of work to be developed and shown. This often means that artwork which would otherwise have a difficult time getting ample wall space in a walk-in gallery, can get the attention it deserves, without apology or regret.
Ursula Freer’s work is a true embodiment of this radical shift in thinking, creating, exhibiting and selling. And yet, while fully embracing the new technology, Freer has also kept here feet firmly planted on the ground, weaving the naturalistic and the futuristic with symbiotic wonder.
A century ago, when inventions like the telephone and automobile allowed humans the freedom to go places they could never have traveled before, the Internet and other forms of digital media now facilitate that same role, allowing electronic explorations to destinations unseen–unknown.
An interview with Ursula Freer
by Max Eternity
ME: Hi Ursula, welcome to AD Mag
UF: Glad to be here. Thank you for taking the time to speak with me.
ME: It’s my pleasure. Now, I discovered your work when I came across an article I was researching, written by Joe Nalven. The website is Digital Artists Guild (DAG). Joe and I have since corresponded via email and will hopefully continue to do so.
In the course of delving deeper into the DAG site, I was able to see the artwork of many artists, including yours. So, what’s the relationship there, how did you get involved with that organization? How did you meet Joe?
UF: When I lived in San Diego years ago I met a wonderful digital artist, Renata Spiazzi. I was entranced by the art she was making on the computer. She is responsible for my switching to the digital medium. Years later after I had moved to Santa Fe, Renata began to work with Joe Nalven who created the Digital Art Guild, (www.digitalartguild.com). I entered some of the shows the guild was organizing. Joe then asked me to do an article for the guild.
ME: But unlike many other artist using digital technology to paint with—that being their first introduction with artistic tools—your history is quite different…isn’t it?
UF: That’s true. Up to that time 14 years ago I used brushes, paints and collage.
ME: Could you tell us a little about your background, where you grew up?
UF: I was born in Poland (now Ukraine) in an idyllic country setting. I grew up spending my time wandering in the adjacent forest and rolling hills where I felt safe and comfortable. There, I remember the excitement when exotic gypsies would camp on our land. I loved to watch them dance and have my father join them on his violin.
ME: And what was the first artistic experience you remember having. Perhaps it was a circumstance involved that sticks out in your mind?
UF: I don’t remember a particular instance but I found myself drawing animals before I was of school age.
ME: What do you think is happening right now in the art world, that is, in the context of art and technology? Which, by the way was a concept—a declaration—that Walter Gropius of the Bauhaus made nearly 100 years ago when he said “Art and Technology: A New Unity.” How do you see this unfolding?
UF: I see it now in the artists’ use of the digital medium, film and electronic music. It’s only natural that technology, which is a huge part of our lives, would become integrated in many forms of art. I expect that holography will eventually become a tool of artistic expression.
ME: So let’s talk a bit about some of your specific art pieces now, there are two sets of artwork that I’ve seen of yours, the first at your own homepage and the second at the DAG website. In regards to your own website, there are several pieces that capture the imagination like “Vision” and “Starcluster 2.”
First, if you would, tell us about “Vision.”
UF: Fractals hold a special fascination for me. They bring to mind an eternal order and universal beauty that organizes the apparent chaos in nature; a fleeting insight into the structure of the micro and macro of our worlds.
ME: And about the other, “Starclusters 2”, what’s the story there?
UF: It’s a beautifully designed blueprint of a star system in the expanse of space. It seems to be mysteriously structured to resonate an appeal to us, perhaps evoking our deeper commonality with the cosmos.
ME: Now let me ask, would I be correct in suggesting that you have a deep interest in both the natural and super-natural, as it were?
UF: They seem to be opposites, but I am fascinated by both. I am curious about the totality of human experience of the Universe.
ME: I also see a re-occurring “circular” theme in your imagery…tying by sets of paintings on each site. Could you talk about this a bit?
UF: Until you mentioned it, I was not consciously aware of using it often! It’s a pleasing shape with so many meanings, evoking all positive emotions–nurturing, inclusive, unifying and infinite.
ME: So I’m looking at a piece you created entitled “Four Seasons.” This image, one you’re newer pieces, is posted on the DAG website as part of an essay you wrote there called “Zen and the Art of Digital Imaging. Thus for instance, when you say “I am curious about the totality of human experience of the Universe” does that imply that you are also interested in things like the forests, the earth’s rotation in the cosmos or perhaps even organic gardening—in addition to art?
UF: Very much so! Plants are as mysterious and miraculous as distant stars and so are microorganisms and subatomic particles.
ME: I understand you’re also involved in the ASCI: Art and Science Collaborations Institute?
UF: I became a member of the Art & Science Collaborations, Inc. a few years ago. The support provided for technology-based art is important to me. It keeps me informed of important science/art events and the work of other artists. ASCI was one of the first art-sci-tech member organizations in the USA. Established primarily as a network for artists who either use or are inspired by science and technology. I am also a member of the local Santa Fe Forum for Science and Art, a group similar to ASCI but on a much less ambitious scale.
ME: And you’re currently exhibiting in a show “Mysteries in Science” at the NY Hall of Science? What’s the name of the work(s) you’re exhibiting and how did this all come about?
UF: ASCI organized this as their Annual International Digital Print Exhibition. The title of the show inspired two pieces: “Parallel Universes” and “Multiple Dimensions.” I am very pleased to have been accepted in this exciting exhibit.
ME: Of course when one thinks of outer space and cosmology, the issue of possible alien life must be acknowledged. Where do you stand on this? Is there intelligent life “out there?”
UF: I have to restrain myself to stay within the narrow meaning of the question. It would be simpleminded to assume that we are the only intelligent life form in the vastness of Space as the estimated number of planets are in millions of billions. Our galaxy alone is believed to have 210 sextillions planets.
ME: In closing, I’d like to ask about a work you did entitled “Fly by” that appears to be a digital assemblage incorporating photography and electronic paint. This piece seems to characterize a complete synthesis of your overall themes of electronic paint–nature, animals, spirituality and the circle.
UF: The technique of “Fly By” is precisely as you describe. Photos of birds are combined with that of a Cathedral. Even though I don’t paint with traditional media any more I still like the slow meditative process of “painting” with my digital brush to add character and texture to the image. I like to combine dissimilar images and backgrounds. This method evokes a feeling of space and timelessness. Here the circle denotes wholeness and unity of the artifice of man and the fluidity of nature.
ME: Ursula, thanks for taking the time to speak with me.
UF: Thank you for your interest in my work.