Irwin, Einstein, and Me

The other day on our Facebook page, we quoted the fine Robert Irwin bio Seeing Is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees, by Lawrence Weschler. It's an endlessly giving book, and one that I highly recommend. 


"...color in nature is made up as much from texture as it is from the actual color itself. You have a color that’s made up of, say, fifty points of light, rather than on a painting, where it may be a single smear of color. Even in a pointillist painting, where you may be trying to approximate those fifty points of light, you’re never going to get the complexity and richness which you get here in nature."

© 2014 Robert Irwin / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, via the Art Institute of Chicago
Of course, my work is very different than Robert Irwin's, who is known for conjoining a deep Zen-like singularity with materials that became newly available in mid-century California: molded plastics, spray paint, reflective surfaces, and the like. He learned, seeing that it was impossible to create painted work as true as nature, that he could work with light and space to create atmospheric experiences that reached far outside of of the materiality and physical footprint of the work.

There is a way in which I want my work to do the same thing: it is a magnification of the natural world, curated as a reminder. It's not an imitation of the natural world, nor representational one. Instead it is a talisman of the organic, a gesture towards returning to nature, a cue. 

Looking around our world, tables are square, and chairs hold right angles, paper is crisp enough to cut the skin. But none of the materials which made these objects began at 90 degrees. Rather, it is all a function of mechanization and convenience; when the Industrial Revolution came, we were suddenly able to mill large amounts of trees into uniform lumber. One product could be made same as the next product, each squared-off and ready to sell. 

Like Irwin, I use new technology to embrace the organic and primal. Where he uses plastics and mirrors to reference light and emotion, I use treated wood, to create tree-strong curves. We both use advancement to honor timelessness, and time passing, simultaneously. It's an exchange and a process that makes me think of Einstein (obviously), and his E = mc(2).

Matter can be transformed into energy. Energy can indeed be transformed into matter. These are the processes of art, and of life. We do the best we can to preserve and call attention to beauty and meaning. At times that calls for choices, the will of transformation. 


The Cuff, in hickory, by Gustav Reyes
"The Cuff" in hickory. Click here to learn more. 
We must remember, there is no lost matter, and there is no lost beauty: we simply evolve and people and artists to understand ways to rediscover, to embolden, to honor. I reclaim wood, and shepherd it into a new life, preserving other matter for its own organic functions. 

The amount of earth that must be destroyed, the amount of matter that becomes immediately unusable, the amount of energy expended, for one ounce of gold: it's shocking. 

So I instead prefer to pair the old and the new, to find resource in what once seemed like waste, to make the transformations smooth and graceful and dignified, minimizing impact to bring my art into the world.

There are so many ways to do this! Let us do it, on our own terms, and collectively! We must celebrate it! We must account for our relationship to nature! We must resolve to care!


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