Digital Bankruptcy, the Path to Happiness & Light!

I never was the kind of artist who wanted to keep making variations of the same work over and over, striving instead to always work on distinct projects that span a variety of styles, media and executions. As a young artist in 1986, I was greatly influenced by an exhibition at the New Museum, Choices: Making an Art of Everyday Life, a show about artists who made their lives the subject of their work. That exhibit inspired me to work in new ways and places like Coney Island, where my work became accessible to wider, more populist audiences beyond just the art world. That memory resonated in recent years, as I began a new aspect of my art practice. Beginning in 2015, I have embraced a different life theme each year; Magic (2015), Play (2016), Curiosity (2017), Happiness (2018) and Love (2019).

This blog has been silent for over 18 months, and there’s a reason behind that. At the end of 2017, I went into digital bankruptcy, losing a Drobo array containing all my digital backups going back to the mid 1990’s. I could have spent a fortune rescuing it, but opted instead to let it go and just move forward. This, along with a second visit to the temples surrounding Siem Reap, Cambodia lead me to reconsider life’s priorities and explore happiness instead.

Having worked with computers more than half my lifetime, I’ve become increasingly aware of how machines have rewired our brains with notifications and constantly connected internet culture. Like many others, in the aftermath of the 2016 election I began to question if digital culture has indeed improved our lives, or if it is just further dividing our society? Despite all of man’s knowledge being at our fingertips, the ways social media has been abused to spread misinformation, erode civility and divide society is truly upsetting. There’s a lot to be said on that subject, but one thing’s for sure; “always on” digital culture had begun to leave me feeling pulled in many directions and unable to be as focused as I once was.

The exploration of happiness brought me back to regularly practicing yoga and meditation, which was something I began to study in the early 1990’s at Jivamukti Yoga School in New York. My original intention for this was to learn sword swallowing, but what I learned was so much greater, and the change I have felt since resuming a daily asana and meditation practice has been profound. Training the mind to be quiet has spread throughout all aspects of my life and become the driving force behind art that I have been making these last few years. If you follow me on Instragram, you probably have seen some of this work, but it’s all building toward a “light bath” installation, a meditative environment involving lumia reflections and refractions generated by shining light through these glass sculptures. I’m excited about this work and am pleased to share some of it here for the first time:

Lumiaware tiles, designed and cast at Corning Museum of Glass residency in 2018.

Apsara #13, made of 8 centrifugally cast tiles, fused and joined hot. Made in 2018 at Corning Museum of Glass, the last piece made during that residency.

Pentagonal and hexagonal cones, cast at Corning Museum of Glass

Apsara #3, 2018. Hot joined 5 and 6 sided cones, forming partial truncated icosahedron crystalline form.

Apsara #9, 2018. Hot joined castings

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Apsara #11 Corning Museum of Glass, 2018

Apsara #13, 2018, made at Tacoma Museum of Glass

Apsara #32, 2018. This 16″ diameter solid glass sculpture is made of 30 diamond shaped cones, and is the maquette for a larger 22″/300+lb ball currently being assembled.

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Apsara Uruvashi, 2019. 22″ diameter. This larger scale assembly of cast glass cones, a truncated icosahedron (soccer ball form) is composed of 20 hexagonal cones, with all the pentagonal spaces being negative space. One thing I particularly like about this piece is that the cones don’t fit together perfectly, so the whole piece is split open down the middle, embracing the chaos of the universe within its ordered assembly.

In July and August of 2019, I received another residency at Starworks in North Carolina. This residency included time for both glass production and the beginning of prototyping the lumia installations that are the end goal of this work. I was able to engineer wall mounts for some of the pieces, while simultaneously exploring a number of methods of generating lumia light refractions. Here are a few images from this next phase of the project’s development.

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I’ve been calling these glass sculptures Apsaras, after the heavenly dancers of light which adorn the temples around Angkor Wat. This prototype installation showcases one of these complex glass sculptures lit with white light against a color field of  slowly shifting colored lumia refractions.

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As light is projected through these slowly moving forms and reflected off irregular mirrors, subtly morphing lumia patterns emerge.

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“Lumia” appeal to me in the intangibility of light and their call for us to be present to the moment. Art that truly cannot be bought or sold.

I am actively seeking opportunities including residencies, exhibitions, and teaching engagements in support of completing this work and am really excited to see what happens next. Stay tuned!

Lumia: The Art of Light (and Glass)

I’m pleased to announce that I have been awarded two high profile glass residencies in 2018! Both the Corning Museum of Glass and the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Washington have awarded me residencies to make a new body of work about light. Based off a series of pieces I made at the Pilchuck Glass School and Detroit College of Creative Studies in 2017, I will be using CNC carved graphite molds to make glass castings to be assembled into a series of hot assembled geometric structures. The finished glass pieces will be used as lenses to generate lumia; slowly shifting and varied compositions of light refractions created by shining intense light through the glass.

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The work evolved from my investigation of workflows for digital design to glass casting, and has been heavily inspired by the artist Thomas Wilfred who worked from the 1920’s-60’s creating light compositions, or “Lumia”. Wilfred described lumia as the “eighth form of art” and he was highly influential, but his work was largely unknown until the last year when Yale and the Smithsonian Institution mounted a retrospective.

I’m using Wilfred as inspiration, but also seek to take his discoveries to a new level, using new technologies such as LED lighting and lasers in conjunction with some of the glass forms I have been making. I think of these subtly changing and mesmerising light refractions as the perfect pure expression of art as something ethereal and intangible. I have proposed creating an interactive installation that generates lumia in response to the environment. Tentatively entitled “We are the Light”, the work is my reaction to society’s divisive politics, materialism, and constantly connected life with digital devices. The work will aim to induce calming moments of reflection and meditation for the viewer.

Here are some of the glass pieces I have been creating:

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And these are some early experiments with what kinds of Lumia can be generated using them with an RBG laser:

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The residencies begin in late April, so I am currently splitting my time between designing and carving graphite molds and experimenting with light sources and motorizing their movement. It’s exciting work and I can’t wait to share where it all goes!