Wisconsin Poetic Realism
My involvement in art has always led me to question what we humans perceive as reality. During my career as a commercial photographer, I learned to bend reality with visual effects. I became acutely aware that our perception of who we are is shrouded in personal experience and altered under the massive influence of “media” and culture. Armed with this knowledge of how easily we can be fooled by others and ourselves, I began painting human interactions and relationships.
This work has culminated in a series of portraits and vignettes I call “Wisconsin Poetic Realism.” Influenced by mid- twentieth century artists such as Paul Cadmus, George Tooker, Robert Williams, and the film maker Jean Renoir, I compose in the style of the German Expressionist film movement. My subjects are composed in close-up, often looking directly at the viewer.
I “paint” these pieces using computers and 3D modeling and rendering applications in a virtual three-dimensional environment, where all aspects of the natural world’s dynamics are mimicked. I sculpt, model, paint surfaces, create props, land, sky and lighting, and then I capture to two dimensions, as if using a camera. Creating human beings this way puts me in a very intimate relationship with my subjects.
Who are these people? These Feral Dumb Men, these Angry Little Men (and others)? Men and women who are disenfranchised, unable to speak, outside the mainstream, in personal crisis, in denial, fighting the same monsters over and over, distant but familiar in their actions and choices. Surely, some will see people they know, or perhaps themselves.
All of my subjects have been stripped of the viewer’s self-imposed tyranny of what is beautiful. One must look at them, in the eye, and see them for who they are.
Fractal Mapped Photographs
After moving from a large, urban environment to an abandoned farm in Southwestern Wisconsin, I found my senses overwhelmed not by noise and congestion, but by the diversity in animal and plant life. Sympathy to the notion that all things are one was replaced by firsthand knowledge garnered in the steep learning curve of nurturing a forest, tending to wetlands and fostering a creek.
This photo-based series called Hyper Tiles, Hyper Worlds, and Vortexes, attempts to show the viewer what I see and feel when immersed in wetlands or woods: A connectivity that occurs at both the macro- and micro-scopic level. A mesh of reality that is unseen by us when, with a fleeting glance, we allow things outside our ken to be glossed over. Beyond tiny invertebrates, past the molecular to the very fabric that ties us all together, animate and inanimate.
Using the computer, I am mapping photographs of my environment onto dimensional shapes formed with fractal mathematics, a process made smoother by a series of now defunct paint program "plug-ins" created by mathematicians Kai Krause and Eric Wenger. I get repeatable and expected results, having developed a work flow that allows me to avoid the dreaded digital push-button art syndrome. Every day brings new mysteries when we try to look at things just a little differently.
As fractal mathematics becomes even more prominent in Science, ways of visualizing fractal shapes in three dimensional space has become a popular challenge for those who stand at the point where art and science meet. Using several open source applications, with which an artist can enter data that modifies the traditional Mandelbrot and Julia sets of fractal formulas, allows me to create and travel through infinite rooms and caverns, choosing compositions and rendering them to two dimensions for printing. This expands apon my earlier Fractal Mapped Photographs, which only allowed me to view things in slices like a CAT Scan.
In these images, I attempt to pass on to the viewer what I believe is at the heart of modern concepts of the physical world and the fabric of reality; the existence of manifold versions of our perception of what we view as now. How the random placement of a modifier can change the outcome of a system, like genes or memes, but in many infinite, scalable paths at once creating many co-existing Universes.
Not unlike the Alchemist's Homunculus. A little man inside the head of a little man inside the head of a little man...on and on.