Tag Archives: art

Newton’s Third Law of Motion

I’ve been thinking a lot about forces – things in my life that appear to be pushing or pulling me.  I can’t really figure out when to push back, when to resist, and when to succumb to the pressure.  It’s both a creative and a personal dilemma.  As often happens, my artwork seems to be the place where these struggles play out.

The creative dilemma goes like this: My work has evolved such that I now have to spend many, many hours making precise shapes and lines and thousands of tiny marks over the initial chaotic shapes I create. It is tedious and slow work, and there is almost no joy in it – except the joy of seeing the intricacy of the final piece.  What I love about making art is playing with chance, letting things happen, immediacy, acting on “instinct”, serendipity.  Not giving my mind time to interfere.  But, inevitably, when I work this way, I look at my paintings and think they need structure; something deliberate that gives them shape and holds them together.  Hence the lines and dots and shapes.  I feel pressure to create order, and a simultaneous pull toward chaos.  The painting below is in progress, but pretty much sums up how I feel.  In my head it is titled “Tangled Bird of Prey, Dying”.  I’ve never been one to shy away from melodrama 😉

This leads me to consider Newton’s third law of motion: Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Is it preferable to find a balance between unrestrained, chaotic mark-making whose movement is outward and explosive, and precise, deliberate scaffold-building whose movement is inward and toward containment?  If making these structures is mind-numbingly boring and I feel a huge resistance toward it, should I desist, or work through it, like a runner getting past “the wall”?  There is a force within me urging me to stop, and another urging me to continue.  Is Newton’s third law of motion describing an impasse?  In which case, shouldn’t it be avoided if progress is to be made?  I guess it depends on the story I choose to tell myself.  Either, my inner child is pushing me to cut loose and she’s the one who drives me to make art in the first place so I better listen, or, art requires work, discipline and surrender and the uncomfortable stuff is probably the stuff I most need to learn so get on with it and stop whining.

Structure beginning to appear out of chaos (work in progress).

Thousands of dots emanating from a chaotic spill – the movement outward loses momentum and dissipates (work in progress).

Trying to avoid the issue all together, I ended up making sculptures last week 🙂

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The Gods and The Press.

Had a great couple of weeks since my show opened at a.Muse gallery – 3 pieces have sold (including one to a local collector), a few more sales are looming, and I’ve been in the press a couple of times!  Here‘s an article by Cynthia Popper about the show, and here‘s another by Jeremiah Barber for KQED that references the collaborative piece I made with Todd Anderson for the show about Time (the piece is mentioned at the end of the article, so keep reading!).  I also managed to make an appearance in Alan Bamberger’s photo blog featuring local exhibitions.  All together, not a bad few weeks!

I’m starting to learn that although I hate networking and schmoozing and self-promoting (she says as she writes a blog about herself), some really great connections and opportunities arise when you put in the effort – and I don’t just mean sales.  For example, because of all the promoting Lori and I have done for my show (Lori owns a.Muse where my work is currently exhibited), I was contacted last week by two curators who have started an interesting on-line gallery idea.  The website is called Violet Strays.  Here’s their current offering:

PROVISIONAL ENGINEERING from Lauren Klenow on Vimeo.

It differs from other on-line gallery sites in three important ways.  Firstly, it appears to be by invitation only, meaning the quality of work shown is of a high standard – not the mixed bag you often find on other art websites.  Secondly, only one artist at a time is featured on the site, much like real galleries.  Each artist is given a week long exhibit, then once the week is up the work is removed and the next artist gets the full attention of each visitor.  As an artist I love the space for reflection that this system promotes.  This is not an art superstore whose goal is to show you as many artworks as possible in a short space of time in hopes that you’ll find one you like, and buy it.  Instead the viewer is offered the chance to ponder deeply the meanings and intentions of a select few artworks, sometimes just one.

Lastly, the intention of these curators is evidently not to make money, but to foster creativity and make connections with artists.  When they approached me about creating something for the website they left it wide open.  It was as though I was being dared to do something new – something I hadn’t shown the world yet.  Fully bake a half-baked idea.  In any medium.   After working so hard to complete a body of work for the “Occupied” series this was just what I needed.  A chance to go back to the drawing board and try something that didn’t have to relate to anything else I’d done.  Just grab one of those random, fleeting ideas and make it real.  So I think I’m going to try some stop-motion…. with drawings of bodies.  Then again, maybe I’ll make a kite.  Or a sculpture of a kitten. Or a massive installation that records all the creative thoughts that enter my head in one day.

Another amazing connection that came out of this period of focused promotion was the discovery of an artist called Kirsten Stolle.   She contacted me after someone sent her a link to my website (or my show, not sure which), and a brief conversation ensued.  I asked for links to her website, and I fell in love immediately upon seeing her work.  There are some obvious connections between our work – scientific references, and a fondness for repetition and drawing.  Seeing her work has encouraged me to try to return to painting on panels instead of on sheets of polypropylene, and to experiment more with mixed-media work.  I can’t wait to get to Dolby-Chadwick gallery here in SF and see her work in the flesh.  I’m actually so enamored with the work that if I can afford it I’d love to buy one of her pieces, and start my collection of scientifically themed art!

So what’s the point of this post?  I suppose mostly that if you put in the effort to do the stuff you don’t like (promoting yourself), the gods will sometimes reward you with new sources of inspiration.  And the press is one way in which these fortuitous connections happen.  If nobody knows you’re out there, they don’t even know to look for you.

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Todd and I Have Ants in Our Brains.

My good friend Todd Anderson and I have been getting nerdy with ink and video and software and stuff, and have created a collaborative project called Ink Space/Ink Time.  I have to admit that I don’t really have the brainpower for this amount of nerding, and have mostly relied on Todd’s colossal brain to do the hard work.  You can read more about the project here, and you can also see some awesome videos of the process.  But, a brief synopsis of what we’ve been doing is this:  Taking a chaotic event (releasing sumi ink onto a puddle of water), and videoing the transformation of this event over time.  Todd then takes the video and stacks the frames of the video on top of each other using fancy software.  This creates a 3D model of the event.  Finally, he uses a CNC router (or we’ll be using a 3D printer if we can afford one) to cut the shape from high-density foam.  Then I paint it and make it look like an iceberg 🙂

Here’s a photo of what one of the sculptures looks like:

On the surface, the project was about letting our curiosity guide us.  I have always loved watching the way the ink interacts with the water as I paint.  Todd was fascinated by it too.  I could see the neurons firing on all cylinders while he watched the blackness creep outward in fractal-like shapes.  Over the next few years, as Todd finished his PhD, he began to play around with ideas of using custom software to capture the event and make it physical.  Then he began dabbling with machines and routers.  He’s one of those guys.  A genius tinkerer.  His brain seems inexplicably drawn to complex things.  Like a colony of ants it starts to explore and map out the new territory, biting off chunks and returning it to home base for processing.  And once all the interesting pieces have been collected, investigated, tagged and stored in the big messy Cave of Stashed Info that’s been collected over the years, connections start to happen.  Sometimes unlikely ones.  Sometimes more obvious ones.  And so, like dot-to-dots, a line was drawn between the software he used at work, the machines he was playing with at the Tech Shop where he liked to tinker, and the ink blossoms I showed him.

Why am I telling you about Todd’s brain? Well, because I think it illustrates an important issue in the making of art and in the living of life.  It seems that it is important to play, with no goal in mind.  Just spontaneous action guided by curiosity. The ant colony inside your head wants to find new things, learn new things, without judgement or purpose.  It also wants to assemble new ideas and make new connections using the stuff its already stashed.  From what I understand from brain research, your brain really needs to be doing this.  You don’t want the neurons to keep firing down the same old paths.  Apparently, learning new things (such as a new language, dance, quantum physics, knitting – anything) can help stop or slow down the onset of Alzheimer’s and other degenerative brain issues.  It’s also just fun.

And when the ant colony is doing it’s job, creativity happens.  Ideas start looming in the fog, getting clearer and clearer as more connections are made.  Sometimes, if you’re lucky, they just burst into existence, fully-formed. But they’ve still come to you via the Cave of Stashed Info.

So the moral of my rambling is this:

Feed your brain.

And find yourself a Todd.  Sometimes your ants need to meet new ants.

Oh, and stay away from anteaters.

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My new show opens in 2 weeks!

My new show, titled “Occupied: The Experience of Inhabiting a Body” opens on October 13th at a.muse Gallery in San Francisco.  I am furiously trying to get everything finished this weekend so next week can be spent framing and promoting, but as ever, the creative spirit is fickle and stubborn, and does not understand deadlines.  So there are some good days, when she visits and whispers good ideas in my ear, and bad days, when she sulks in the corner of my studio because she has been ousted by Anxiety.

All the pieces in the show, bar one, are brand new and making their debut at this exhibition.  It’s always both an exciting and a terrifying moment when you present new works.  You never know how they’ll be received, especially when you’ve departed quite significantly from older pieces.  Truthfully, these new pieces are more an extension of some earlier pieces; a more in-depth, deeper exploration of some ideas I had about how important the body is.  So I don’t think anyone will be utterly stunned by the differences, but there are some very large, less controlled and almost violent pieces that I love, but am not sure everyone will.

More info about the show can be found here

The opening reception is on Thursday October 13th, from 6:00 – 8:30pm

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BS Radar

Thanks to my studiomate Angela Dominguez, I heard about an upcoming juried show at Arc Gallery in San Francisco, the title of which is “Flow: The Essence of Paint”.  My work seemed like a good fit for an exhibition that explores the liquid quality of paint, given that most of my works harness the chaotic qualities of water (and ink)  in motion.  So I submitted three pieces for their consideration (my first such submission to a juried show), and am happy to report that two pieces were selected – one for the show in their physical space, and one for their online exhibit!  The one that will be hung in the gallery is a newer piece, from the “Viscera and Effluences” series, so I was pleased to see that it was well received at its debut.  It’s called “Release #1”, and it’s one of my favorites:

The “Release” pieces that I create involve adding acrylic inks to water and then rolling the liquid around on the surface of the polypropylene by tilting it. This creates chaotic “channels” and paths of ink that serve as an initial structure around which I build the rest of the composition. I enjoy the challenge of having to work with marks that I have very little control over, and then building order into and around it, much as we create meaning and structure around those things we can’t understand or control in our lives.

It’s interesting to watch my mind’s inclination toward order, and the satisfaction that arises from successfully navigating that process.  And it’s also interesting to be aware of the equally strong inclination to then destroy the structure, or impose yet more chaos over that hard-labored illusion of safety and solidity.  Who knows where that comes from?  I think it’s a BS radar – too much settled, measured balance and some itchy feeling develops somewhere in my body that wants to yell “Bullshit!” (sorry Mum), because experience has taught me that nothing is ever as secure as it might appear.  So then I go back to swimming about in ink.

“Viscera: Stomach” will also be appearing in their on-line exhibition. More details to follow…..

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Photos

Sometimes when I’m stuck in a rut or frustrated by my current work, I like to take a brief detour into another medium, just so I can experience the joy and excitement of art-making without the pressure of having to perform.  This week I discovered the hipstamatic app for my iphone and have been enjoying the results.  Yes, it’s kind of cheating, but oh boy it cheers me up.

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Hormones and Neurotransmitters

Latest series of small and medium sized pieces:

estrogen

Estrogen

melatonin#1

Melatonin#1

progesterone

Progesterone

prolactin

Prolactin

testosterone

Testosterone

dopamine

Dopamine

Viscera

kidney

Kidney


heart

Heart

lung

Lung

stomach

Stomach


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