accessory akˈses(ə)rē ( also accessary )
noun ( pl. accessories )
1. a thing that can be added to something else in order to make it more useful, versatile, or attractive: a range of bathroom accessories.
・a small article or item of clothing carried or worn to complement a garment or outfit: among the hottest items are hair accessories such as rhinestone-studded barrettes.
2. Law: someone who gives assistance to the perpetrator of a crime, without directly committing it, sometimes without being present: she was charged as an accessory to murder.
Why do you make your art?
Is originality relevant? Yes. But it certainly doesn't poll very well.
When I was a little kid, I often wondered “Why do people copy what other people do instead of wanting to be different?” I was naïve then. But the question is nonetheless valid. Today, leadership built on following long-held personal convictions, regardless of what a person’s peers believe, also seems naive. Corporations, special interest groups, and governments now mine our statistical data for their own ends. They mirror back at us what we believe, or what we want to hear and to gain our trust to sell us their bill of goods. But as an artist and a person seeking to contribute to our culture by airing divergent views, I believe it’s important to address timely subjects, such as this relentlessly expanding digital profiling in the context of art. It's important for the public to be thoughtful when being bombarded with so many images daily. Whether those pictures are mindless fluff or have the power to affect policy and/or the paths our lives take, they are being created, selected, and aimed by algorithms seeking to achieve specific goals such as making money, acquiring information or promoting some ideology.
Money and power have been key factors in art—high, low and in between—for centuries. What has changed dramatically in the digital era is the speed with which some forms of art can be made, sold, and delivered. For example, with a few clicks of a mouse, a digital print on archival quality paper, sized and framed to your taste, can be on its way to you. So a huge number of people are able to buy original works of art via the Internet. But the best-selling Internet art seems strikingly unoriginal, relying heavily on the standard memes of landscapes, flowers, pets, pattern, glitter, superheros, celebrities and porn.
I had a conversation with my wife some months ago about the differences between art in museums and most of the art on Print On Demand (POD) art sites, as well as the audiences for each. She said that there’s a segment of the shopping public that primarily regards art as an “accessory”... embellishment for t-shirts, cell phone cases, and all of the other products a person can buy which can be covered in designed ornamentation. This includes POD prints. Many customers consider them accessories to match the couch or interior décor and make their home more beautiful. Much of POD art aspires to be fashionable, nostalgic, cute, comforting, whimsical, or pretty. It plays it safe and polls well with audiences employing variations on the same kind of images that you’ve seen before, like the never-ending movie sequels Hollywood produces. By definition, most POD art is banal because it is being created solely with the intent to sell to the largest possible number of buyers by appealing to the target demographic’s most common expectations and desires.
Art that innovates, challenges perceptions, or generally attempts to get the viewer to think about the world differently tends to be what is in museums. It was created by artists whose first consideration was to communicate new and unique ideas. Its stimulating originality and potentially transcendent qualities encourage me to participate, and promotes the cogitative difference it possesses.
I make art because I seek to be an advocate for seeing and thinking. I enjoy the intellectual conversation that artists have with each other and with the interested public. And I believe I can contribute something new to the dialogue.
I also believe that there is value in my art taking on issues facing the culture, as well as personal frustrations which may be shared by others, even if the resulting imagery is not explicit. Assuming the role of “canary in the coal mine” is both a cathartic process and a way to speak of things that I don’t see anyone else addressing in a way that I don’t see anyone else using.
I enjoy the challenge of creating something with an initial modesty of scale, directing the process of realizing the growing concept onto larger surfaces, engaging people from many demographics by using site-specific methods, and being a participant in the gallery installations that can be enjoyed by others.
What inspires you to make it?
We are a species that counts and measures everything. Statistical diagrams, maps, charts, and graphs are manifestations of the way our minds work. We are infinitely curious to know what others think, do, say, and what is the easiest and/or preferred way to behave. Fortunately for the masses, our media and electronic assistants communicate inescapable infographic real-time polling results on nearly every subject all of the time. The desire to know what’s “most popular” is wired into every search engine, just as it is in our brains. When was the last time you went to a movie, a restaurant or bought something online without checking the Internet reviews? We all do that even though we don’t know the first thing about the reviewers, such as whether or not they have some personal stake in the deal.
There are also financial and political incentives to skew the facts presented in the ubiquitous visual data in which we are awash. In order for distorted information to be believable, a scientific presentation form—graphs, charts, diagrams—are often used to add a patina of verisimilitude. Typically, the “facts” are presented in an abstracted way where color and form are used to convince the viewer of the easy-to-understand evidence and implications. If it can be quantified and turned into an infographic, it must be real and true. Or not.
I’ve long been intrigued by our need for measurements, systems and order. Those things drove my process long before Big Data was the buzz word du jour. My recent work embraces digital methodology but rejects the goal of complete communication. Just as measurements or a diagram do not necessarily disseminate the essence of a subject, the art is meant to vaguely impart an intangible feeling of charted experience with a code composed in an unknown, holistic language. Recognizable, banal forms and processes of daily life are in the mix, parodying both the purely emotional source of the original quantified samples and the statistical collection process that dictated the positioning and size of components within the work... like fashion or culture feeding on themselves. The aesthetics of verity coupled with my own metaphorical hieroglyphic forms the starting point. But context and meaning are not revealed. Stripping away much of the communication, the work turns a structuralist process into a formalist outcome. While actual words (from appropriated forms, maps, charts and diagrams) appear in the works, they are chosen entirely by chance and function like flung paint, brushstrokes or halftones.
What does it signify or represent?
Let me backtrack... I’ve made the POD sites (Zazzle, Red Bubble, Society6, and Fine Art America) and the shopping sites that support them (Pinterest, Fab and Wanelo) the unwitting “accessories” (as in the second, “assisting a criminal” definition of the word) in the creation of my work by using statistics I compiled from their sites as determining factors in the size, placement and inclusion of covert, interpretive elements in my work. This series was created by a somewhat random recipe, as unaware people in the process of contributing to a celebration of consumerism via posting or voting on manifestations of temporary fashion, are metaphorically throwing the dice that determine the creative decisions.
I set out to create a body of work exploring our materialistic culture’s perception of the concept of art; about the commercial and the culture supporting it, while remaining paradoxically uncommercial. Just as the culture tends to feed on its own, in addition to making traditional art, I incorporated a product line into the concept in the traditional guises that artsy commercial merchandise takes (t-shirts, cell phone cases, home decor objects, stationery, etc.). It’s inappropriately decorated with the less than commercially popular imagery produced via statistics representing the story of a small segment of the culture’s fashion feeding frenzy. I’m intentionally playing with trend feasibility by creating images that are simultaneously attractive and repellant: by mixing aesthetics that appeal to dramatically different demographics... original and banal, tech and romantic, modernist field format and classical iconic, organic and pixelated, celebrity and obscurity, the consumeristic and the philosophical, the symbol and the meaningless, the measured and the intangible. At the heart of my work is paradox, which our culture rarely embraces because it flies in the face of the easily understood, knowable fact.
Because I wish to give an enriched focus within my art not just on process, but on metaphor, without sacrificing the strengths of non-narrative formalist abstraction, I'm the only person who has the key to deciphering the chronicled story of events beyond my control: coded documentation of other people’s consumerism, wants, needs, and choices. I’m thinking of art as diagrams transcribing everyday experience, so I’m not appropriating artistic visual images that are considered banal (as Koons and Hirst have), but rather the banal, patterned processes, activities, and events of digital age daily life.
Ultimately, it’s all a metaphor for the human condition: seeking answers, trying to obtain money, clout or power, endlessly building systems, and sometimes still having to accept that some things cannot be known or are random.
How do you make it? What is it made of?
The art in this series starts out as physical drawing, painting and handmade collage done on several sheets of paper. Then it’s digitally scanned to become virtual layers assembled and colored in Photoshop.
For the most part, the original source material is monochromatic, nearly black and white. The drawing in these pieces was done with a Pilot G-2 pen. The collage is hand-cut from laser printed images on office paper and assembled with tape. The paint used is white latex interior house paint. All of the texture work is either drawn physically, painted or created with ink and a toothbrush. I do a lot of the work on light tables so each layer can interact with the others. While I don't use the fancy filters in Photoshop, I do use the eraser, so there is some information in these pieces that doesn't make it to the final version.
The following link will lead you to another page at Behance with images of several of the handmade paper layers that contribute to a work in progress: http://www.behance.net/gallery/The-Process-Creating-a-TheAccessoriesSeries-Work/9182353
My process begins with written outlines before the physical art-making starts. As the project proceeds, I write and collect notes which I distill later into a formal artist's statement. As with most series projects, invariably there is a bit of drift between the first piece and the last, even when you've set up conceptual rules in the works’ creation based on visual display of statistical data translated into a hieroglyphic. When I was making physical paintings, I went back and reworked/added information to earlier pieces to get them aesthetically consistent with the later ones. When I started #TheAccessoriesSeries, I was wise enough to remember this and built into my conceptual plan a "punch list layer" where I go through each of the works at the end, while finalizing my artist's statement, and add or clean-up. This is similar to the punch list that contractors create when building architectural projects. In addition to thinking about each of these pieces as individuals, I also think of them as a stage (in the theatrical sense), so it's appropriate in my mind that my prior experience as a carpenter finds its way into the creative strategy/process. In most cases, a single layer of information is then added to most of the works that does not change dramatically the overall aesthetics or composition.
What does it mean to you?
I recently searched and discovered that many notable artists whose art is part of major museum collections came from backgrounds in the sciences and mathematics. As my own art has always had a component concerned with "communication beyond language," I think that many mathematicians and scientists, who speak in a language of numbers or code to express what words cannot, are sympathetic to the ideas and goals of artists who visually pursue similar ideas. I've always been fascinated with the aesthetics of truth (via science), how language works, and how the mind processes information. The glitch-related work that I have done in the past was an extension of my additional interest in chance and error. In many ways they are parallel roads of thought traveling to the same destination... attempting to better know myself and being able to appreciate and poetically describe the broader cultural and the social arrangements that make up human lives.
See #TheAccessoriesSeries: Video and close-up details of the work at: