Tag Archive: Art

Real vs Computational Art

The past two weeks I started three classes (I am probably certifiably crazy) while experiencing vertigo attacks and working full time. The classes included two MOOCs from Coursera: Intro to Computational Arts (SUNY) and Creativity, Innovation, and Change (CIC) (Penn State) along with Digital Storytelling (DS106) headless version started at Univ of Mary Washington and is now about online learners engaging each other. They are all complementary and I would love to take all three but I realized this past week that I do not have much interest in computational art. I was lucky that one of the exercises this week in CIC was to look at the passions and purposes of your life ring. I have known my driving passion for some years, but I have also found that I misplace or mislabel that passion when something knew comes along. And I think that is what I did when I signed up for computational arts. I wanted to learn and seek out new knowledge and then share it (my driving passion and the reason for the name of this blog). I also wanted to interact with others while attempting to create new art (even if computational). That has been an exciting part of the last two classes – Intro to Art (Penn State) and Art & Inquiry (Museum of Modern Art). But as I looked at the assignments and videos for Intro to Computational Arts, I realized why I do not find it as satisfying to do computational art as I do real art. Real art means that all your senses are involved not just your eyes (your brain is involved no matter what form of art is done). In computational art, I can’t feel the paper – touch its grain or thickness. I can’t smell the pungent turpentine or oils. I can’t taste the glue on my fingers when I accidentally chew on a fingertip while trying to figure out what to do next. I can’t see the textures and colors until the programming code works. As a programmer, I have to imagine the finished artwork and hoping that I make no typos. As an artist, I am also imagining the finished artwork but I am seeing it take shape as I create it. And while it is exciting to “birth” a visual object from code, it’s not near as exciting as seeing the evolution of new artwork into a surrealistic abstract, a funny sculpture or a more traditional portrait of my dog for mail art. So with only a small sense of regret, I’m going to give up computational arts for the time being. Perhaps some day I will find enough time to try it again.


So here it is at the end of the first week when I intended to “kick ds106 butt” and I find myself thinking about 21st century elegance. I think the concept of elegance has changed somewhat from the 1800s. Instead of being tied so much to people and their dress & mannerisms, I find elegance in science and technology – new solutions that let us connect quickly around the world – new robotics that mimic human mannerisms with its own weird grace – new structures that tower above the ancient palaces where elegant couples once tripped a dance. I also see it in new forms of art that weren’t possible before the 21st century where the junk of the past 100 years is being repurposed into something magical like the metal swallows that Jeremy Mayer makes out of typewriter parts. Or installation art like Second Meeting by James Turrell where his skyspace invites you to explore light and color. This is true elegance – simple, graceful, full of impact.

But the task for today’s Daily Create was to take a photograph of something I would consider 21st elegance. I saw so many possibilities but chose a mixed media picture that I created in December 2010. This is shown amidst the chaos of the garage that I have turned into a quasi-art studio.

Through A Plastic Mist - Mixed Media artwork by kelcym

Through A Plastic Mist – Mixed Media artwork by kelcym

This is a mixed media picture with the figure drawn in oil pastels. Other materials include posterboard, plastic bath mat, bottle caps and lids, and beads. I was inspired by a painting of a very elegant kingly figure and wanted to try to create one. Mine took a turn for the absurd and suddenly I knew that this little wannabe was peering through a mist trying to be something he could not be. Ergo the plastic bath mat as the mist and the bottle caps as jewels for wannabes don’t get the real thing. Instead they need to find their own elegance rather than try to emulate someone else’s.

Several years ago I took an art course in creating memory boxes in the Joseph Cornell style. I was lucky to be able to attend a Cornell exhibit in Washington DC around the same time. His work in using found objects to create vibrant memories and metaphors still intrigues me today. Check out this unique website that captures his life and art in a metaphorical box.

During week 3 of the #edcmooc class, I was trying to think about what image I would put up on Flickr. I always have many images and metaphors floating around that make me think of learning and networking, but I was stuck on the future images and metaphors that I saw in weeks 1 and 2. They seemed so harsh and hard – the machine – the robot – the borg of the future. I may have missed it but I did not see the tremendously exciting future that may come into being with the marriage of biology and computing where the results are more natural – green – growing – connecting like neural networks or trees and vines. And that reminded me of my future memory box – it has no real name but I think of it as the future urban city where plants and machines are interconnected. When I created it, I tore apart an old computer and intertwined it with the beauty of growing plant life and the mysteries of the universe. It is interactive in that there is a transparent gate to the city and the metal hand that moves around the box to welcome and perhaps confound visitors when compared with the funky green hands that represent humanity in the city. In the picture below, the gate is down and the path is open for all to enter.

I have found new meaning in my nameless box. But now I want to pull out all my found objects  (the flotsam and junk of an urban society) and create new boxes  based on what I have been experiencing in #edcmooc. That will not happen before the class is over – I need time to process and touch and move and group the found objects into whatever comes out of  my experiences. But what fun to relive the #edcmooc experience and learn what I missed as I create new future memories.

Future Memory Box

Future Memory Box

Looking forward to new adventures

I never thought I would say this, but I’m looking forward to the end of my government career.   I’ve discovered so many possibilities and new adventures available in the world today that it will be easy to leave in four years. I have loved my time with government.    I’ve been very lucky to work with or meet with really smart people who were trying to solve problems every bureaucratic organization faces. Not everything was rosy but on the whole I felt that each day was a new adventure and I was able to grow and learn from those around me. But I no longer feel that way as I continue to see the same types of problems reassert themselves and the solutions seem to be variations of those tried in the past with limited or no success. I was hoping to share my knowledge/lessons learned in the last years of my career but even that seems limited. I’m available as always but many in my office would rather try it their own way without recourse to lessons learned. And perhaps that is okay with new points of view potentially bringing new lessons that will lead to solutions. I certainly hope so since this is important work.  But it makes it easier to leave old pastures for new vistas.

So what adventures am I looking forward to most in 2016 when I retire?  The world is changing so fast that it is sometimes hard to imagine what might be possible in just four years.  But I am hoping to do more with my artwork.  I love doing mixed media pictures like “Funky Junk”  and junk sculptures like “Blue Birdie” (see pictures below).  I don’t know if they are very good, but I get a lot of pleasure out of creating something fun and unique.  I also want to write about things that inspire me or that I find funny. I don’t intend to write books but I would like to blog more.

But there are so many other adventures that I want to participate in. I’d like to be involved in some way in the new massive open online courses perhaps as a coach or teaching assistant. There are amazing communities growing up around these courses and opportunities to grow and learn and share. I started attending online courses at Coursera in August. I’m writing other posts about these experiences but it’s definitely a new adventure. I’m also thinking about volunteering for the Smithsonian – I love these museums and perhaps I can give some time to help them continue to grow. And I want to continue my quest for better health. I’m not going to set a goal for running a marathon but I’d love to gain the strength to do so if I wanted. And I’m inspired by what Team Rubicon is doing to help others using the skills they acquired in the military. I don’t have the strength to help in the same way, but perhaps there are other ways to help those in need. With all these possibilities and more I’m looking forward to starting new adventures.

Synchronized Breathing Final Framed Cropped 0102012020A        Blue Birdie Classic

Earlier today Lewis Shepherd  commented on a blog post that I had written last year.  In that comment he proposed  “Knowledge Artist” as a better phrase or term than “knowledge worker” or “information worker,” to describe people who work in information-dense but critically informed, pensive environments, whether it’s in the Beltway, on Wall Street, or in a media-centric career. …… better than “knowledge worker,” with its tone of drudgery and labor….”

The idea of being a “knowledge artist” intrigues, inspires and excites me since I think the term probably describes the holistic nature of what I am trying to do better than the phrase  knowledge worker.  That doesn’t mean that a knowledge artist does not experience drudgery at time but uses both art and science to weave many components together to create, use and share knowledge.  My focus tends to be on the visual which is where my personal artistic skills are concentrated.  But art takes many forms.  I have been inspired by John Kao’s discussion of innovation and creativity in his book “Jamming” where he talks about his experiences as a jazz musician.  And I have resonated to David Whyte’s ideas on the use of poetry in corporate America (see his book “The Heart Aroused – Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America”).  I also found Daniel Pink’s book on “A Whole New Mind” enlightening as he looks at skill sets generally designated as right-brained (versus the logical left side of the brain) that have been undervalued.  I started this blog to start discussing these kinds of thoughts to see how we could balance logic with emotion in a way that helps inform intuition (the “ah-ha moment”) and yet cross-checks the imagination.  

I have no idea where this journey to understand “knowledge artists” will be going, but it should be filled with learning and creativity even if the term turns out to be invalid.   I will look forward to hearing all your ideas along the way.

Jabulani Does CIC

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