Perception and cognition, how we see and process imagery, how an image emerges and becomes recognizable, form the central topic of my work. Exploring this issue, a variety of specialized materials are used for their unique attributes that focus attention on the process of perception. Foremost among them is interference paint, an acrylic medium that has mica chips suspended in the emulsion, which causes light to be refracted and the pigments to shift to their compliments, e.g., red shifts to green. The perceived color of the paint is determined by the angle of the light and the position of the viewer and always remains in flux and elusive. There is a temporal element to the experience as viewing time, and even the time of day in natural light, affect the perception of the color. Under certain lighting, the color “disappears” and the painting is a white, non-color. Under others, the color is fully saturated and bright. Containing the individual colors, a hard-edge, geometric drawing provides structure and a counterpoint to the hazy elusiveness of the color. The interference paint is itself almost transparent and, as a wash on the canvas, combining with the changing pigment, creates an indeterminate, multi-dimensional space. These qualities make an “accurate” photograph of the paintings problematic, if not impossible.
Using plastic drinking straws began as a convenient way to work when traveling, away from the studio. They are readily available and reasonably neat to work with in cramped quarters. The material also creates a unique surface and space that nothing else quite does. Geometry and line are built into the inherently “hard” material.
Creating digital images began with my first computer and moved a major part of my drawing practice into graphics programs. Technology and physics increasingly have become subject matter in my work, intending to be both informative—presenting complex topics such as relativity and quantum-mechanics—and to be an artist’s exploration of topics that were otherwise many levels above my training and comprehension. The subjects themselves are often un-visible, as the phenomena are on scales that are either too large (relativity) and too small (quanta) to ever be seen, regardless of advances in detection technology, as specifically articulated by Uncertainty theory.
The geometry that pervades all phases of my work is built into my bones. Growing up in New York City, I was always surrounded by a vast and varied series of rectangles. The buildings and their component bricks, steel, stone slabs and windows, overlapping in different spaces and angles, was an imposing intentional landscape. The pavement is hard-edged and hard; concrete organized into a grid. As a child, the grid was liberation; I could go anywhere and always knew where I was and how to get home. Geometry organizes and frees us from the tyranny of a chaotic universe.
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email Steven Salzman