a Little About Myself

It has been a habit of mine to create pieces which strive to challenge the viewer in some fundamental way or other. Oftentimes, it is enough for me to engage the viewer- to get him to participate in the piece.  Other times I make it necessary for the viewer to question himself to understand the piece entirely. Yet other times it is enough to create for creation's sake. It is enough to explore myself, my skills, and my mediums. As Raymond Chandler said- "There is no art, without resistance of medium."

If I hadn't gone into art, I would have gone, instead, into philosophy, sociology, or psychology. I am fascinated by semiotics and the holds that language has on our perceptions, in our society. It is through my art that I try to shine light on these limits, of the mind/word relationship. Art, to me is a language sufficiently vague to be more abstractly accurate. As such, it is a means to describe those things that stifle description. Things like truth, and emotion. 

In an attempt to capture the world as I see it; as a shifting, morphing, wavering, flowing ocean of symbols, thoughts, ideas, and words; I must sometimes relinquish myself to simply adding to it. And yes, this sometimes is enough.

~Nathaniel G. Campbell

 

m'I self

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I've often considered myself more of an artisan than an artist. My friends hear me say this, and often get upset. It's difficult, perhaps, to see creativity of any ilk and not think somone is an artist. All the same... It it a meditative practice for me to question who or what I truly am. Many and diverse are the philosophies which have led me to do so. The fact that i'm something of a cinefile is perhaps the reason i found a few of my answers in film.

Who am i? The short answer... 'Depends on who you ask.'

If you ask my friends, i'm an artist. If you ask other artists, they'll likely say i'm a craftsman. To my mother i'm a son. To my students, i'm a teacher. To myself i'm a samurai, a traveler, a master, and more. But this is the me that i percieve...! Wilson would disagree with anyone saying they are anything at all. I think it's enough to understand we are many things at once.

We are not a single person when you get down to it. There is the me that i percieve, and the myriad me's that others percieve. There is even a 'me' that lives inside your head, even if we've never met. I myself am a different me from moment to moment. I'm not the same man i was yesterday, and i suspect i will be different still tomorrow. In fact, depending on who is sitting across from us, we often behave differently, do we not? As the question arose in in the film "I Heart Huckabee's" i ask again, both to myself and to you, dear reader; in these instances, 'are we being ourselves?' The only answer i can concieve, must be the same as was answered in the film: 'how am i not myself?'

 

While others contemplate their relationship to the universe, i contemplate the relationship of my varrious selves to one another.

~Waking Life

an Afterthought

the Metadatacle Journey

 

I'm told that as a small child, I would sit perched on my aunt's lap, starring for hours at a time at a picture that hung over her head. It was a brown and beige fabric print of leaves and branches. While my aunt is prone to exaggeration, what is true is that I was fascinated very young, by shapes, and colors. This may not seem strange for a child, but rather than play with these strange shapes, I would simply stare, and take them in. When I was finally old enough to try and make these shapes and forms, I did so. There soon came a time when I was never without a pencil, crayon, pen, or marker; and a piece of paper, newspaper, or a wall. My aunt 'the artist,' was the first to note my 'talents' and critique my drawings. About a green outline of what may have been an alligator, she told me: its belly is too low, and its head is too small. This may well have been the first time I got an inkling of the notion of art as an intentional means to a finished product.

I was attracted to much the same as any kid would be attracted to: bright lights, colors, and moving shapes. The colors of one particular game I had found around the house as a kid are emblazoned into my memory forever. Small pegs of bright orange, and a cerulean blue box that held them- part of some game I never knew the rules to. Years later (after wondering so many times what these bright colors were on the tip of my brain that I loved so much as a child) I would find it was a game called Think & Jump. It would be several years after that, when I would discover that orange and blue were complementary colors.

For a while, I stuck mostly to colors and color combinations that I knew. Blue, of course, having been my favorite was always the most prominent. I believe it was in the 5th grade, we were asked to make a placard, of sorts, with our initials. Mine, was done in purple and yellow. When asked to make a book of poems, the colors I chose for the cover were red yellow, and blue.

In the seventh grade, my friends introduced me to MTV, where I saw two of the most memorable 5 minute snippets of my life. The first was from an animated mini-series called 'The Maxx.' Apart from the goose bumps it gave me, I knew neither what it was called, nor where it was from. The second was a music video featuring blue granulated figures in a dingy hospital room. Their expressions were sometimes ecstatic, and sometimes distraught. Their movements were jerky and unnatural. One of these figures jiggled a loose plug in the wall, and on the other side, a deformed child twitched and jittered. This (at the time) obscure video (entitled Stinkfist) by a band I had not then heard of (Tool) would years later lead me to the marvelous works of Bothers Quay.

The more noted work of Brothers Quay was in a fairly mainstream movie called 'Frida,' about the Mexican painter Frida Khalo. It was, again, my aunt who had introduced me to the works of Frida, many many years before the movie had been made. She showed me a book full of paintings of a mutilated woman. Surrealist images with dying dear, and tiny nude figures in a bathtub under the shadow of skyscraper; what was obviously a complex story, that kept me entranced as I tried to unlock its meaning. Looking through that book, I was reminded of Dali. Not remembering even then when, or where I had come to know about him, surrealism had always been an artistic style I resonated with (and is still today). M. C. Escher was among my favorite 'surrealist' illustrators. The connection of his lithographs and woodprints to mathematics enticed me all the more. The simple black and white contrast, seeming to deal with value alone; creating depth with only point and line, peaked my interested in how simplicity gave way to complexity.

Only now, does the connection emerge between M. C. Escher's works and my most favorite movie "Pi" by Darren Aronofsky. Shot in high-contrast black and white, this mathematical thriller holds all the aesthetic appeal with which I was imbued by Escher's works. I especially love where the main character, Max, dabbles in religion and its connection to numbers and mathematics.

While religion and spirituality have always been a big part of my life, they've not yet proved themselves to be major influences to my creativity, but a means to express it (does that make sense?). Currently, i am working on a set of scrolls, which, when completed, are to become the main mythology to a religion i've amalgamated. All of it is done with pen and ink, mostly black on white, or white on black. Though I cannot say exactly when it was I first saw pen and ink drawings, I can say when it was that I remember seeing it done well. Our high school publication printed student poems, drawings, photographs, et.al.. In it, were two drawings which I have kept until now as both reference and inspiration. The student's name was Leigh Cullen, though I'd never heard of her before, or since. I've seen only the works of Aubrey Beardsley, whose works were almost certainly her inspiration. Both their works are now mine. (...Inspirations i mean.)

When I attended Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, I was able to grow in leaps and bounds, artistically. This was the first of my 'formal' artistic instruction. In 'art foundation' classes, I was bombarded by a slew of images: artistic and non-artistic alike. I learned about the philosophy of aesthetics, and design, and the importance of craft and intent. Just as important as the classes and textbooks, were the teachers, galleries around campus, guest speakers (among which the Brothers Quay!), and the artistic environment itself. All of these made for the ability -indeed the need -to view all things, even the mundane with an artful eye. Every little event was meted critically and artistically; everything from the Brothers Quay live screening and Q&A, to the concert by goth-folk singer, Voltaire.

After university I went to Italy for a brief time to live with my grandparents, and find work. On the slow road to becoming a professional blacksmith, I delved into a world of classical design and traditional craft of historical wrought iron. Coincidentally, traditional designs of iron fences, gates, grates, lanterns and bed-frames, fell right into my love of line and space. Each project represented easily with little more than a line drawing, with the only qualifiers being thickness, weight and direction. Not to give the wrong impression, the bulk of the work was not exactly 'creative,' but rote. After 200 years of tradition, one must expect a fair amount of formula and prescription.

Perhaps the most stimulating part of that particular job was traveling to different and varied locations to install what we had made. We visited everything from modern houses and villas, to ancient churches, and cathedrals, even bars, bodegas, and 'malgas. Some of these were deep in the mountains, which in and of itself was a treat, as I would often spend as much time as possible, above 2000 meters, sketching the valleys below, the rocks, caves, and caverns around me- no better exemplar of art and history, science and nature, and all the contrasts of the natural world.