I have always had one foot planted in Art and the other in Science. It's not enough for me to think something looks good or interesting, I want to know why my brain likes it.
I am a Canadian Glass artist living in the Waterloo area of Ontario. I have been making glass, mainly flat glass panels, since 1995 and I am really drawn into the science behind my work. The chemistry and physics of the material while it is a liquid, and the visual possibilities of the material in a solid form. Glass is like no other material and, just like every thing else in life, you have to learn the rules before you can know how to break them.
As mentioned on my process page, I experimented a lot before finding my process of making flat panels made from many small glass components. Of course, I let science dictate the process as much as Art.
The artist/scientist laying out the small glass forms to be melted into one big panel.
Do you ever think about how birds see?
I do. I think about that kind of stuff all the time! They have big eyes on each side of their heads. When a bird is watching you, it turns its head so that one eye is looking right at you. They can never see you with two eyes at once because their eyes are on the sides of their heads. How does their brain sort out two realities in such a tiny brain? But birds can do amazing things like fly very fast, weave through trees, and land on a branch with ease.
How can an animal with eyes facing two different directions judge distances so easily and quickly? I asked a pigeon but it ignored me. What a jerk!
Well, after making my glass panels, I started to understand how the brain perceives depth, even in the brains of birds. Without boring you too much with technical science, the brain uses clues such as overlapping forms, changes in relative sizes of similar objects, atmospheric distortion, and the shadows cast by objects. These are also how your brain "sees" depth in a flat image like a photograph or painting. You likely don't think about how your brain does that either but I do.
I am really drawn to black and white photography. It just seems so interesting to me the way that tones of greys can make up an image. I think that it is made less complicated without the distraction of colour. I started making my panels simplified by removing bright colours and focal points. These panels were viewed more as a panel as a whole, a field of tones of greys, and not viewed up close to see the tiny dancing forms of the tubes* that I created the work with.
In order to bring people closer to view the glass, I added focal points to the panels. I used pops of colour, negative space, and movement shifts to change the distance at which they see the work. Now, they can enjoy it from a distance or up close.
* Technically, these tube-like forms are called murrini. To learn more about murrini and the process of making them, head over to the process page.
Negative space and a pop of colour draw attention.
I have to admit that the interest in both Art and Science is never truly balanced evenly and is never static. Some days, it is all about the science and other days it is about the form and beauty. When it comes down to it, the work is just stuff that melts, flows, cools, and solidifies. It is made with heat, gravity, and time.