Thursday, February 5, 2015

Interview for Scholastic Math Magazine

This is the full interview with Scholastic:

1. What first inspired you to use the coastline, rather than a more traditional medium, as a canvas?
My background is in science, not art. I'm coming to art via my exploration of the world rather than initially setting out to make art. Quite unexpectedly I happened upon how great a canvas the beach can be. That, in turn, prompted me to explore what was possible art-wise.

2. Where and when did you create your first beach mural? Has your process changed at all since then?
My first official one, the one in which I knew what I was engaging and was consciously directing it from the first stroke, was in late 2004. It came on the heels of dicovering what was possible on the beach. I came to this realization when I was in hawaii on vacation, but the beaches were not suitable for my vision- they were steep and coarse grained, draining and drying quickly. I had to wait until I was back home in San Francisco where there is an enormous and flat beach before I could attempt what I had been imagining. The first several years the art was geometrically based. That was the only way that I could access large-scale art. I was driven by the goal of perfectily creating huge, complex designs. Now I am much more broad in my goal. It is still large-scale, but now I am exploring a far wider range of possibilities both in technique and in what may emerge as the final image. While I generally have a plan before going to the beach, often it is not until I arrive and survey the location that I formulate what I will do. That is a huge difference from the first few years in which I had very specific designs and knew exactly what would be produced.

3. How do you prepare to create such large-scale works in such a limited amount of time? For example, do you sketch or plan your designs beforehand? (And if not, how do you keep track of the dimensions of the work while you are creating it?)
For the first few years my approach was to develop a design and have the exact steps I would need to arrive at it. It was essentially designing with compass and straight edge, except that the compass was a large rope and the straight edge was also the rope. My designs were scalable meaning that they could shrink or expand to accomodate the amount of space I had to work with which might be different from one day to the next. Over time I tuned into other ways to create at the large-scale and then my approach was to sketch using a process and see what resulted. I would then recreate the process, which would yield a different design every time rather than an exact replica as the geometric designs did. Now I am using a variety of methods to create large artworks. What has shifted is the goal- I moved away from trying to create something specific and started allowing the design to emerge, guiding it, but being open to the exchange between the artwork and me. More recently I've been apprecaiting the impact that a location can have on what is inspired and how the design develops.

4. On your website, you mention that some of your works are inspired by the ancient geometers. What is it about geometry and its history that you find particularly interesting/beautiful?
What I appreciae about our engineer ancestors is that they were working without the benefit of modern technology- no computers, no lasers and so forth. Using simple but powerful tecniques that basically relied on relationships of circles, almost any design could be created. over huge distances. All the great architectural works of humanity- the pyramids, the cathedrals, the castles- were layed out using these techniques. My studies of geometry and its applications for our ancestors directly led to the recognition of what was possible on the beach when one day I was showing a friend what I had been learning and all of a sudden I was struck with what the beach offered and what I could do with it as the canvas.

5. In regard to the geometric designs you create, you also mention that you use a rope “as a compass.” Can you describe how the rope-as-compass helps you to make the work geometrically perfect? (Euclid would approve!)
A compass allows you to make a perfect circle. When the compass is a rope, the circle can get much larger! So if you can design something on paper using circles, perhaps with lines connecting intersecting points, well, the process is exactly the same, only now the compass is now much larger. My circles might be up to 100 feet in diameter!

6. Apart from the obvious study and appreciation of geometric shapes, does the art that you create require any math?
Math comes up from time to time, but for the most part I am working with shapes and the relationships between shapes rather than numbers. I might need to divide an area into my own units of measurement in order to scale the design easily and sometimes I need to find the hypotenuese in order to assure that my square is not a parallelogram.

7. What are some difficulties unique to creating art in large public spaces?
Dogs are the most destructive to the beach- especially dogs chasing balls! Once I was working when I look up and see a wall of dog walkers coming towards me. It was a parade of small dogs! I then learned that once a week small dog owners get together for a beach walk, They obliterated the artwork, The other day I had the same issue, but this tine it was a mass of horses coming at me! I was able to kindly ask them to go around me.

Really the thing is that people on the ground for the most part can't understand what they are coming across, The size is too large and from within the work it can look like a confusion of rake strokes mashed together due to the compression of distance. I've long ago stopped getting worked up about people walking across the art oblivious to what I am doing, In general people can't do much harm to the art- its too large! A few footprints generally just add texture to an otherwise intact design still still reads clearly from above.

8. What is the best compliment that you’ve ever received about your work? On the personal side, the ones that mean the most are when people are expressing how my art has impacted them. These types of comments have me feeling really good about what I am bringing to the world and affirm the value of contiuing to do it. On the art side, when looking at one of my organic designs, I have sometimes been asked if the design was a natural feature of the beach! That has me feeling good about how well I have blended my work into the location.

9. Do you ever consider making more permanent works? Why or why not?
When I think about where I might apply my skills and vision, I imagine tiled plazas floors and building walls I suppose what has been lacking has been a commission that would ask a more permanent piece of me. In general, however, permanence is not where I am drawn when I set out to go create. One of the charms of the impermanent mediums I use is that they are relatively quick and inexpensive to make (the beach is free, which is awesome, but sometimes I use straw, which is usually easy to obtain and cheap.

10. Could you please provide the dimensions of your icosahedron, including the lengths of each internal edge? Approximations are fine; what we’d like to have the kids do is recreate the shape on a smaller scale based on the relations of the sides.
This question highlights that numbers play a small role for me, I almost never measure any of what I do- not the edges of shapes and definitely not the finished piece. For a geometric shape I will use a rope to see how much room I have on the beach (but that could also be the paper or the wall). Next I use halves or quarters or some other ratio of that initial length to use as the common denominator of every other dimension of the design. Thus a certain position may be X number of units out from the center or X number of units in radius and so forth. Perhaps an activity could be to use a compass to create an arbitrarily sized circle and then figure out how to finish it based on just the initial circle. The icosahedron guide I sent is essentially doing that. The beauty of doing it this way is that the shape can be made that scales up or down to whatever size is needed to fit the space available. For the sake of ease I will use a tape measure to round up or down the space I have to work with to lengths that are easy to divide.​

Random Past Posts

    Random posts widget