Creative Research

In Period One: 1976-1989, my creative research focused on producing photographs and artist books.  Artist books are defined as original art works that use the printing process experimentally.  My artist books have been collected by most of the prominent museums in the United States as indicated by the list included in the Other Evidence of Creative Activity section.  During this period I received national recognition through a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Individual Grant, one of the most prestigious grants awarded in the arts.  I was selected from over 5,000 applicants to receive one of only two grants to support the work of artists active in producing artist books.

During my career as an artist I have consistently used photography as a creative medium with a particular interest in exploring new photographic technologies. *1 I currently work with digital photography and manipulate the images through various software applications.  In some cases the results exist as traditional photographic prints, but I often employ them as the visual interface for a web page, and also exhibit them in a digital gallery that only exists on-line.  An example of the flexibility in presenting work created through the digital medium is provided by a recent International Digital Art Exhibition based in Australia where the exhibition existed on the web, and was subsequently printed and exhibited in galleries and museums throughout Australia.  This represents a new approach to the creation, exhibition, and collecting of art.  As with my artist books, working with digital media allows me to reach a far broader audience than the traditional model of exhibiting a unique work of art in a single venue.

In addition to my activity in making photographs and artists books, I also began to collaborate with other professionals during the 1970s.  At that time artists were first coming together to form alternative galleries so they might exhibit work that fell outside the normal channels of exhibition, either because it was too politically charged or not commercially viable.  It was in this environment that the artist book movement became an established contemporary art form complete with producers, critics, and collectors.  In 1976, I initiated Artists’ Production Press, a.k.a. Chicago Books.  The goal was for artists to explore the commercial technology of offset printing techniques and to produce artist books.  At this time I made my own artist books and collaborated with other artists to make their books.  During a ten-year period, Chicago  Books received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, The Illinois Arts Council, The New York Council for the Arts, in addition to the support of private donors.  The artist books produced at Chicago Books were extremely successful and are recognized today as being in the forefront of artist book collaborations, and are noted for their technical explorations of the printing process.  Reviews and sample works from this period are included in the Creative Activity Binder.

Period Two: 1989-1995, Future of the Book:  I began this period by collaborating with a group of artists committed to examining the future of the book in light of the development of the personal computer, and what seemed to us as a challenge to the book as an interface for collected thoughts and beliefs.  The result of our research was a project that evolved into a series of publications and exhibitions collectively known as “The Future of the Book of the Future.”  We examined the implications of new technologies on reading, writing, printing, and book distribution.  I received two planning grants from Florida State University to develop the project.  The first grant of $5,000 generated over $150,000 in outside funds that were used to produce exhibitions and publications at the FSU Museum of Fine Arts, the University of Alaska Art Gallery, Anchorage, Alaska, and Keio University, Tokyo, Japan.  Each exhibition was specific to that location and included displays of historical representations of the book, new technologies that emulated the traditional narrative style of the book, and art works that addressed potential future forms that the book might take.  Each publication was independent of the exhibition, but contained articles that addressed issues particularly relevant to that location.  For example, in Alaska we were concerned with the dynamic process of preserving native traditions by videotaping oral histories, and how distance learning might deliver education and connect people living outside the main cities.  The focus of the exhibition and publication in Japan was the effect of Western thought on the evolution of the book, computer based delivery systems, and the effect of new technologies on non-Western cultures.  Examples of the exhibition, related publications, and reviews are included in the Creative Activity binder.

The second planning grant from Florida State University in the amount of $3,000 generated $20,000 in outside funding to produce an award-winning internet web site that documents the exhibitions and incorporates the publications.  I have included in the Creative Activity binder sample reprints of the website.  This was the beginning of my interest in using multimedia technologies to develop the internet as a learning tool.

Period Three: 1996 – present.  Most recently, my research and art making activities have involved videos, graphic design, interface design, and visualization of information, all stimulated by the experience of working on the website referred to above.  This period opens with my collaboration on a prototype of a web-based art exhibition space, which I called On-Line Learning Environment (OLE).  It used the temporary exhibitions on view at the Mary Brogan Museum of Art and Science in Tallahassee as the basis of an interactive experience accessible through the web.  For its time, OLE pushed the limits of web technologies, incorporating QuickTime Virtual Reality panoramas that offered a 360 degree view of the exhibition space with areas linked to movies, sound clips, and related materials.  The experience of working on this project reinforced my belief that a well-designed visual interface assists people in finding common ground by erasing boundaries of culture, language, time, and place.  I realized that a multi-media visual interface was a crucial element in developing successful web-based learning materials, and that it promoted the acquisition of knowledge.

Since 1999 I have worked as the lead designer on the Interactive Media Science Projects in the Department of Science Education at Florida State University, focused on producing educational materials on a variety of science subjects for middle and high school students.  “Burning Issues,” is the first multimedia CD ROM to instruct students about the role of fire in ecosystems and wild land fire management practices.  “Silent Invaders,” a website concerning invasive plans and animals, includes a field guide, invasive plant control game, videos offering background information, and an educator’s guide.  “Burning Issues in Wildhorse Basin,” is an interactive website dealing with some of the same issues addressed by the successful CD ROM.  A DVD called “Burning Issues II,” has recently been released with supplemental materials.  The contribution to these projects is discussed in a letter by George Dawson, Director of Interactive Science Projects and Professor Emeritus, Science Education Foundation, Florida State University, included in the Other Evidence of Creative Activity section.

Currently, my creative activity is divided among design, photography, and video.  In the field of design, I am engaged in developing graphics for the interpretation of science materials, designing time-based multimedia interfaces for cross-disciplinary projects, and designing information architecture.  I am bringing these skills to bear as one of the project leaders for the Florida State University workshop funded by the National Science Foundation to discuss the use of digital media to reinvigorate computer science curriculums.

The interests I developed over a thirty-year period were brought together in designX:critical reflections, a project I developed in collaboration with Keith Roberson, Associate Professor, Department of Art, Florida State University, which resulted in an exhibition, CD ROM, and mini-conference.  My premise was that the designer’s personal viewpoint and style provides the humanizing element essential to make vast quantities of data comprehensible, compelling, and above all, useful.  The exhibition included time-based interactive media and computer network interfaces that use new dimensions of sound, motion, and virtual space.  The exhibition highlighted the fact that design has emerged as a quintessential profession of the twenty-first century, combining commercial imperatives with a process of cultural interpretation where text, pictures, symbols, and digital technologies all play a role.  The result is a synthesis of art and technology that reshapes the context of social interaction.  Each designer in the exhibition was chosen to represent a specific perspective on design practice and the critical dialogue on the development of contemporary design and the role of the designer in our culture.  The intersection of art and visualization was examined in the mini-conference, “Information Visualization // projects + designers + scientists.”  The designX:critical reflections catalogue is included in the Creative Activity binder.

My recent work with the medium of video is represented by contributions to v1b3 (video in a built environment; in which I used video projections and sound to transform sites in the urban environment.  These works are included on three DVD collections of 12-15 artists each, selected through a peer review process by Cezanne Charles, Executive Director of New Media Scotland, and Kate Taylor, curator of the British Broadcasting Corporation’s “Big Screens.”  They were exhibited in public squares throughout England, Spain, and Russia (also in several screenings in Singapore and the United States as both public projections and gallery exhibitions).

I have continued to explore video through site-specific pieces such as “Trickles to Transport,” completed this summer.  It consists of a video and sound installation piece that focuses on the Delaware River, beginning as a small stream in New York and becoming a major transportation river way leading to the Atlantic Ocean.  After seeing the piece in a screening at the University of North Texas, Irene Klaver, Professor and Director of the Philosophy of Water Issues Program, University of North Texas, asked me to participate in an International exhibition, “Rivers Project,” sponsored by UNESCO, which features art that approaches water issues from the cultural, socio-political, economic, ethical, philosophical, and scientific points of view.  It is on view this fall in Brisbane, Australia, and will travel internationally for several years.

Leave a Reply