Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Simple Circuits

Two weeks ago I started my stretch as Artist-in-Residence in the Physics Department at Harvard.  So far, I've set up a studio in a "SciBox", a multipurpose classroom/lab, where I have an open door policy and welcome physics and engineering students, teachers and staff to wander in, see what I'm up to and engage in a dialog about art-science-creativity-innovation and where-how-when these matters collide.  

Circuit designed with Eagle software

Besides setting up my space, I've been taking a week long circuit building intensive where I've become acquainted with Eagle software to design circuitry, 

learned how to use a Roland MDX-20 milling machine, a vinyl cutter...

soldered LED's, resistors, buttons/switches, battery holders and a photo transmitter.  

It's child's play to what the 20 somethings are doing: micro controllers, microphones, flashing LED's and Arduino. But it's very exciting and opening up the possibility of adding electronics to kinetic sculpture.         

If you, or your 5 year old, are interested in building very simple "squishy" circuits, check out how to make conductive and insulating play dough here or watch AnnMarie Thomas's TED talk here.  And if you want more advanced stuff, go to Sparkfun here.

Stay tuned... I've begun a Machine Shop "Green" Training and have started using a vertical and horizontal band saw, along with the lathe.  I'm especially excited to have just bought bifocal magnifying safety glasses! Now I can actually kinda see the 1/1000ths of an inch that I am taking off.   


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

New Years Catch Up

It's been a while since my last blog post so this update in a bit overdue.  Here's a catch up...

Hydrogen Atomic Orbitals (walls), Wave Line (center)

In May, I had a solo exhibit titled "Spherical Harmonics" at Boston Sculptors Gallery.  This is a fitting follow up to my last post where I was rolling and spray painting the thousands of ceramic balls it took to create the installation. 

The exhibit featured "Hydrogen Atomic Orbitals", an arrangement of thousands of 1" diameter black and red ceramic balls, clustered in patterns, hanging from the gallery walls. Having chanced upon patterns made by hydrogen atoms while conducting a Google search on Quantum Mechanics, I created a simple and tangible way of visualizing the behavior of electrons in matter, following an orderly natural system as familiar to us as the Fibonacci Sequence or Golden Mean.

Wave Line

In addition, "Wave Line", was installed in the center of the gallery: a kinetic, interactive sculpture consisting of 100 hanging lead balls in a 25 foot line that invites viewers to engage with them, creating a wave of motion.  To get a better sense of the show and the kinetic movement of Wave Line, watch a short video hereread an article by Bob Keyes in the Portland Press Herald here and a review by Cate McQuaid in the Boston Globe here.

Goodbye to old house and studio in North Berwick, Maine

In May, we also put our house in North Berwick, Maine on the market with the goal to downsize, move to Rockland, Maine and build studios.  Thinking we had plenty of time before a serious buyer came along, we were quite surprised when our house went under contract in late July with a closing date of September 30th.  Crunch time! The next two months were consumed with thinning, purging, packing, selling and giving away all the house and studio STUFF (way too much stuff!) that we'd accumulated in fourteen years of living in one place. 

Wax Resist workshop at the Maine Coast Encaustic Workshop Retreat

During that time I taught my annual Maine Coast Encaustic Workshop Retreats at the end of August and in mid-September.  See a video here.  This gave me a much appreciated break from the hard work of purging and packing as did my Creative and Professional Practice Workshop Retreat on Star Island.  My students felt bad for me when I told then all that was going on, but really, it was a treat to get away from the real work. Gotta love those students!

 Creative and Professional Practice Workshop Retreat at Star Island

The last weekend of September arrived, the boxes were packed, the Uhaul truck was in the driveway and Christos and I handed over ownership of the fixer upper we poured our sweat into, restored, raised our kids in, made a home and studios of and so enjoyed. On occasion we asked ourselves if we were doing the right thing. But as much as we loved the home and studios we'd created, we realized it was much too big and much too much maintenance. The trade off in downsizing would be a simpler, smaller, just we needed and no more, home in Rockland, with more time to make art.  We'd come to love Rockland as a result of keeping our sailboat in the harbor for eight years.  Having bought a house seven years ago, that we rented all along, kept the goal of moving there alive.

For the last three months we've been renovating our new-old house, re-sheet rocking, refinishing the wood floors, painting every wall, ceiling and the trim while most of our belongings have been in storage.  The inside is done, mostly, and we'll get to the outside next summer. 

We've been getting to know Rockland, and happy to find a local fish market, farm fresh eggs, a great bakery and the YMCA, all a short walk from our house. Christos is happy to be just 300 steps from the town landing and since the leaves have fallen, we've had a nice view of the harbor from our home. 

The studios "under construction" in Rockland, ME

While we've been settling in, our builder Dave has been steadily working on our wood shop, now done except the cedar shakes, and framing our studios, now finally enclosed, with plenty of work ahead inside.  We're hoping by summer, the studios will be complete and ready for us to make art in.  It's been great to see the plans that Christos worked up take shape and to feel the physical space that we only imagined until now.  

Here's an article in the Union of Maine Visual Artists Journal about it all. 

"Objects in Motion" at the McIninch Gallery at SNHU

In the midst of all this I had another solo exhibit "Objects In Motion" at the McIninch Gallery at Southern New Hampshire University. This required a bit of planning, pre-packing, knowing that it all needed to be set apart and stored separately.  Here's a write up about the exhibit in the Hippo and a link to a piece that NHPR did on the show. 

The gang!

Now... the house is comfy and feels like home, the holidays are behind us and I've just returned from California (I'm on the plane as I write) where we traveled from San Francisco to LA visiting family.

Next week I head to Cambridge, where I'll be an Artist-in-Residence for four months in the Physics Department at Harvard.  I'll be working with students to apply the principals of mechanics to create kinetic sculpture, collaborating with faculty, sitting in on labs and lectures, and using the departments equipment to create my own physics inspired work. It will be a cross disciplinary exchange between art and science.  The timing couldn't have been better since my new studio is under construction.

Most people ask how this all came to be, since the Harvard Physics Department does not have an Artist-in-Residence program.  In January of 2012 I had an exhibit "Stuff Moves" at Boston Sculptors Gallery where I showed kinetic sculpture.  See exhibit here.  A Physics Professor from Harvard saw my work and asked if I'd be interested in working with his students and/or exhibiting. Via email he circulated my work around the department to see if there was interest in bringing me in.  After 2 years, several visits, meetings and tours, yada yada, I had another exhibit "Spherical Harmonics" at Boston Sculptors (see here) where the chair of the Physics Department came to the reception and invited me to be an Artist-in-Residence.  Since then, I've been visiting, getting to know the guys in the lab and creating an AIR program for myself, since there wasn't an existing one. 

The first week I'll be attending a winter session intensive on circuit building and assisting students in applying their new circuitry skills to create kinetic sculpture. I hope to learn something about how circuits work myself. From there I'll be sitting in on the lectures and labs for PSI 15 (Principals of Scientific Inquiry) where I'll be working with students who want to take what they learn about mechanics and create sculpture. 

I'm diving in with the attitude that I'm there to absorb like a sponge, to share what I know, admit and learn about what I don't know.  Not to focus on making work worth showing but to create some rough and ready mock ups that allow me to understand, just enough, what I'm learning, and not to get stuck on the craftsmanship of making anything finished-polished-exhibitable. Of course, there will be plenty of time post-AIR to make finished work and I’m sure my future projects will be influenced by this experience. 
I'm also going in with an 24-7 open door studio policy where physics students, lab staff and faculty may walk in, see what I'm doing, ask questions, offer their ideas and input, collaborate and create along with me. 

I'm planning on writing regular blog posts to document and share just how cool physics can be, so tune in again in a week or two!