When I begin a collection, I choose for my subject matter cultural and natural forms that I feel provoke a powerful,
innate response. In this first collection I have chosen two zooplankton (microscopic marine protozoa), and certain Olmec carvings
as the starting point. These were chosen for their visual impact, personal significance and cultural and/or biological importance.
The whole process begins with me making
transparent glass objects derived from these themes. During the glass making process these forms undergo their first transformations
as the rigors of the blowing process and it's somewhat spontaneous nature and unusual physical properties all affect the outcome
along with my own personal input. For me, it is important to produce these objects myself so that I can allow the medium to
help guide me throughout the creative process.
A photogram (the term coined by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy
and his wife, and now the most commonly used for the process) is an image made by exposing photosensitive material directly
through or around an object, without benefit of any camera or negative. Photograms offer a very immediate and straightforward
way to capture light patterns. Once the blowing, flameworking, and other glass work is finished, each piece comes into the
darkroom to become a "lens" for my photograms. The process is as straightforward as possible, nothing that would have been
considered out of place in the mid 19th century. In the tradition of William Talbot's "Photogenic drawings", Alvin Coburn's
"Vortographs", Man Ray's "Rayographs", and Christian Schad's "Shadographs", and many more who have renamed slight variations
of this process for their own purposes...I call mine "Vetrographs" to emphasize the glass work and its role as an intermediary
process in creating the images.. Creating these Vetrographs offers an opportunity to pass information through several filters
that are intimately personal to me and then capture it in light, essentially flattening out the light patterns created by
my blown sculptures and freezing them in 2 dimensional space. In this way the objects interact on a different, and somewhat
unpredictable, level and I release some control, allowing the sculptures themselves to take a hand in creating the work. After
development I edit down the resulting images into the final compositions, paring them down to what I feel are the most essential
and powerful elements.
Since my Vetrographs use a direct exposure process with no negative involved,
they can only be reproduced digitally or with second generation photography (i.e. taking a picture of a picture). In this
series I've scanned the original Vetrographs and recomposed them, limiting myself to enlargement and values reversal (making
the naturally negative values of the photogram into positive) alterations. At this level the imagery undergoes more transformations
as it is re-contextualized both by scale and selection. After scanning I spend many hours going over every detail of each
image at various magnifications to find the most interesting compositions I can. I try to avoid any more aggressive manipulations,
which might obscure their essential connection to the original objects.
For me, ideally, the creative process
requires both elements of forethought and planning and an ability to follow the work where it leads. Spontaneity and vitality
can have difficulty existing in the same environment as the high degree of planning and precision thats usually involved in
well crafted glass, or any other technically proficient art work. In this series taking the work through various stages of
process, rather than convoluting and complicating the work further, frees me from having to focus too much on the finish line.
Each stage, from drawing to model, glass to Vetrograph, scan to reprint, etc... also offers a new, and somewhat unpredictable,
result and launching point for the next series.