Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Dangerous Remedy

Organic Intelligence

Since the sixties, thinkers have been suggesting it’s time to shift our model of reality from the giant machine to the image of the universe as an organism. Fritjof Capra talks about the shift in worldview that came with quantum mechanics in his wonderful book “The Turning Point”. He writes, “The universe is no longer seen as a machine made up of multiple objects, but has to be pictured as one indivisible, dynamic whole whose parts are essentially interrelated and can be understood only as patterns of a cosmic process.” Seeing the whole is essential to understanding the significance in a situation and is the essence of ecological consciousness. We understand the big picture through concrete vision as well as within our spatial embodied imagination.
The heartbreaking pictures of the oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico can be seen as our body bleeding. The globe that supports us all is pierced and hemorrhaging. All the images taken from space that show the growing damage hurt my heart like damage to my own body. Which it is, given I am absolutely dependent on it. A caller to the Diane Rehm show was the first to express out loud the fear this oil spill could kill the whole planet. The satellite and helicopter pictures are the diagnostic scans of our global body. The compartmentalized, rapacious way of looking at the planet that grows from the machine model avoids seeing the interconnections. It may suit the corporati and greed-driven, but an attitude of seeing the planet as a giant reservoir of resources to be exploited interferes with the balance of the all-inclusive organism. Chief Seattle said, “The earth does not belong to us, we belong to the earth.“ Stabbing oneself in the hope of riches expresses reckless self-loathing.
Organic intelligence is alert to the health of the whole. Since everything is part of an intricate network of interrelated systems, we’re happiest (best brain chemistry) when we’re developing our abilities and finding challenging ways to make use of them. This adds our health to the health of the larger organism in which we participate. Moving in harmony with the flow of being around us is natural if the underlying model of the universe has ourselves as part of an organic whole. If we’re disrupting other aspects of the larger being we’re like a cancer, growing without heed of the damage we cause, sucking up vital resources without regard to the host. Much of what divides us and keeps us from acting together is imagery that places us outside of things, casting us as the one that tinkers with the machine. This is the same image as the large scale Maker, which also puts the traditional God outside us.
The Gaia Hypothesis came out decades ago. James Lovelock’s conception was of a consciousness within the earth itself. Just like the adjustments made in our own body, it responds to imbalances. This universal motion of homeostasis exists on every level and in every system, adapting to change to restore equilibrium. Persisting in the belief in man’s dominion over the earth may lead to the earth itself wiping out the source of destruction.
The materialistic world of separate things has resisted seeing our interconnectedness because it’s a threat to a competitive attitude. Accumulating and controlling more of the planet does not serve the good of the whole. But there’s evidence mounting of the grassroots shift to a more responsible way of seeing. Two website groups that have contacted me recently are dedicated to positive change. The Superforest site
( ) sees the essence of problems and solutions in the world as revolving around manners. Treating everyone and everything with respect means being aware of the consequences of our actions. As they say in their Humanifesto, dumping pollutants in a river is bad manners. The narrow sight lines of a competitive stance focus on the end result and miss much of what’s happening now and the consequences of single-mindedness. A cooperative attitude is tuned to the moment because cooperation is all about adjusting to the circumstances and harmonizing with others. The current most popular entry at the TruthContest site
( ) focuses on the Present and the nature of consciousness. Their site is committed to an ongoing attempt to articulate truth, to search out the universals that bind us. They turn the idea of a contest on its head since there’s no competition, no prizes, just an on-going dialogue that features the entries that generate the most interest. Extending themselves for the good of the whole, these sites are examples of healing forces, the action of Gaia’s immune system. They give me faith in the goodness of human nature and optimism about the future. I’m happy to now be connected to both efforts.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Stage Three

Here's the newest stage of the drawing you've been watching grow.
Every one of the comments you gave me on the last stage affected it enormously.
Thank you so much. Now I'll wait a bit to see what else anyone has to say.
This might be the last stage in progress. It's starting to feel like time to wrap it up.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Watch the Debates in Slow Motion

The occasion of the election is an opportunity to reflect on the larger implications of illusionism.
Each candidate is carefully crafting an image and doing what they can to control the imagery so that it supports that image.
One great way to get beneath the controlled surface is to watch the debates in slow motion. Without the words to distract you, slow motion offers a chance to see what might be creating the hunches about candidates, where something makes you uncomfortable but you can't put your finger on it. Paul Eckman, worldwide expert on facial expressions, calls the transitional expressions that we don't consciously register microexpressions. Though candidates can rehearse and control their face to some degree, there's leakage of true attitudes, contempt or uncertainty or grievance, that are never picked up a regular speed, but can be very revealing in slow motion. We understand facial expression through an inner mimicry that connects it to how we feel when we look like that. When candidates close their eyes we feel the inner withdrawal from the situation and what they're saying.
Obviously it would take a long time to watch the whole debate this way, but if you zero in on the times that have the most expressive interaction, you'll find expressions that weren't so obvious, but were part of how they were responding to the situation. It's a way to get to your deeper reactions and get past the hype and illusion.
As a by-product, you'll have a better sense of how the particular network is trying to slant your reaction. Where the camara is pointing up at someone, where down, how much time it spends on one candidates face, how the set influences unconscious attitudes, are all part of a sophisticated understanding of how to manipulate the viewer. You don't have to be controlled like that. Hunt for the microexpressions to enlarge your visual understanding.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Greetings Illusionists!

This was a piece I did for the Creature Features Show in LA ( I think I have a love/hate fascination with sharks, they are always popping up in my pieces. Just wanted to share and wish you all a happy halloween!

BEware the sHarks in Disguise!

Also, I just updated my website - - check it out if you have some time!

Take care!


Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Work in Progress II

This is a new stage of the same drawing I posted in June (Work in Progress).
It meant so much to me when LIz picked up on my intention to break down figure/ground distinctions in her comments on it, and when Mike saw the relationship of the drawing to my ideas about us all being a part of one mind. Hopefully I'm still developing those qualities. What else is it evoking for you now?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Vibration Drawings

Twenty drawings from the "Vibration Drawing " series are now on display in the Decker Gallery of the Fox building until
September 9 with a reception Sept. 6, 5-7. You may have seen one of these begun in your class. "Ventricle I" of the series by that name is the image shown here. All were inspired by the new research indicating that new neurons are formed along the linings of the ventricles (fluid filled spaces) in adults. All of the work tries to draw attention to how much is going on in what
has previously been considered empty space and that fixed ideas of boundaries between things should be reconsidered.

Friday, August 17, 2007

More TVs

I thought it was interesting that Mike DiMotta used televisions in his image for "The Seven Deadly Sins" of "Sloth".
Letting the real world fall apart around you while lost in the artificial reality of television suggests the way TV promotes inertia.
Though he uses a cartoon style, his command of space lets him pack a tremendous amount of information in a small space, and emphasizes the uniformity created by everyone having the same sensory experiences.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Lost Comments

The last few comments I've left on people's entries never turned up on the blog, so I'll try it this way. The image Liz posted has had me thinking a wide array of things. What we might call a moose or a shrimp is really several generations removed from the original, more a picture of a picture (of a picture...?) , and a picture of a design of a creature changed by cooking. My thoughts started out with the idea of how far most of the stuff in our lives is from what is natural, but have ended up thinking more about people's day to day creativity, that most people are using their imaginations regularly and never calling it art.

Friday, June 8, 2007


Its funny looking at this on the screen
The masking in that work is like the calm eye of the storm. I cant tell actually though if its negative or positive space I'm looking at. It seems to get back to matter, matter circulating and assuming certain patterns. I like those central marks behaving like lens glare. It reminds me of footage from Joseph Kittinger's leap from the edge of the earth's atmosphere. ( Apparently he wrote a book about it but its sort of like what can you even put in that book.

On TV-- its affected our behaviors, and for sure our metaphors for experience. Maybe it depends where we're looking to find this in art. There's Nam June Paik. I saw that piece of his at the national gallery earlier this spring, with the wall of televisions. I remember watching these two young kids looking at it too and thinking whats this like for them? Really loses its criticality to a viewer whose own experience may be so genuinely akin to the feel of it. But what about painting and drawing. Illusionistic work and television do overlap, theyre all about surface. Hi-def technology pushes that envelope further and further, that envelope where you know the difference between whats real and what isnt. Hi-res TV's make you feel like youd been near blind your whole life and you didnt know it.

Technologies of optics (art status regardless)--Giotto, one point perspective, the eye glass lens, still photography, digital photography, camera phones, the new microsoft coffee table that is also an interactive media space-- though seemingly differentiated, seem to grow from the same objective-- bringing ourselves closer to some idea of real. When I looked at Zak's babies, that was what they were about for me too, but in a way that is about genuine intimacy.

Ive been visiting at my mother's, a place that is all about TV. Right now the soundtrack in the house, besides the fridge, is Larry King. No one, clearly, is in the room with the TV at the moment.

TV watching flips in and out of states of focus and distraction. When I pointed out that Paris Hilton has been the sole subject of discussion on CNN for the past twenty minutes, mom reminded me of that point. "We all need our distractions" is what she said.

And then there is the way that the watching replaces being outside (back to mirror neurons!) Bringing the outside inside. Sitting outside watching TV makes no sense. I cant think of why that would ever happen. I guess thats whats going on in Tom's piece is that the outside is the outside brought inside (yikes). The TVs are also hyper materialized, we are much more aware of their physicality as objects or furniture and not just their contents. Maybe that is what is hard about using TVs in the work. There is the object and then the experience of tv, and it is hard to capture that. You make a really good point Susan about it boiling down to light. I just remembered seeing thesis work this year, paintings on the first floor of the main of children in interiors. One had a lot of blue light I think, projected light, on the faces of children, so that the tv is central to the scene though not directly in view, only its effects. Maybe others know which paintings I mean.

I think I'll stop there for now, but hello blog! Hope all is well with everyone. Looking forward to future conversations.


Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Work in Progress

This is the image I started in The Illusionism class this spring. I haven't worked on it at all since then, and I thought it would be interesting to post it periodically for comments as it develops. Obviously there's not much here yet, but if it prompts any responses, I'd love to hear them. Look in on the blog over the summer and see what develops.

Where are the televisions?

I’ve always felt the absence of TV’s in today’s art. People still paint traditional landscapes, nice pictures of trees and water, but what Americans do with the bulk of their time is watch TV. The absence of TVs in art seems like evidence of the extent of denial. When people talk, it’s about TV shows, their favorites on American Idol, the last episode of a popular drama. Most homes have multiple TVs, yet the interiors in art are thoughtful figures by windows, through doors, flanked by mirrors. It’s never seemed true to modern life. Past attempts to use it as a class project had limited success. Tom Symond’s piece showed me how to incorporate it as an assignment because TV is not bound by the traditional brightness constancy of reflected light. Tom brought this piece to show me in progress and it faithfully obeyed the rules, all the light on the screen diminishing with distance, the reflected light on the figure in the foreground, the strongest light in the piece. When I said, the TV has to be brighter, is on a scale of its own, he said, “No way” . He’d learned the lessons of brightness constancy well. And I learned that this was the opportunity to re-engage my students with TV as subject matter. After all, the world of projected light is pervasive, not just TV’s and computer screens. When I shut off the lights in my studio in the evening four little LCD,s are still glowing. Our attention is drawn to light sources, and is even more attracted to sources of movement. When a TV is on in the room even if you’re not interested in what’s on, if you’re focused on a conversation with a friend, it will periodically drag attention to its screen by the flurry of urgent motion. Let me know what you think about TV’s in art and why there isn’t more of it.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Learning to Swim in a New Medium

I’ve been finding my way to what is interesting about blogging and am thinking about particular questions and your take on them. In the next week or so, I’ll be posting three or four of them, after which I will lay low for awhile to let comments accumulate.
First , I’m interested in how you would answer the question, “What is illusionism?". Ever since Paul Manning wrote something to the effect of “What the F*** is illusionism?" On the evaluation at the end of class, it’s been clear to me that I must not have come up with a concise amnd straightforward definition, so I can use some help. I’ve always said initially , that it’s the appearance of space and volume in an image. In its purest form , it’s actually fooling the eye into believing something could be real which engages sensory reactions rather than simply communicating the idea of space. Beyond the simple definition, I’m also interested in what about it you are drawn to philosophically, where you see larger implications. I look forward to whatever thoughts you have on this. Thanks!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

hey everybody....

It's Katherine Lucente aka Mizz K. Lulu!
Here's some stuff I did in Illusionism I that sort of started me on this fairy tale twisting kick. I got really into H.P. Lovecraft junior year as well as got into trouble with some awful relationships freshman and sophomore year. Then I reread Hans Christian Anderson's Little Mermaid and felt terrible pathos for the main character as she was martyred and used by the prince. So I wrote a quick summery for a story I plan on writing this summer based upon The Little Mermaid but with a vengeful twist. My Little Mermaid is set during a time when pretty much everything on Earth is useless except the sea due to the inevitable nuclear holocaust. The few people left on Earth are pretty much pirates and modern primitives who inhabit giant trash pile islands and massive rusted battleships that look like half sunken spaceships. Little do these people know that as the nuclear holocaust shook the earth, something old, something strange woke up in the abyss of the sea...

the image below was created in advanced illusionism:

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Zaq's babies

One of the great things about a blog is I don't have to respond to what I see right away. As you know I often think quite different things when the image sits with me awhile. I'd never seen the image with the baby in the sand and it seemed like it really tuned in to baby-mind. The world is big and endless, and there's a sense of complete involvement in a world where you are the center of the universe. I've read that as babies we're at our most egocentric and grow out of it as we get older , becoming more and more aware of others. (Immaturity characterized by self-centerness) It's a beautiful image conveying a quiet self-absorption, and a great texture bradient as well.

Friday, May 11, 2007

General Hello

Hello to all. It's great to see this blog up, and I really do hope we will get good use out of it. I'll hopefully have a bit more to post and contribute in a little while, once things get settled down and I have a chance to format my recent images and write more often. Once again, I am very glad there is now a forum for us to keep in touch and share our work and our thoughts. Wonders of the digital age! Aside from that, I hope everyone's break is off to a good start.

- Aleks

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

New Phase

This marks a new phase in the 15+ years of Illusionism. Thanks to Zaq for pushing it into being. The Advanced Illusionism class of 2007 can be considered the founding authors of this blog, but anyone who wants to be able to post images who is not on the list can contact me at

Monday, May 7, 2007


Hello everyone,

First post! I finally decided to put up a blog for Illusionism. Now students in the illusionism, advanced illusionism, and any other aplicable Susan Waters Eller class can post their art online for critique and comments, and so everyone else can see how things are going with your work in progress.

I guess i'll start off the art posting with some giant babies that i did in Illusionism.

These are both done in Guache and are pretty small in person.
I may be doing a much larger version of the top one over the summer.

I'll have some scans of my Advanced Illusionism paintings up throughout the summer!