«Non lo so.»
“I don‘t know.”
I latched onto this phrase when I arrived in Italy because it’s a handy one for a straniero with spotty language skills.
After years of living abroad, including throughout the 2020-21 pandemic, I’ve learned that NON LO SO is no problem; it’s a signal, a catalyst, and a lever.
Italy’s rich visual environment provides complex layers of light, form, shape, color, value, and line — an overwhelming amount of material. I gather it using photography and drawing, then ask questions:
“How does that blue balance those hues?”
“Why are there three of those?”
“How can I make sense of this?”
“What will that combination look like inverted?”
“Why is that shadow beautiful?”
If the initial answer is NON LO SO, I become interested because it suggests a complex visual problem with potential.
Some current problems emphasize dynamic arrangements of shapes in asymmetrical equilibrium. I use the Processing graphics library to introduce visual complexity and elements of chance to digital vector compositions.
Still other problems involve turning clouds into pixels.
NON LO SO is the point where things become interesting, and I start to make art out of what I don’t know.
I was born in New Mexico and grew up in Los Alamos. I graduated from the College of William and Mary, then studied painting at the New York Academy of Art in New York City, where I earned an MFA degree. I learned how to paint pictures of people and objects and made narratives that described scenes and told stories.
I looked closely at pictures made by many different artists, studying the formal devices they used and deepening my understanding of composition. When my paintings began to emphasize nonobjective forms and the material qualities of paint, I started making abstract pictures.
In Italy, I started making digital vector drawings and photographs. I discovered that devices I used to compose interesting painted pictures could also make interesting digital pictures. I developed new ways of sharing artwork with my pals and patrons, both in digital format and as printed objects for physical spaces. I continued to make paintings, and they evolved in new directions.
I collected many techniques and theories about making pictures and have taught them to undergraduate art students for nearly twenty years. If my students suspected how much I still do not know about art-making, they were kind and kept it to themselves.
For more professional details, see my LinkedIn profile.