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Lake Testing, pastel on paper, 17" X 23", 2014

Self-portraits of Natural Systems


Imagine how interesting, and complex, the world would be if “every natural system had an inner life, a conscious center, from which it directs and observes its action” (quoted passage from Werner J. Krieglstein's Compassion: a new philosophy of the other, 2002, p. 118).


My most recent work plays with this idea that all natural systems may have an inner life. Through facilitating the process to create paintings like what you see here, I strive to give these natural systems a voice through their creating of self-portraits. The movement of the water results in the mark-making, and the colors are determined by water quality data, when available, together with the reflected colors on the water.  I end up just being a minor collaborator in the process of allowing the water to paint itself.


Participatory art has a century-long history of being an "art of empowerment" – a way to empower the participants.  With these self-portraits I am using participation as a tool for empowerment in a new and different way.  Here, the river, or other natural system, becomes the participant as it undertakes the creative act and shows us a glimpse of its “conscious center”.


It isn’t that I necessarily believe in quantum animism, but rather I enjoy wondering "What if?".  And that is what I hope this new work will do, to cause wonder in the viewer, and to provoke the question "What if…?"


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