Lately I’ve been devouring art books featuring the work and thought processes of creators like John Baldessari, Ed Ruscha, and Robbie Conal. Like any artist worth their salt, this trio has spent their careers interrogating the world around them and wondering about their place in it. Further, these artists have specifically questioned what their work means in the context of the past and the present, admitting that they share in the mystery of their creations along with everyone else.

I don’t know whether art that makes you ask questions is indicative of things like an artist’s talent level or genius (a delicate word to use in any context), but the spirit of this kind of work often feels ambiguous in a way that keeps you coming back to it to wonder about.

As someone who has always been captivated by the written word, some measure of the awe I have for these three artists is their habitual use of phrases in their work. Growing up knowing the bare minimum about the art world, it never occurred to me that there was anything more to it than old portraits and murky landscapes. But as I learned more about the sphere, the enthralling realization that art can be anything you want it to be, that nothing in your life is off limits, that when it’s your art it’s your rules, disabused me of all my old notions.

When I create for myself, I like to take minor ideas and inject them into my larger photography and AI processes to see what comes out the other end. The examination that follows this combining of discrete elements routinely takes me to the most unexpected places, and often I derive further inspiration from the journey. Beginning to work with words has been an exciting revelation, as the area is so broad that I have countless angles with which to experiment going forward.

This picture, JAWS OF DEATH, started as a work of AI that I co-created a few months ago. Like many of my outputs, it sat in a folder amongst its kind, awaiting my monthly visit to see if any of the carbon has become a diamond. The difference with this image though was that from the moment it was generated, the vibe* of the picture stood out to me, and I had a feeling that I would soon return to it in some form or fashion. When I decided to try using words in my work, I knew I’d conjured up enough of a reason to re-engage with the picture, and I polished it up with in-painting and upscaling to raise the base level of its appearance.

(*When I refer to the vibe of the AI picture above, I mean there’s an idiosyncratic nature to it that sticks with me and harkens back to my early days of AI exploration, when my imagination was instantly captivated by the technology’s ability to create feelings-on-demand.)

Next, I determined that if some inquisitiveness is good, more is better, and I added a thick border to act as a frame for the picture, and it doubled as additional space with which to work. The phrase JAWS OF DEATH came remarkably quickly (and I’m not entirely sure from where) and I ran with it. In an attempt to add breadth to how the phrase looked underneath the picture, I intended to create a shadowed look; when I moved the word awkwardly though, I stumbled on a double vision alternative, where the words were practically eating each other. This formatting forces the eye to look more closely in order to see, and I like the idea that someone needs to earn a message, because meeting an artwork halfway is being a conscious observer.

While this mini project began as a bit of practice, I now consider it a finished work that I will hold up as a template for future assemblages that I make, with the aim to create pieces that are more than the sum of their parts. I find it increasingly gratifying to work on pictures for an extended period to see how far I can take them, because it increases the chances that I get something wholly unique and something that best represents my taste out the other end. Doing this will also salve my issue of trying to nurture all my artistic interests separately, as I can mix my various enthusiasms into one creation or series.

I had a realization the other day that life is driven by barely coherent randomness, which we as humans foolishly think we have control over just because we attach a narrative to it after the fact. With my artwork, I want to give up as much control as I can in favor of nurturing serendipitous outcomes. It won’t all come out the way I want, but no path you take is ever devoid of mistakes. I’m here to have fun and surprise myself, while creating more feelings-on-demand.

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