Color Changes


February 2009


Height: 31.5 inches
Diameter of Base: 10 inches


trumper, ink well, copper fire extinquisher,
faucet, reflector from space heater, spigot
copper bowl


During the creation of Color Changes, I reached some insights concerning the creative process itself, and the similar steps that I will often follow. 

Often there is a lot of time spent in "prep work", cleaning metal, joining metal, drilling holes, wiring, and the like. This might account for 60% of the total amount of time spent on a piece. 

Then there are some of the more "analytical" tasks. This includes figuring out how pieces need to fit together, looking for pieces that work well with each other, figuring out the sequence of tasks, studying the overall form, considering how the light and the metal work together artistically, things like that. These are mostly activities that I have done before, but need to be considered, relative to the new piece. This might account for 20% of the total time spent.

The final 20% represents an artistic “puzzle” that needs to be resolved. These are activities that might best be labeled as “reflective endeavors”. Sometimes this amounts to just staring at a piece, trying to figure out in what direction it needs to go. Often it occurs at the end when it is nearly built, in an attempt to integrate it, with itself. This is often a point in the process when nothing seems to get "done", but typically involves the deepest amount of concentration. Of the 3 stages described, this is usually the most creative and exciting. 

Now when I reflect on the overall process, I realize that even though the prep stage might seem to be the least creative overall, a lot does actually happen creatively while it is taking place. In working with a piece while not focusing on it, one becomes familiar with it, and the subconscious mind will often spontaneously find solutions or come up with ideas and directions that get integrated later on. So in this sense, mundane tasks allow for a state of “non-reflective attention” that are invaluable within the context of the overall piece, and often provide valuable insights into it and the creative process itself. 

During the creation of Color Changes, one thing I reflected on was the wonderful series of paintings of the Rouen Cathedral by Monet, a number of which can be viewed at the Musee d'Orsay in Paris. In my mind, these paintings represent a perfect intersection of color and light, with the cathedral serving as the form or structure through which this intersection is expressed. Artists in later years would often eliminate the need for structure within their scope of their expression, and just focus on abstract painting - color, light, and their intersection.

To change contexts a bit, I believe a parallel phenomenon has occurred when one looks at the history of jazz. For example, a bebop musician like Charlie Parker would build harmonic and rhythmic structures on top of chord changes. Chord changes were/are the structures upon which bebop jazz improvisations get expressed. Then some 10 to 20 years later, Ornette Coleman or John Coltrane would eliminate these chord progressions (structures) all together, and focus on abstract harmonic tonalities and rhythmic elements that would find full expression without the need for these musical (chord) structures. 

In reflecting back at the work Color Changes, I think there might have been a subconscious reference to these musical chord structures, as mentioned. When one looks at this piece, notice how the 3 colors interact. The violet color transitions to the turquoise color. Turquoise then transitions to the peach color which is the background color upon which these two other colors “sit”. These 3 colors might reference the II, V, I progression that serves as the foundation for most jazz improvisations. The title of this piece, Color Changes, was chosen based upon this awareness. 

There is another insight, related to this piece that I would like to comment upon. By incorporating light into the artwork itself, I am attempting to take control of an element that painters try to capture, but which is external to the painting itself. To explain this idea, one can reflect back to Monet's Rouen Cathedral. Although he magnificently captured the way in which light illuminated the cathedral, the appreciation of this expression always requires an external light source directed at the canvas. Put another way, a painting without an external source of light to illuminate it cannot be either viewed or appreciated. In this context, I find it quite interesting to consider that Monet’s paintings of the Rouen Cathedral might have appeared very different to him in the light in which he originally painted them than the light at the Musee d'Orsay today. After all, these two lighting conditions, one can assume, are not the same.

So when I incorporate light within an art work, and focus a bit of light here or there to illuminate particular color elements, I am attempting to take greater control of how light interacts with the elements that surrounds it. I see this as a further evolution of the manner in which light functions within art. The object illuminated and the object that illuminates become one.