So What?

This is the first in a series of posts that I’m calling So What? As I work in Grasshopper, I’m going to try to take some time to step back and connect a rather nerdy interest in Path Mappers to a broader set of concerns about image making, site-specific installations, and more.

‘Your art-shart, Francisco,’ she told her husband venomously, ‘it will blindofy me with ugliness.’ But he was immune to her poisons. ‘Old beauty is not enough,’ he told her. ‘Old palaces, old behavior, old gods. These days the world is full of questions, and there are new ways to be beautiful.’

Salman Rushdie, The Moor’s Last Sigh, New York: Random House, 1997. p. 16-17.

Why analyze paintings again? Certainly, scholars have studied Uccello before, and Pollock, next on my list, is no undiscovered talent. Designers, critics, and art historians have countless ways of understanding images. We can study a painting’s iconography, color, material properties, patronage, historical context, or social implications. We can ask how an image changed the course of artistic events, and investigate the relationship between an artist’s personal biography and her creative output. We can do—and have done—all of these things, and now we have Grasshopper.

Grasshopper’s developer describes it as “a graphical algorithm editor…[that] allows designers to build form generators from the simple to the awe-inspiring.” The program contains powerful tools for managing data, allowing for the coordination of complex lists of values and geometries. By applying this logic to 2-dimensional images, Grasshopper can be used to reveal pre-existing structures within paintings, and to expand these structures back into 3-dimensional space. Still in beta, Grasshopper analysis offers us an opportunity to understand familiar images in a new light.

As Francisco suggests, Painting for Insects is concerned less (not at all!) with negating existing analyses than with articulating a new group of questions to be asked. What’s been most exciting for me over the past two months is that nothing I’ve made so far has looked anything like anything that I have made prior to this project. More often than not, I’m surprised by what I’ve drawn or painted, and I am only rarely “blindofied with ugliness.” For now, my agenda is to ask new questions of old images; if I can do this well, then a new way of being beautiful seems not too far off.

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