Artist Statements

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Nocturne lV

Stars, 1998

There was a galaxy spread before my feet. But, it was day. I knew what the metaphor was in Nocturne iv; I had only to heighten it. The constellations I created here have no heavenly equivalent. They echo patterns found below them. As above so below. As below so above.

The majority of the constellations found in my images are created rather than captured. Infrequently I will trace an existing constellation or the shape of a significant object. More frequently, the patterns I place in the heavens are drawn from another source, often a pattern found within the existing composition. One series of images traces the beauty marks from my wife’s body. At other times I try to create an uncommon sense of balance within the composition, trying not to make the pattern fix the attention of the viewer on it by drawing obvious geometries or recognizable shapes. There are all sorts of strategies you can adopt. Whatever strategy you adopt, it will change the content of your images.

Unlike viewers who aren’t consciously familiar without constellations, viewers who are familiar with our constellations are sometimes disoriented when looking at my images. Because of what they know, they are able to probe deeper here. They can take these stars as a clue that the image has been altered. I often leave traces of the process as clues for the viewer in this game of looking and seeing. What we see changes what we know. What we know changes what we see.

I’ve always been fascinated by photographs of the night sky. Telescopes are able to bring back details I could never have seen with the naked eye. Film exaggerates the colors of the stars, which are faint to the human eye. The lens often eliminates the tiny flares we see. When we draw stars, we don’t use circles, we usually use pentagrams. There’s a reason. I can understand that the twinkle and shimmer of the tapestries above would disappear in a photograph. Time is frozen in photographs. But that the photograph would be significantly different than what the human eye sees is fascinating to me. We’re taught to think that the camera records things as we see them. It does to a degree. But there are many points of divergence. It’s almost standard for us to defer to the photograph over our own experience. That’s something I’m wary of — or let’s say instead, acutely aware of.

Initially I tried to approximate the halos I saw in the night sky. My first efforts were more evocative than analytical. Over time I’ve continued looking closely and trying to refine this technique. I’ve been comparing notes with others about the way they see stars. Not everyone reports the same experience. These conversations have been wonderful.