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Naturally Unnatural

Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center

Birmingham, MI

April 1 - 29, 2016

The art works in Naturally Unnatural—small, intensely focused paintings from an ongoing series entitled Cell, and the floor-based installation Microarray 2.0—are interrelated projects. Using diverse materials and formats, both consider new ways to construct a painting while addressing the increasingly permeable interface between ourselves and the lab.

The paintings in Cell explore the material, formal and chromatic properties of paint through the lens of biology. As the organism’s fundamental building block, the cell has been analyzed and manipulated extensively in order to make sense of its mechanics and build “better” life forms. Cell starts with its own building block: paint blended with various thinning agents and poured onto drafting film. Once dry, the paint pour is excised, spliced, peeled, sanded and layered repeatedly, then adhered to a support to produce forms accreting like microbial blooms. Paper scraps with paint stains and brushstrokes are incorporated into the works to expand the vocabulary of paint marks and further integrate chance outcomes into a methodical process. As this multi-step process unfolds, visual and conceptual tension emerges between light and its absence, opacity and translucency, absorption and reflectivity, flatness and dimensionality, spread and containment, coincidence and control.

Microarray 2.0 receives its title and inspiration from the colorful dot-and-grid images generated by instruments used to simultaneously sequence the expression of thousands of genes. The floor-based installation is constructed from 1,440 Styrofoam cups organized into a pattern of repeating sub-grids. Acrylic paint has been poured on to the base of each cup. Bubbles, cracks, clumps of pigment and variations in sheen and texture individualize each unit within the tightly controlled structure. When viewed in totality, the circles of poured paint appear to hover over the floor and project the reductive painting into space.

In both projects, colors from the natural world are set against artificial hues. This “naturally unnatural” palette reflects our environment, where the manufactured and organic intermesh seamlessly, whether in the food we eat, the medicines we take or the genomes we modify. Juxtaposing Microarray 2.0’s uniformly gridded circles against Cell’s misshapen paint pours further enhances the tension between the manufactured and organic, and between precision and irregularity, which is central to all my work.

Originating from my abiding interest in the life sciences, Naturally Unnatural presents two projects that are neither exclusively serendipitous nor systematic. As they sample positions along the continuum between painting and sculpture, both Cell and Microarray 2.0 speak to the negotiations in which we engage when trying to make sense of our condition in a complex and shifting environment.