Research Turns Into Artmaking

I recently started a series of prints that began in a flurry of ideas: the wonder of looking close, peeling back the layers, and the intensity of microscopic viewing.


I am trying to dig deeper, revisiting the circular plate and looking at a rich history of images that are inspired by the sphere. The artist Richard Long has repeatedly come back to the circle as a form for his work, but it is his inspiration from walks into nature and the wilderness that I find a connection. Placing yourself in the environment you wish to study is typically the best thing to do for research purposes. Paralleling the practices of both artists and scientists in the field, I walk and I document; I check trusty resources kept at hand in my backpack, and I try to see through layers and layers of rock and dirt into other worlds. I draw and I sit. I whistle down a crevasse to hear the sound of myself.


I resonate too with the early works of Thomas Burnet, a theologian whose Sacred Theory attempted to describe the geology he witnessed in the world and make sense of it with what he read in the Bible. His belief was that the earth was created in a perfect form, with cataclysmic events such as a deluge or conflagration that would renew it throughout the span of time (Gould, 1987).

Though Burnet’s religious conviction led him to look at the world with a predetermined set of beliefs about how it operated, he also had the ability to observe the physics of the natural world in an honest fashion, rejecting the miraculous for the verifiable. In many ways, I see Burnet as a forerunner to the father of geology, James Hutton, in that he pursued what he could prove, deciding to use principles of observation. Burnet’s flaw in his account of the earth was the search to make the landforms and seas fit into the constraints of biblical description.

Am I not in some ways accidentally following Burnet’s path? I know a little bit of geology, perhaps enough to be dangerous. I sometimes get a glimpse of myself, having looked around and seen only one solution in the world around me, and resolutely announced that it was always this way. My artmaking has always manifested itself as a flat print. An interior seaway that ran through Texas will surely come again. That is when I get outside, and onto the path of a dry creek bed.

References:    Gould, Stephen J., Time’s arrow, time’s cycle: myth and metaphor in the discovery of geologic time. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1987. 222 p.

One thought on “Research Turns Into Artmaking”

  1. This is really beautiful. I’m reminded of this tumblr, in which the author looks at abstracted images from digital book scans (including old images of geological surveys and scientific experiments) and reflects on their poetic possibilities. Post-Romantic, but in the same vein, so to speak:

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