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violet byrd answer 04 - detail

Alien Sea Creature Atop a Cottontail Wave and Other Small Paper Sculptures

The paper signifies the mold from which each person is fashioned, the basic form onto which all personal idiosyncrasies layer. The paper represents the organic body onto which life's circumstances record marks of ongoing events. These personified forms, made of writing paper, suggest communication of personal sensibilities and beliefs.

Answers to Existential Questions

answers to existential questions involve a series of seemingly simple abstract animations. the animations contain duplications and slight variations of two types of objects - circles and rings.  these are either black or white. their movements at first glance appear minimal. complexity arises, however, from changing negative space around the moving circles. first the objects, and then the space around the objects, appears as the primary animation. the alternation of foreground/background recalls optical illusion art of the 20th century. 

although interested in the formal visual qualities of two-dimensional optical illusion, there is something else about the Answers that I find curious. that is, their potential use by an individual to explore patterns of consciousness. the human mind typically roams from thought to thought in a series of impressions, recollections, and associations that could be described as mental imagery. often individuals forget or ignore such familiar, constant, and involuntary thought cycles. the Answers unfold in distinctly predictable compositional progressions. when the viewer alternates between visual observation and mental imagery, upon returning to the animation, the viewer finds the animation at an unexpected place compositionally. the fact of alternation between visual and mental engagement becomes apparent.

Another World

represents the artist's realm of activity, in contrast to what might be termed "the non-artist's world," or "the non-dreaming world," or "levinson's world." the series title references the december 23, 2008 new york times newspaper article by the jounalist robin pogrebin. pogrebin's headline read "branded a pariah, the national academy is struggling to survive." pogrebin quoted new york museum academy board member robert a. levinson, who described academy artists, saying "they just live in another world and don't understand fiduciary responsibility." further, about the academy's failed fundraising efforts, "i think that woke up the artists. they started to come out of the dream world."

"four periods," a work in the otherwise visual series, describes in poetic form the making of paper cutouts at another world's beginning.


wave presents two visual viewpoints simultaneously, between which the viewer's perception shifts. initially the view appears straight on, and shows a cell phone dropping deep into dark water, accompanied by a slight effervescence of ascending air. A prolonged gaze shifts to a downward look, from above the ground at the height of a plane. it is night, there is a brightly-lit coastline. the previous feeling of engulfment dissolves into one of unlimited space and time.

wave is made of 99, approximately 5-square-inch black-and-white paper tiles created with multi-generation xerography,   scanned and edited using digital photo-based processes and printed on paper using a common mechanical printer.   

looking at the finished work, i recalled the new york times newspaper reporting on the tragedies of 9/11. the 21st-century technology of the cell phone allowed passengers to call those they would never see again, while the technology of the airplane sped them to their deaths. With impossibly-seeming incongruity, the two popular mechanical devices served to miraculously broadcast and ultimately silence the passengers’ hearts and minds.  i spoke about my associations to a teacher who said that, a summer or two earlier, the sister of a man killed in the 9/11 attacks had studied at the same studio. the experience of creating and presenting wave made clear to me how the strength of people’s souls cause serendipitous echoes of words and deeds in an inexplicably complex world.

On My Polaroids

The photographs were made with a consumer quality point-and-shoot instant Polaroid camera. In that way they resemble snapshots. There is a difference of intention between the technique of the snapshot - an exhilarating form of photography in its deep regard for small, familiar moments of everyday life, or in its offer of proof in the reaching of an unfamiliar destination – in that the photographer intends to capture a known subject. These photographs are of small, familiar moments in the everyday urban landscape, but my intent in making them was to photograph what had not yet appeared, to freeze random details of constantly changing occurrences, to see what existed in the few seconds that the camera blocked my view and substituted its mechanical record for my biological vision.

My Activity in Art

my activity in art, you might say, began when I was three years old. My grandfather took a picture of me in a new holiday dress, and someone showed me the photograph. I was the subject, not the photographer, but the experience was formative. It puzzled me. The odd thing was how I looked, which was not what I expected. I wanted to think that this could not be how I seemed to others. It was not how I perceived myself. I wondered whether people saw me in the same way as the photograph. Eventually, I tucked the image in a book and lost it. However unlikely, I imagine finding that photograph, want to compare the image to my memory and understand what I saw then, both visually in the photograph and mentally in my perception of the image. That early involvement with photography began raising questions in my mind about what images show, and what people see, and the truth in perceptions.

There are questions of why exactly people take photographs, what meanings are involved in the action itself and in the object of the photograph. Do photographs truly represent the nature of physical forms they show? What is the difference between, or the sameness in, the intangible nature and the explicit appearance of a person or place or thing? How does a viewer’s nature influence their perception of a photograph? If people’s impressions differ, and if their perceptions color the images they see, how do photographs convey photographers’ intended meanings, if ever? What are the compromises in others’ translations? Is the truth found in the appearance or in the intangible nature of the subject, which the photograph somehow conveys? Or are there many changing truths, found in varied acts of perception?

How many, and where are they seen, and what truths are known by people perceiving Fenton’s 1855 photograph The Valley of the Shadow of Death? Fenton’s image of an American Civil War battleground shows the empty scene on which a fight occurred. Cannonballs littering the field are the only visible evidence of war. Although the spent ammunition offers visual proof of the battle, it does not convey the truths Fenton’s photograph expresses. Fenton’s meaning may be understood only by perceiving with the heart the emptiness left after war, that evidenced mutability of the human form, the unalterable and emptying incident of life lost in the destruction of conflict.

At this moment I feel I could continue for days the questioning that began with one photograph so many years ago. Whatever the specific medium used in the process of creation, I make art in order to understand and express something about what it is to be alive in this world.  

Monkey Moon

the moon series depicts that moment in the evolution of human communication when written language was on the cusp of consciousness – latent, invisible, and imminenty. the series images are photograms and xerographic elements of organic materials, found objects, and iconic monkeys.

Deep Space/Interior Place

The Deep Space/Interior Place series explores connections between the individual architecture of intimate environment and the universal presence of deep space. The original of this image, two feet by three feet, was produced using classic and contemporary forms of photobased media and collage. It shows a mountainous landscape of bedcovers beneath a window, beyond which a supernova explodes in deep space. The interior is negative, and the supernova positive, creating a surrealistic effect of polar opposites that is veiled by echoing textural patterns.

Two Minds

two minds mirrors fluidity and distortion in the personality responding to limitations of everyday existence. the media is photo-based, and the imagery references personal identity, the measurement of time, and visual recurrence of cellular patterns in unexpected places.   

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