Friday, April 15, 2005

Digital Art: The Virtual, the Interpersonal and the Tactile

When integrated into a practice of “real space” art activity, digital art forms can be powerfully expressive for a traditional artist. My interest in digital art focuses on the networked computer’s potential to create community. For me, the computer’s use as a fine art image-making tool takes a back seat to its potential to unite people in intercultural understanding. My research consists of the execution of collaborative projects involving artists and a diversity of other humans around the world. These projects extend our “real space” traditional studio practices into those for which location, nationality, and narrative continually shift their focus between the virtual, the interpersonal and the tactile.

Trained as a painter and printmaker, from 1978 to 1994 I pursued a single-minded path of production, exhibition, and sales of my studio work. My paintings and prints reflect my interest in language shapes and random cross-pollination of gestures, pressings, stampings, and scrapings. Most of my painting work is highly tactile. For me, the tactility emphasizes the human touch, the immediacy of being hand made.

The appreciation of this aura-object quality requires real-space presence. When I began to finally learn to use the computer to make images, this split between on-screen and real-space was pronounced for me. I made a few attempts at solving a painting’s compositional problems with the computer but in the end my impulse was always to make the decision in front of the canvas.

Digital imagery fascinated me though for another reason - its existence, the ability to make any image, anywhere, anytime, and distribute it in an infinite number of ways an infinite number of times, across cultures, without the imperative of language or serious financial outlay – this obviously changed the place/role of imagery and art in a profound way. The freedom to connect through imagery with other groups of artists, to work in collaboration via email and the web – this possibility was fascinating.

An early piece: Artwire
- 3 schools, Cleveland State University, Kunstseminar Freie Hochschule (now Fachhochschule Schwaebisch Hall), the University of Maryland/ College Park
- 15 students sent each other art assignments - resulting video, audio, print and documentary pieces posted online (unfortunately, 10 years later the sites no longer exist)
- Three resulting exhibitions in real space
- Led to the student trip to Germany and German students coming to US

- American students spend a month in Germany in the class "Sense of Place/ Place of Technology"
- Can an experience in real space be expressed online?
- Journaling/ QTVR Do you remember your grandparents?
- In connection with big painting show at the Plains Art Museum in Fargo, North Dakota
- My grandparents lived in Fargo area
- Want to honor their memory and my return
- Want to use the web to connect my relatives, North Dakotans, and the world
- Stories uploaded automatically, had to email me the photos
- Stories posted by native american children
- No longer taking stories

TransCultural Exchange
- I am the Assistant Director
- Met Director Mary Sherman (Boston) during junior year abroad, Vienna
- Mission to unite artists online, create dialogue, promote peace through transcultural understanding, have real space exhibitions and meet in real space to extend the dialogue in future exhibitions.
- Have had exhibitions on every continent including Antarctica

Coaster Project
- Exhibitions, then distribution for free on all continents
- Performance aspect
- Extensive press coverage
- Award for best show in alternative space from International Association of Art Critics
- Four page spread in International Gallerie Magazine

Tile Project
- 100+ artists
- 22 permanent public installations: Fine Arts Museum of Ho Chi Minh City; Arts Academy of Azerbaijan; Mercer Park, NY, etc
- artists travel to each other’s opening receptions, create networking
- Sponsors include UNESCO, Soros Foundation, Boston College, Asian Cultural Council, MIT, Puffin Foundation, Hewlett Packard…
- University collaborations parallel main artists’ project
- Grade school and high school peace projects
- Wiki site allows contributions from all parties
- I will be in Manila and possibly Bosnia in the summer
- Was in Azerbaijan in February

My trip to Azerbaijan
- Hosted by artist Chingiz Babayev
- Installation at the Arts Academy sponsored by Soros Foundation
- Post Soviet government, oil drilling
- Muslim country
- Qobustan
- some of the oldest petroglyphs in the world.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

TransCultural Exchange Project Promotes Peace

I am the Assistant Director for an international artists' collaborative called TransCultural Exchange. Boston sculptor Mary Sherman is the Director of the organization, which she founded in 1985*.

What we do: Every three years or so we stage an art project with a global scope. The Tile Project, Destination: The World is currently being installed in 22 permanent public venues around the world. Each installation is comprised of 100 or so tiles created by as many international artists, mostly whom we have met on line through our web site:

In October I travelled to Baku, Azerbaijan to participate in the reception for the installation there. Chingiz Babayev, the host artist, welcomed me into his family's life and his country's culture. The opening reception of Baku's installation at the Azerbaijan Academy of FIne Arts was attended by dignitaries from the American Embassy, the Academy, the Soros Foundation (our sponsor), two television stations, Radio Liberty, and a Baku journal.

While I was in Baku, Chingiz introduced me to artist Ali Shamsi, who took me to see the petroglyphs in Qobustan, about 70 kilometers south of Baku. The petroglyphs are among the oldest in the world, up to 20,000 years old. Thor Heyerdahl claimed that the petroglyphs have a lot in common with Viking runes, and that they may have been created by the ancestors of the Vikings. I am of Scandinavian ancestry and personally I see the connection...

Ali also showed me an ancient cemetery, piles of stones in the middle of a field, many of which were etched with similar petroglyphs. The backdrop for this excursion was the Caspian sea, volcanoes, rocky mountains formed by tectonic plates smashing into each other, and vast desert.

Azerbaijan is a former Soviet state and is largely Muslim. The two languages they speak there are Russian and Azeri. I am a blonde single Jewish woman who speaks only English with the typical college smatters of French and German. Nevertheless, I was made to feel perfectly at home, welcome, and honored by these lovely people. My gratitude is profound. TransCultural Exchange is sponsoring host artists in all installation countries to have such an experience (Chingiz went to Finland).

The course that we take on earth as humans can be changed one person at a time. With understanding, compassion, and focus on working for peace we all can make a difference. Please visit TCE's Tile Project site for more information:


TransCultural Exchange is an award winning 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to promoting international art, global harmony and the understanding of world cultures, through high quality art exhibitions, cultural exchanges and educational programs, at our home base in Boston and throughout the world. Incorporated in 2002, the organization has already received awards from such organizations as the International Art Critics Association and support from such respected world organizations as UNESCO, the State Department’s Art in Embassies Program, and the Asian Cultural Council, among others.