Elementals

Elementals – a solo show of original artwork by Karen Hochman Brown
Four mixed-media banners accompanied by animations
Lancaster Museum of Art and History
August 4 to September 26, 2018
 
I have always been fascinated by finding and creating cohesive art out of dichotomies and juxtapositions: nature and machine, the organic and the technological, micro and macro. My art invites you to discover the potential infinite connections one might find between seemingly disparate worlds.
In the series, “Elementals”, I utilized different machines, both simple (gear driven rope twisting device) and complex (computer), as tools to reinterpret and manipulate the natural world, specifically reimagining the core building blocks of Air (AER), Earth (TERRA), Fire (IGNUS), and Water (AQUA).
 
Mixed-media banners:  satin charmeuse, silk dupioni, wool, wood, aluminum, sheet acrylic, and acrylic paint.

With each piece, I begin by importing a photograph into a modular graphics-synthesizer program where I implement a variety of algorithms. I use polar space, fractal space, assorted modulations, reflections, waves, distortions and symmetries to achieve each layer of my digital constructs. Using this technology, I draw out the essence of my subject, placing focus on details and developing an emotion through repetition and distortion. AER should feel like breath; TERRA is solid yet fertile; IGNUS is unstable and volatile; AQUA is powerful and ever-changing.

Presenting this work as fabric banners has given me a chance to return to the act of physically creating something. As a digital artist, I work at the computer. Most of what I produce never leaves the computer.  When it’s time to print, the substrate then comes into play. For the last several years, I have been printing my kaleidoscopic work on metal. The result is vibrant and shiny. It is also very hard. So I am experimenting with some new toys (laser cutter) and some old toys (sewing machine) and creating something softer to buffer the noise that clutters our lives. 

Accompanying the banners are two mood animations devised from the base photography used to create the flags. These animations are art pieces and have no plot or linear elements.
 

Each banner contains two QR codes that link to extra content related to the artwork. Follow the links below to view the QR content.
One code leads to the photograph used to create the piece. I have paired the image with a poem related to the element. 
 
The other code leads to an animation that illustrates the layers used for the graphic image. For best viewing, watch full screen. Click on the image to start the video.

Are You Feeling The Energy?

The Great Big Aloe Eye in the Sky is one of my more energetic pieces. The bright orange of the aloe bloom vibrates against the brisk blue sky. 

The Great Big Aloe Eye In The Sky Animation from Karen Hochman Brown on Vimeo.

I took the photograph used to create this work at the Los Angeles County Arboretum. It had rained only hours before I arrived. I usually focus in on the flower for my pieces, but the combination of the orange spikes and clear blue sky were irresistible.

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Base Image for “The Great Big Aloe Eye in the Sky”

The Great Big Aloe Eye in the Sky is featured as the cover of my 2017 calendar. I only have a limited number and they will sell out quickly. 

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Click here to purchase the 2017 Wall Calendar

Keep Loving

Loving Day commemorates the 1967 Supreme Court decision of Loving v. Virginia, the case that legalized interracial marriage. Both the case and the holiday take their name from Richard and Mildred Loving, a couple that grew up and fell in love in Virginia. Although Loving v. Virginia was decided in 1967, the most reluctant southern states took until the year 2000 to repeal their miscegenation laws. This became pertinent in my life when our family became inter-racial when my son and his wife were married on Loving Day. The basis for this artwork is my beautiful daughter-in-law’s wedding bouquet.

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Adorn Your World With My 2017 Calendar

This is the sixth year of my self-published calendar/portfolio. Before I started specializing in my current form of art, I was a graphic designer. I guess I still am. The calendar gives me a chance to revisit my prior occupation. Putting the calendar together also gives me an opportunity to look back on the art I have created this year and relive what was going on with my life for each piece. The creations are very personal for me. Each photograph is a reminder of my travels or my mother’s garden or whatever was going on the day I took the picture. Each finished work is a memento that relays clues for what was going on in my life.

 

I included the four kaleidoscope pictures I created early in the year as Artist-In-Residence at the Los Angeles Arboretum. I wandered the grounds early in the morning to take photographs I would work with throughout the day, ending in the afternoon, and these pieces were done. This was an exciting challenge, creating a piece of art in a single day, in front of an audience. You can find these artworks in the calendar in February, April, November and December.

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Pieces I created for the Sanchez Art Center’s 50|50 Show in Pacifica, CA

 

The other big project I had this year is represented in the months of January, June and July. These artworks were part of an installation at Sanchez Art Center in Pacifica, California. In this project, I created 50 small artworks in 50 days over the summer. I decided to use this as an opportunity to incorporate a technique I have been toying with for years, even before the kaleidoscopes. The basic form continues with the use of a single photograph that I have distorted and reflected. But for these small works, I made the backgrounds with a technique I developed that brushstrokes to paint the image based on texture, shape and luminescence of a photograph.

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Feminine Rose Mystique

My husband has sub-titled this piece “Eggs and Orifices.” I think that is fitting for this powerfully feminine piece.

A bed of roses has been carefully arranged for a dance of fertility.

Base image (center) and two "foundlings" for "Victoria Rose."
Base image (center) and two “foundlings” for “Victoria Rose.”

Open petals of the pink rose are transformed into fleshy openings. Each corner holds an egg perched on the edge of a cliff, awaiting a synchronized dive into the welcoming folds. Corseted hourglass figures suspend a circular fixture above the bed, almost obscuring it from view. There is a hint of something lurid, maybe a bit nasty.

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Warrior In Paradise

The base image used to create Bird O'Paradise by Karen Hochman Brown.

I meditate on Bird OParadise when I am in need of powerful inspiration. There is nothing shy about this piece. The structure and boldness of the Bird of Paradise flower is apparent in the artwork.

Bird O’Paradise from Karen Hochman Brown on Vimeo.

The dominant motif is the vibrant orange square. Its double fortified walls are suspended from a blue perimeter above a featureless green field. Inside another blue boundary is a dynamic sun. The orb’s horned aggression is held in check, trapped inside crystal.

Base image (center) and two "foundlings" for "Bird O'Paradise

Base image (center) and two “foundlings” for “Bird O’Paradise.”

When creating this piece, I struggled with the warrior forms that were advancing. The orange is fierce and somewhat aggressive. It is from the “head” part of the bloom. The edges are hard and there are dangerously sharp points. But nature has balance. The flower itself provided relief from the forceful orange with its indigo petals that happen to be fused into the shape of a heart.

Blue is the complementary color of orange. They reside across each other in the color wheel. Nothing that is in orange is in blue and vice versa. Mix them together and you get mud. Keep them separate and they create tension. The hot orange does not overpower the cool blue, nor does the blue subdue the orange.

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Finding Focus in the Calm Places

It was January of 2011 and I was struggling with where I wanted to take my art and my art career. I had been making Judaic artwork using some powerful graphic synthesizer programs. The goal was to print images to silk to make prayer shawls. The technology was new and expensive, and over the course of a year and a half, I found the whole process too frustrating to continue.

 

So now I find myself lost and unfocused. I am at the end of that journey. I’m out of a job, a job that I invented. I feel betrayed by the very thing that feeds my soul and gives me great comfort. For many months, I tinkered with various software programs looking for something new to do. I revisited prior projects to see if new insight would advance them to the front.

 

Base image (center) and two "foundlings" for "Erythrina On Fire."
Base image (center) and two “foundlings” for “Erythrina On Fire.”

One day, I made the inspirational leap to use photographs with the math-based software that landed me in a place where I was able to regain my focus. So much so, that I have been concentrating on this series for almost six years, creating more than one hundred, forty pieces.

In the artwork Erythrina On Fire, I have constructed a large swath of smooth cream color against the very busy orange structure of the reflected flower. You can see in the animation of the piece how I altered the colors to give the viewer a place to rest comfortably in a calm place amid the surrounding chaos.

 

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Collaboration

“The heart of this celestial game board has the power to set the wheel in wildly flamboyant motion. Implosive and explosive in one movement, the resultant green waves cool the player’s fevered brow. The sentinels call out, “Place your bets!” There is no winning, there is no losing, there is only the Game.”

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Orchids In Play

My best friend, Robin Panzarella, wrote these words about Orchids In Play. It was one of twelve poems she penned that were inspired by  the first twelve pieces of my continuing series of photograph-based kaleidoscopic artworks. I published these poems alongside my artwork as a  calendar. I had expected we would be a team for longer, but it wasn’t to be. These twelve poems, unpublished a the time of her passing, continue to fuel my exploration into this form.

The artwork always came first and was completed before Robin wrote the poetry. In this particular piece, however, Robin’s poem inspired me to update my work and embellish the background with an array of dots, like a giant game board.

Orchids In Play base image
Orchids In Play base image

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A More Literal Translation

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Base image for The Forecast Is Fern

The photograph shown here was taken in the spectacular gardens of the Spalding House, which is part of the Honolulu Museum of Art. Unlike the lush surrounding gardens, this scene is a moss covered branch with some rather ordinary ferns. They are part of some plantings at the base of a building, not really exotic at all, at least not in comparison with the rest of the grounds. The composition of the photo is not spectacular either. But I liked the crisp focus of the fern and thought it was worth playing around with it in my workspace.

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The Forecast Is Fern

In much of my work, the subject matter is not always readily apparent. Not so in this piece. Rather than blending and bending the base image beyond recognition, I chose to keep the structure of the fern’s leaves as the highlight the piece. I wanted a feeling of dense tropical jungle created by the fingered leaves of the plant. The central motifs are more typical of the majority of my kaleidoscopes. The base is detectable, but more obscured by various manipulations. But as you move outward, the structure of the fern is readily apparent and at the border, the piece is very literal. As a balance, I warped the center into a heavily distorted glass bubble, a crystal ball if you will. Look in to the sphere to see if there is fern in your forecast.