Chaos Theory: Murmure

In August of last summer I was asked by the owners of The Rook, a superb American craft restaurant in Ithaca's West End, to put together a show to hang from First Friday Gallery Night of November through January of 2017.  As their aesthetic gravitates toward organic, nature-themed content, I decided to pick up on a series I had begun to explore a few years back: The Chaos Theory.  

Murmure: Ranula

Pen & ink, acrylic on paper

18" x 24"

Since I first learned about it in grade school, the Chaos Theory has fascinated me through it's application in both macro and micro examinations of complex systems and organic life.  Put simply, the theory posits that "within the apparent randomness of chaotic complex systems, there are underlying patterns, constant feedback loops, repetition, self-similarity, fractals, and self-organization" (Boeing, 2015).  My original series from 2014 examining the Chaos Theory sought to extract and overlay intricate patterns within & throughout animal subjects; the pattern and order was represented through finely detailed pen & ink, juxtaposed atop the seeming chaos of vibrant color and loose acrylics.  Most of the pieces from that collection explored the patterns that appear on a micro level, within the fur, feathers, and anatomy of animal subjects, but one piece zoomed out to extract order from the seemingly ultimate chaos of a starling murmuration.


Acrylic, pen & ink, on paper

9" x 12"

Anyone who has witnessed or is at all familiar with the gorgeous spectacle of a starling murmuration will appreciate the overwhelming sensation of ordered chaos that emanates from the thousands of animal bodies moving as one amoebic mass in the sky.  The dark ink blots of individual bodies dip, dive, and writhe together in what should be (and in moments, appears to be) a tumultuous pandemonium; yet somehow the congregation of these tiny beating hearts always rights itself as the starlings perform a contiguous ballet of simultaneous order and chaos.

Thus, for my ornithologically focused show at The Rook, I decided to expand upon my original series examining the Chaos Theory as it manifests on a micro level in bird anatomy & plumage, and in a macro spectacle through murmurations.  I again utilized fine pen & ink (and in the case of the murmuration pieces, large-scale stippling) to represent pattern and fractal organization in juxtaposition with the loose color of organic life. 


Pen & ink, acrylic on paper

9" x 12"

Falco Rusticolus

Pen & ink, acrylic on paper

9" x 12"

Murmure: Volatis

Pen & ink, acrylic on paper

18" x 24"

Halcyoninae   Pen & ink, acrylic on Paper  11" x 15"


Pen & ink, acrylic on Paper

11" x 15"

Pluma: Variis   Pen & ink, acrylic on paper  9" x 12"

Pluma: Variis

Pen & ink, acrylic on paper

9" x 12"

Check out The Rook!  Delicious food. Smart drinks. Casual atmosphere. Excellent company.

Boeing (2015). "Chaos Theory and the Logistic Map". Retrieved 2015-07-16.

Live Painting

Last summer I was introduced to the wildly creative and inspiring experience of Live Painting.  After seeing some of my art hanging for Gallery Night at Lot 10 downtown and enjoying a brew next to my mural in the Beer Garden of The Westy on State Street, the organizers of the annual benefit festival for Carmen Road Artist Quarters asked me if I would do the honors of painting next to the stage at 2016's culmination of art and music in the Finger Lakes.  Although I had painted public murals over longer periods of time before, which often draw curious onlookers and passersby, I had never had my process be so prominently featured as an attraction before and was intrigued at the prospect.  

It wasn't the notion of having an audience that was daunting to me as much as the inevitably organic evolution of the piece that was to unfold over a period of six or so hours.  I usually have a clear plan of a finished piece in my mind and will spend days or weeks meticulously working in fine detail until I feel satisfied with my work; this experience was going to be raw, unfiltered, and was to end when the music stopped and the dancing crowds dispersed, having little or nothing to do with my own judgment of my "finished" piece.  Despite the initial anxiety of this new challenge, my anticipation quickly turned to a gleeful excitement at the freedom of such an idea.  When the evening finally arrived I set up my paints, kicked off my shoes, wiggled my toes in the lush green grass, and waited for the music to begin.  

The crowds gathered, curious about the blank canvas next to the stage and the girl wiggling with excitement beside it.  I was nervous and eager and unsure of how to begin, but as soon as the first deep strum of a bass rang out across the warm summer night, I was suddenly overcome with a certainty of movement and motion, fluid and continuous with my strokes and unfaltering as the crowd was in their own swaying and pulsing to the music.

I found that my usual focus on detail and precision melted away as the piece unfolded before me.  With every new song - and as the hours passed, every new band - the nature of the painting itself morphed and evolved, taking on a life of it's own; I felt like a vehicle, as much a part of the organic amoeba of a dancing crowd at a concert as I was an attraction.  Never having any real musical talent in my life, I finally understood what musicians meant when they spoke of their live music as an entity that is created collaboratively between artist and audience as one.

I danced, sang, and painted (some faces as well as my canvas) the night away, and before I knew it the festival goers were drifting off toward a misty summer sunrise.  I set my brush down, stretched out a happy sore arm and a let out a contentedly sleepy yawn, and walked away from the canvas to watch a new day begin; I knew I had discovered a new and entirely unique passion in Live Painting.  I would be lucky enough to do it once more before the summer ended at a Benefit Auction for Ithaca Underground, held in a picturesque Cidery Orchard on the eve of a gorgeous full moon.  Both experiences were wholly fulfilling, not only creatively and spiritually, but were also satisfying in the knowledge that my participation was simultaneously serving other Artists in the pursuit of their own crafts (the proceeds funding the Artist Quarters for Visual Arts at the former, and the Ithaca Underground for musicians at the latter).  As this summer approaches, I am overjoyed to be kicking-off a new season of Live Painting at a Reggae Festival planned for Stewart Park in June to benefit the health of Cayuga Lake, where proceeds will be going to several institutions researching and restoring the water quality of the wetlands.  Community yoga and live music will kick off the festival at 10 am on the 24th, and I will be there dancing and painting my way through the day, hoping to see your smiling faces bobbing beside my canvas once again!

Dreaming in Color

As I fly along the eastern shore of Cayuga Lake on my 40-minute morning commute, my mind meanders away from the familiar scenery to the quickly retreating flashes from my previous night's dreamscape.  I am an extremely active lucid dreamer, and nearly every single morning I awaken with a buzzing head overflowing with fantastical adventures, screaming colors, and impossible landscapes, all conjured within the deep recesses of my imagination.   It is from this enchanting twilight realm that much of my inspiration and creativity derives, and many of my waking days are spent seeking to communicate the wonders I've witnessed in the endless film reel of my dreams.

It was with much joy and enthusiasm, therefore, that I greeted the task of painting a mural at a favorite neighborhood hangout in downtown Ithaca.  I spent weeks sketching, painting, and prepping ideas for the 10' x 14' blank canvas that was soon to be my own personal playground.

Inspiration didn't strike during these waking brainstorms, however; it arrived, as usual, in the night.  I awoke one morning from a world bursting at the seams - bursting with color, with pattern, with creatures that grew and flew until they exploded into thousands of smaller versions of themselves.  I lay in a field with everyone I'd ever known, watching a spectacle that seemed to begin as an aurora borealis, but which we knew promised a greater, ultimately enlightening vision of perpetual growth and universal connectivity.  If all of this sounds grandiose and esoteric, please believe me when I say I agree.  And yet, I wouldn't trade these fleeting dreams for any concrete explanation of existence or scientific "theory of everything".  I revel in this dream world of magic and color and purpose (and sometimes, alternately, absurdist meaninglessness).  I am grateful for these visions of the fantastical, the impossible, the intangible, which provide inspiration to constantly create in the hours that I wake.  In this case, I woke with a certainty of how to fill an empty wall, which begged to become unique.

As we lay in the field watching the sky, a stag strode into view from the darkness.  It's silent presence was warm and comforting, and we watched as it's antlers slowly grew into great tree branches, which emanated starlight and created a canopy that cradled the earth.  Suddenly, this image burst like a symphony into millions of butterflies that shimmered and melted onto our skin like snowflakes.  The sensation was of white light that bridged the space between our bodies, the earth, and the sky - of oneness.  I awoke feeling warm and content.  Then I went to Lowe's and spent too much money on five gallons of paint, brushes, rollers - the works. 

That weekend I arose with the sun, bleary eyed and caffeine-fueled, and let myself into the sheltered courtyard beyond the grand gate of The Westy, a bar in downtown Ithaca.  I spent the day in blissful creativity, painting with broad strokes, fearless color, and wild abandon.  Friends meandered in and out, bringing food, coffee, and welcome company when the August sun became too sweltering.  I left each evening covered in color and bewilderingly dehydrated, but with a full heart and a smile that wouldn't quit.

In all it took two weekends to "complete".  I still have detail work I'd like to add, patterns for the butterfly wings and perhaps some intricacies in the sky - but overall I am pleased and grateful.  Grateful that Ithaca embraces and encourages public art and graffiti, grateful for supportive friends that made sure I wore sunscreen and drank water, and grateful for a uniquely stimulating nighttime dream world, which I feel privileged to visit when I close my weary eyes.  Please, friends, dream away!