Zedist Elephant | Open Edition PrintThe Elephant stands amidst hues of orange and green, crystalline shapes melding with the natural contours of its ears and trunk.
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This was the first true Zedist piece I created and deserves special mention. I got the idea of combining textured surfaces with other realistic images by looking at a dry lake bed in the Southern California desert. All of the mud was curling up and separated into organized shapes and patterns, giving the surface a broken, three-dimensional texture. I made a series of paintings using pieces of cut up sheet metal (shown here) that were bent into curled chips, like sun baked mud or dried flower petals. These pieces were arranged on top of a similar parent image below and worked nicely to provide more surface area for the eye to explore upon the sculpted form on top of the canvas plane. The concept of combining two separate forms into one synergistic image was first impressed upon me by the photographic darkroom work of photomontage artist Jerry Uelsmann at the University of Florida. Around the same time, I also became aware of and seduced by the paranoiac critical method of one thing transmuting into another that was utilized by Salvador Dali to create his surreal masterpieces. As I explored the relationship between the picture plane and the sculptured z-axis provided by the curled up metal pieces, I was struck by how the eye could travel up and down the curves created by these facets from the canvas plane to the tips of the curves. I began to explore other types of patterned surfaces that would lend themselves to building a surface morphology upon the picture plane. With my studies in Materials Science providing a keen insight into crystallography, tessellations, surface morphology, and molecular structure, it was a natural progression to satisfy my artistic curiosity by making these complex forms protrude from the canvas plane. I built a 24” x 36” paper model composed of randomly chosen crystalline shapes of differing angles, sizes, and numbers of facets. This 3D morphology completely covered the flat 24”x36” picture plane. My original intention was to paint on the surfaces of the 3D model to create the vision I had in mind, however this proved problematic due to the type of materials I had used in its construction. Instead I used the paper model as a reference point to map its crystalline forms onto another canvas by sketching out its multi-sided geometric facets using lines and shading alone. This provided me with an acceptable solution for combining the crystalline texture with an image, albeit now in a purely “virtual” context. Next, I began searching for an image that would lend itself to being mapped on top of my new “virtual” surface and came upon a rather spirited elephant with ears fanned out and its trunk erect. I thought the ears would fit nicely on top of the facets because of all the contours already present in their organic state. I sketched a large pencil drawing of the elephant that I could use for additional reference (shown here). This was the original creative moment and scene in my La Jolla studio: I set up my working canvas on my easel, directly to its left I hung the elephant sketch and directly to the right I hung the paper 3D model. Top-lighting the model clearly brought out its facets with the light and dark shading dependent upon the angle that the light was striking them. Having these props in place, I began to combine the two different objects into one image and thus Zedism was born. However, it would be another three years before the word Zedism was coined to describe what I was doing. As time passed and my technique developed, I stopped using the paper 3D model and began creating 3D surface morphologies on the fly. I began experimenting with how these types of surfaces take form in the natural world while also tailoring them to my aesthetic tastes in order to work with my chosen imagery or subject matter.
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