Harrison Middleton University

Experiment in Art

Experiment in Art

We’re excited that you’ve joined the conversation! At HMU, we want to continue the great authors’ conversations in a contemporary context, and this blog will help us do that. We look back to Aristotle and the early philosophers who used reason and discourse to gain wisdom and now we endeavor to do the same every day.


October 23, 2015

A few weeks ago, Alissa Simon, HMU Tutor, interviewed New Mexican artist Lea Anderson. Today’s post stems from that interview. This lengthy blog post is an experiment. We would love your feedback regarding the results. Thanks to Alissa Simon and Lea Anderson for today’s post!

In my interview with Lea, we discussed the the power of beauty as given by an artist and as received by the viewer. From this short discussion, Lea and I decided that it might be fun to create an artist/viewer experiment. Therefore, I recently went to see one of Lea’s pieces at the Albuquerque Museum, where she is the current Artist-in-Residence. Prior to learning anything about this new piece, MERIDIAE, I wrote a visceral, personal response, which I have placed, mostly un-edited, below. Lea’s exegesis regarding the work follows mine. We thought it might be curious to see what similarities, if any, exist. Let us know what you think of our experiment either below or at as****@hm*.edu.

Image: MERIDIAE by Lea Anderson, Albuquerque Museum. Photo credit: Lea Anderson

Image: MERIDIAE by Lea Anderson, Albuquerque Museum. Photo credit: Lea Anderson


Alissa Simon’s response to MERIDIAE:

Circle over sky. Designed like cells of blood on an entire building wall of windows. Sectioned by windows, segmented into slices like oranges. A geometry of cross-sections. The horizon disorients, superimposed by building which obstructs both cloud and sky. Designed like ink on skin, tattooed windows with light. Mostly circles and swirls. Mostly color and light. Mostly me reflected back to me, circles now mirrors. Mostly biology, not geometry, cells functioning as galaxy. One Milky-Way cross-section. Colors carry the light, like hands, as if handing them directly, silently, internally to me.

What happens at night? Imagine the color with starlight and perhaps a crescent moon. Phosphorescent orb of jellyfish without the trail of tentacles. Spiral. Amazing how many shapes appear to make one solid shape. Unity like a family or nation. Size does not seem to matter, but just the explosion of shapes, fireworks on glass.

Of course, it isn’t a circle, isn’t any design or shape. Unnumbered, not infinite, but unmatched is the best that I can do to define the swirl of colors. Unmatched, a visual example of emotion at work on the imagination. And I am the reason (through imagination?) that imposes shape, color, design and metaphor. Self-imposed limits. Again, self-reflection is at play.

Is there an inherent reasonable quality in the junction of image and emotion? I am only trying to understand these MERIDIAE as if connections. As if pieces of you that fit to similar pieces in me. All connected by the tenderest string – not in the sense of puppets – rather the sense of compassion and empathy. The absolute charity of the work astounds. I see a solid human presence as sunlight filters, flits, a cloud passes and the piece visibly beats, not unlike a heart. MERIDIAE shivers and an internally composed essence leaps from shape to shape. I can touch it and the phantom is nearly tangible. Of course, now your design is also mine and we, I suppose, have formed some sort of silent unity.

Image: detail from MERIDIAE by Lea Anderson. Photo credit: Alissa Simon.

Image: detail from MERIDIAE by Lea Anderson. Photo credit: Alissa Simon.

I should comment on color. I feel an overwhelming sense of blue, all the blues in the ocean, which, I assume, is how I arrived at phosphorescence and jellyfish. It is both warm and deep, profound perhaps, and ringed with light. I mean, there are reds, yellows, greens and more, all mixed together in the way an ocean moves and waves reflect. If I step back they all blend. If I step forward, colors separate. The window doesn’t move, but seems to. Sort of an inverse of standing on a solid earth which is always moving, but doesn’t seem to. All bodies in motion. I feel that the color makes movement, excites something identical within myself, a likeness which moves me more towards an understanding of the window, light and color. Without my presence, the window remains solid. Without the window, my excitement diminishes. Some combination of the two creates an unmatched, unquantifiable unity.

For some reason, Adrienne Rich circles in my brain, much like one of the shapes from the window. I think of her descent down the boat’s ladder and into the wreck, of her body stirred by water. I remember her body’s movement through something other than her own presence. She writes:

First the air is blue and then/ it is bluer and then/ green and then black I am blacking out and yet/ my mask is powerful/ it pumps my blood with power/ the sea is another story/ the sea is not a question of power/ I have to learn alone/ to turn my body without force/ in the deep element.

These are all bodies, turning without force. The missing element, of course, is what is found within myself, the next viewer, the emotions that excite and inspire.

Lea Anderson’s Exegeis:  MERIDIAE (Muh-rih-dee-yay) Created in July, 2015

Digital prints on transparent acetate, 20’ x 20′

MERIDIAE is a symbolic highway of connection, a portal making visible the infinite ideas streaming from all over the world into the museum and into your mind at this very moment. Your mind is now connected to the minds of creative individuals that have lived throughout human history as well as to major cultures, to distinct ideologies and even to things being made this very moment. Simultaneously, new ideas are being sent back out into the world in your mind as you leave this place changed and full of new experiences. MERIDIAE represents the super-stream of connected minds, worlds and ideas, re-combining and evolving through their direct impact upon you on a macro scale… yet also through subtle, infinitesimal processes, like the vitality mingling in a micro-droplet of pond water under a scientist’s microscope.

When viewed from a distance, MERIDIAE appears as 100 colorful biomorphic discs of various sizes and patterns clustering within one large circular form. Each disc is made up of even smaller and varied shapes (approx. 10,000 total). MERIDIAE relates to fractal design because the image of the entire piece is repeated in each and every smaller individual shape. Yet unlike a fractal, which is made of exact copies of itself at a smaller scale, MERIDIAE is instead made entirely of versions of itself that are unique relatives. A basic image of the overall large piece has been repeatedly digitally altered to vary the size, color, and pattern of the original, producing thousands of new versions. Every newly changed form is then arranged precisely so that seen together, they function as pixel-like parts of the whole. Upon closer inspection, one will notice that each shape has recognizably repeating characteristics.

Image: detail from MERIDIAE by Lea Anderson. Photo credit: Lea Anderson.

Image: detail from MERIDIAE by Lea Anderson. Photo credit: Lea Anderson.

Stained glass windows have been treasured as symbols of spiritual connection between heaven and earth originating in Gothic architecture (such as the Rose Windows in France’s Chartres Cathedral). The colorfully transparent material used to build MERIDIAE mimics the historical impact of stained glass but also includes a contemporary, hybrid chemistry of other artistic techniques such as painting, mosaic, collage, printmaking, sculpture, and digital art.

The architectural elements of the Atrium window echo the divisions of a globe, indicating an “equator” (horizontal I-beam) and “latitude/longitude” (grid of rectangular windows). On a standard globe of Earth, a “meridian” defines longitudinal “slices” of the Earth. MERIDIAE multiplies exponentially to reveal infinite slices of infinite worlds, as well as our infinite connections to one another through time and space.

To see more of Lea Anderson’s art, visit her website: leaandersonart.com

To post a comment, click on the title of this blog and scroll down.

10 thoughts on “Experiment in Art”

  1. Informative blogs, though are very rare, are always well accepted by the readers. Though only fraction will leave a comment, but they definitely share with their friends. Thank you for posting this point.
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  2. But the Rose Windows in France’s Chartres Cathedral looks nothing like that. And stained glass windows (vitraux) are by far NOT the only symbol of spiritual connection between heaven and earth in French churches and cathedrals. Look here: https://www.facebook.com/ndgermignylexempt The church is half roman-half gothic and it’s not the stained-glass widows that symbolize connection between heaven and earth, but mystical iconography and verticality.

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