I'm a software engineer by training. In my work, I shuffle
abstractions from one representation to another. Fred Brooks writes,
"the programmer, like the poet, works only slightly removed
from pure thought-stuff." I have a lot of of room for
creativity in my work, but most of what I produce exists as
ephemeral bits in a memory or on a disk.
The art I present on this page is my way of giving a tangible
form to this abstract experience.
Ed Seykota (2009)
Ed Seykota is a legendary trader and teacher. Ed plays the
banjo, trades commodity futures and helps people experience their
Ed believes that intention equals results. Win or lose,
everybody gets what they want. Some people seem to like to lose,
so they win by losing. Ed does not believe either the past of the
future exist, except as concepts in the moment of now. These
concepts are convenient places to park feelings you want to avoid,
or things you don't want to do.
Ed encourages people to experience their feelings fully, in the
moment of now. Feelings that you are unwilling to experience end
up driving your life. You may unconsciously set up dramas that
force you to experience the very feelings you try to
avoid. Experiencing feelings fully, and without judging them,
Ed writes an FAQ
column on his website, http://www.seykota.com
This 16"x38" mosaic consists of 16,993
holes through a piece of whiteboard. I write software that drives
a CNC mill to drill 1/8" holes through the external, white coating
to reveal darker material inside.
"Stay in Formation:" B-17 (2009)
You are a 21-year-old Lieutenant in command of a crew
weapon. You are taking 9 other men into combat, some as young as
17. You are on a 7 hour roundtrip to drop 5,000lbs of bombs on a
German city. You can expect temperatures 50° below zero,
mechanical failure, flak and Luftwaffe interceptors.
Curtis LeMay develops the "Combat Box" formation as a way for
bombers to cover each other with machine gun fire. The tight
formation (50-foot clearances between 100-foot wings) lets bombers
mass firepower against German fighters but leaves literally no
wiggle room to the individual bombers. No room for individual
initiative, ingenuity or evasive maneuvers. Fighters are shooting
30mm cannon at you, and you must stay in formation. A
straggler is good as dead. The only safety there is is in the
herd. You must stay in formation. Stay in
formation. Stay in formation.
USS Macon at Hangar One (2008)
I live under the final approach into Moffett Field, famous for
its 8-acre Hangar One, world's largest free-standing
The Navy builds Hangar One at what is then NAS Sunnyvale in
1933 to house USS Macon, its largest airship. The
Macon crashes off California's Point Sur in 1935, killing 2
of her 76-man crew. Hangar One remains a prominent landmark in
Polikarpov Po-2 (2008)
Nikolai Polikarpov designs a primary trainer biplane in
1928. Production continues until 1958 and tops 40,000 copies. In
1948 my father solos in one as a cadet in Soviet paramilitary
youth aero club. His mother finds out and puts an end to his
flying. He keeps fond memories of his flying but never pilots an
airplane again. In 2008 I present him with this image to
commemorate his flight.
This rendering consists of 6 layers of color paper. I cut
hole patterns in each layer that represent pixels in that color
and stack the layers one on top of the other. The process
is reminiscent of silk-screen printing.
Make: Magazine ad (2008)
of the CNC machines I use to make my art. Their full-page ad
in Make: Magazine profiles my work as an
example of cool stuff you can make with their product.
Raymond is famous for coining the phrase "Open Source" and
starting the Open Source
Initiative. He is the author of The Art of
Unix Programming, an insightful look at the oral tradition
that is the Unix culture, and the editor of The Jargon
File, a look into the world of Hackers, the real ones.
Raymond is also a gun rights activist. In Ethics
from the Barrel of a Gun, he expresses his belief that
"right choices are possible, and the ordinary judgement of
ordinary (wo)men is sufficient to make them."
This mosaic consists of about seven thousand .40 brass
casings. I notice that a casing can look light or dark depending
on which way I turn it. I use this effect to create a bi-level
image. This piece elicits more reactions than any of my other
mosaics. One observer asks if these are Unix shells.
23"x34", 40 lbs
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Wikipedia Squirrel (2008)
I notice a surprising fact when I work on my Eagle II
mosaic--"paper-thin" is actually quite thick. That mosaic is 10
layers deep and I find that the deepest layers look darker, as if
looking down a well. I look for an image I can render in a small
number of colors and find this
image on Wikipedia. I cut a 6-color mosaic using it a starting
11"x14", 6 layers of laser-cut paper
A seagull is flying over the Monterey Bay. I capture both the
bird and the bay first on my SLR, then in hardwood. This is one of
my favorite mosaics. I like the interplay of wood grain, clouds
Close up, the seagull looks blocky, and the rest like a random
dot stereogram. From a couple of steps back, I can almost feel the
wind that the seagull is riding on.
21"x46" maple plywood
Christen Eagle II (2008)
Frank Christensen develops the Eagle as a derivative of the
Pitts Special in the 1970's and markets it as a kit for
homebuilders. Christensen finishes his prototypes in a striking
8-color scheme. Many builders choose to emulate it, and the design
is as famous for this paint scheme as it is for its aerobatic
I construct this mosaic out of 10 layers of color paper. I
laser-cut holes in each sheet, and when I line them up just so, a
colorful airplane appears. On the full-size view, you can see the
margins of different color sheets one under the other.
12"x16" laser-cut color paper
There is something very self-referential in a photograph of an
artist holding a life-size self portrait. The core of the plywood
I use in this piece is darker than the oak veneer on top. Removing
some of the veneer creates this bi-tone image.
16"x23" oak-veneer plywood
I fondly remember reading O. Henry as a kid. Many of his New
York short stories feature the Flatiron Building as a sort of
recurring guest character. I remember my impression that it
dominates the landscape around it as the prototypical
skyscraper. I recall searching for it on my first visit to New
York in 1989 and my sense of disappointment at finally finding it
way below the skyline. In the gutter, almost.
Twenty years later, I make an 8-foot mosaic from a 1903
photograph. The image, contemporary with O. Henry's writing, shows
the building against an empty sky. The mosaic, my largest to date,
reconciles my childhood interpretation with historic reality.
24"x96" melamine shelf, 60,000 1/8"
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P-38 Lightning (2008)
I find it interesting how the human eye fills in missing detail in
these low resolution mosaics. If I look at this one from a
distance (or look at the thumbnail), I can see the P-38 in
detail. I can make out the propellers, the downward-facing antenna
on its nose and the cockpit. I can even see the square fields the
airplane is flying over. As I get closer (or look at the full-size
photo), only a very general outline remains and the detail
Messerschmitts in Israel, 1948 (2008)
By an ironic twist of fate, Messerschmitts are the first combat
aircraft to serve with the Israeli Air Force. In 1948,
Czechoslovakia is the only country that agrees to sell weapons to
the newly-independent state, and most of what they have for sale
is what the Germans leave behind when then withdraw at the end of
WWII. Avia S-199 marries surplus Messerschmitt airframes to
surplus Jumo engines. The airplanes change the regional balance of
airpower when they arrive in Israel and many authors credit them
with turning back the Egyptian invasion. The type takes heavy
losses in the fighting and is unpopular with its Israeli pilots
who fly an unlikely collection of hand-me-downs. Recalls one
"The Spitfire cockpit fitted like a glove, the Messerschmitt like
a strait-jacket, the Mustang like a too comfortable armchair."
Uma Thurman (study, 2005)
I'm always looking for new materials to use in my mosaics. I'm
looking for objects that are common and recognizable. This 3-D Uma
Thurman study uses M&M candy as pixels. While M&Ms are
available in no fewer than 21 colors,
regular packs contain 6 colors and these are the only ones that
look like M&M to most people. The color space (Red, Orange,
Yellow, Green, Blue and Brown) can usefully represent only some
images. A slight complication is that blue and orange tend to
blend into magenta when viewed from a distance.
A young woman dips her toes into the Pacific. Around San
Francisco, the water is quite cold even in July, so she only gets
her feet wet.
Dice make good pixels. They are uniform in size and offer 6
distinct shades of grey, depending on which face is up. One nice
side effect is that you never have to worry about inventories--you
never run out of any particular color; each die can represent any
of the 6 shades.
25x77 pixels, 2.6 bit-per-pixel color depth, 12"x36.5", 1925
dice, 5 lbs.
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Orwell makes a fitting counterpart to Guevara. Both fight in
civil wars, both consider themselves socialists. Both leave
Orwell's Homage to Catalonia is an autobiographic
account of his involvement in the Spanish civil war. The book
begins with an Orwell full of idealism going to fight for the
cause. He commands a company on the Aragon front, sustains a
near-fatal wound to the neck, and finds that competing socialist
factions are more dangerous to him than the nationalists he is
ostensibly fighting. Returning home, he writes his most famous
books--Animal Farm and 1984.
"No one... failed to assure me that a man who is hit
through the neck and survives is the luckiest creature alive. I
could not help thinking that it would be even luckier not to be
hit at all." --George Orwell discusses luck in Homage to
35x55 pixels, 2.6 bit-per-pixel color
depth, 17"x30" 1925 dice
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Che Guevara (2004)
In 1994, I have a summer job as a tour guide at the Bloomfield Science Museum in
Jerusalem. One of our interactive exhibits there has visitors
constructing Abraham Lincoln's face out of dominoes. Even at 18x18
"pixels" the face is recognizable -- at a distance. Lincoln's, of
course, is a very distinctive face. I look for another similarly
recognizable face, and think of Che Guevara. I make a 20x20 mockup
(dice laid out on my desk, with no glue), and it seems to
work. This success inspires me to continue with this project.
20x20 pixels, 2.6 bit-per-pixel color
depth, 10"x10" 400 dice