Sunday, March 31, 2019

TV catching up again

Once again the television was talking about art, but it wasn't new to me.  It was the Sunday morning show on CBS, which I have written about before.  Turned it on when I got home from shopping this morning and it was in progress, a story about how many scientists are looking to nature for ideas as to how to do things.  Certainly not a new concept or process, probably been going on as long as people have been on earth.  A classic modern example is velcro, which holds things together with tiny hooks and barbs that can be easily hooked onto any complex surface- borrowed from plant seeds that can hitch rides on clothes, animal fur, or anything that passes through where they are.

When I was first asked to teach 3D design, which is not something I ever studied in detail in my education, I decided to try to figure out what it was.  Began with art history textbooks, looking at the origins and development of sculpture, from the earliest cave art to the present.  As with 2D art, it all seems to start with what was around people in the world.  One of the assignments I developed had students select a skeleton (human or animal), reproduce it as a relief by cutting it out of foam core and then attaching it to a background, then make something else that shared shapes of positive and negative space but was definitely not the skeleton.  Below is a student example, white foam core attached to a black background, which emphasized the skeletal shape more than a white background would, so I allowed it.    In this case, the student found an image of a flying fish skeleton, and then came up with the shared relationship to an ear of corn.


Ears of corn are not natural things, but a development of agriculture to make it easier to harvest and transport the mature crop.  The kernels of corn attached tightly to the cob, the elaborate layers of husk around them, mean that modern hybridized corn isn't much of a volunteer crop, but requires individual planting by humans.  So while an ear of corn is a plant, it is also an artifact.  Neither me nor the student were suggesting that corn ears were designed to look like flying fish skeletons, just a coincidence in this case.  But the idea that animal skeletons are great design is real.  Skeletons provide protection to soft internal organs and provide a means to manipulate and move through the environment, and generally do it very well.  I consider the existence of living things over millions of years to be the ultimate proof of the success of their design, an idea the news show made reference to.   Flying fish developed over time from fish that didn't fly, but over many years they came up with long spread bones with skin draped over them (just as birds and bats did) which allowed them to move short distances though the air, allowing more travel, escape, hunting or whatever they do with this skill.  And they continue to live and do it, so it works and they found a niche on earth to do it.  Lessons from nature.

I am of the belief that our aesthetics are derived from all that is around us, our ideas of beauty come from what we experience.  Skeletons have functioning proportions, make use of positive and negative space, thus a starting point of art.

The same show later had story about the latest attempt to bring back the Twilight Zone, part of a streaming service I think.   It's been tried before, but has never caught on.  The original show was one of the greatest in the history of television.  Still in syndication, and an influence on the art I have made.  But I think much of that had to do with the person who created it almost 60 years ago, his background, the nature of television then, the world.  All stuff that has changed.  I wish them luck; the world needs some better quality television.  But I have doubts regarding their chance of success.


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