My current research interests range from music to art to digital art history. I compose electroacoustic and traditional music and play all the instruments. My live performances incorporate original songs that are based on New Orleans, which I believe is the birthplace of American blues and jazz. Blues and jazz are unique cultural musical styles, and I blend them together into narratives that range from pre-civil war stories to contemporary vignettes. My electronic music is a form of sound art that I call “audio cinema.” I do location recordings of ambient sounds, bring them into the studio and edit them into a piece that highlights the musical aspects of the natural sounds. I then work in a multi-channel format, generally surround sound, and layer these sounds with percussion and instrumental tracks to turn it into a piece of music. The end result sounds like you are in a space defined by the location sound, but modified and expanded by the musical elements.
The art I create consists mainly of digital imagery and photography. I always carry a camera with me and am constantly looking for an interesting composition. Sometimes I will focus on a themed series of photographs or, conversely, look for that unique single image. Traveling to the same places over and over provides me with the ability to photograph images over time, as well. One of my influences for creative writing is Jack Kerouac, and I apply his philosophy of being on the road to music, photography and narrative. My digital art takes many forms. For the past several years, I have focused on a series I call Buddha Light Paintings. They are based on Tibetan Thangka Paintings, which are intricate images of Buddhist deities, and have a formal underlying geometric template, which defines their proportions. By using the 3D software Maya, I create volumetric lights that are attached to the geometric template and use the colors in Tibetan sand paintings to create abstract images. When people see them, they are culturally universal, yet contain an underlying spiritual geometry and message.
My most recent creative exploration uses 3D fabrication and CNC technology. My great uncle Charley Porter was a carpenter, and he used to pass time making Tramp Art. It has a long history as an American folk art tradition that was mainly produced from the Civil War through the Great Depression. The folk artists made objects from discarded wooden materials like cigar boxes and fruit crates. They were whittled into geometric patterns, and took the form of boxes, and a variety of other wooden objects. My interest is in taking this form of American folk art into the digital age using 3D fabrication software and CNC milling machines.
My academic interests lie in the history and creation of digital art, which began in the late 1950s and early 1960s at research centers like Bell Labs and universities. Digital Art was original viewed as Outsider Art, but recently has become an important component in contemporary art. I have taught digital art at the School of Visual Arts in New York since 1984, and discovered it when I was a graduate student at Syracuse University in the mid-1970s. In addition to teaching, I wrote “Art of the Digital Age” published by Thames & Hudson in 2006, which traces digital art history from the 1960s until 2005, and “Digital Creativity,” published by John Wiley & Sons in 2002. I have presented at conferences and exhibited my work in the United States and abroad. I am currently Chair of the SIGGRAPH Art Awards Committee. At SVA, I was promoted to Director of Computer Education in 1992 after writing over seventy courses in the creative use of computing throughout the school. I was the Founder of the BFA Computer Art Department and Chair from 1994-1998, and have been Chair of the MFA Computer Art Department since 1998. I am also the Director of the New York Digital Salon, which promotes the use of computers and emerging technologies in art making worldwide. We celebrated our 20th anniversary in 2014.