By on June 30th, 2020

Unsplash photo by Lopez Robin.




Water is famously apt for distortion — the merest bump starts ripples moving. My interest is mainly in technological distortions but I wanted to showcase the photo above to illustrate a fist distorting a puddle, no technology required.



Sonar and lidar distort by turning invisible waves into visual forms. You don’t see the waves go out, you watch their depiction as they return. Same with xrays, CAT scans, MRIs. Each creates a typical pattern to visualize its type of wave, but I’m guessing that these have an arbitrary side to them. Some of the visualizing depends on who writes the algorithm. Some depends on the nature of the waves.



The interaction of nature and manufacture determine the look of a distortion. One of my neighbors is an xray physician. She reads tonalities and makes inferences. But if another person/persons had written how we interpret xrays they could as easily be reconstructed with sounds. A chest xray for high soprano and bass? Or if still a visual interpretation, “If the xrays register a ten over here, the visual should increase the amount of the jitter in the bone’s outline.’ The  bone-shape would appear smooth-sided here, agitated at the break. A doctor could be trained to be equally proficient. The manner in which the signal is manipulated is not found in nature. It’s found in the imagination. That much is art.


A mathematician can create with distortion like a paintbrush applying paint. The possibilities reach for infinity. Distortion can harness any familiar modality — color, tune, rhythm, scale, loudness/softness — and fix on a way to respond to it that translates it into something else your senses can read. I just saw a lidar image of a little child. Because the boy had turned his head during the scan the lidar reconstruction appears to have a deep cleft in his form.



This is what I lust after in technology. Finding a way that software can perform in a way it wasn’t written to perform. Then you’ve got a new and powerful tool. It gives you the means to manipulate at a whole different level. Using lidar recreated the boy’s image, same as it would a Mayan temple hidden under jungle.  Manipulating lidar technique (this time by the boy himself) hands you a whole new visual language to communicate with.



Once you and your audience recognize a regular way to change what we all can hear or see (or, like the seats at a widescreen showing of Avatar, kick up at some dramatic point)… Once artist and art-partaker recognize this new sort of signal (cleft-lines in a lidar portrait in response to gross movement) then the artist is free to start playing with the clefts and find out what they can say.



I found my vocation long ago. In the 1980s my Epson computer lacked graphics software so I was left wringing word processors for nonverbal images. Hence this below.


Distortion via playing with the attributes of WordStar and a dot-matrix printer. Bottom half, just ASCII; top half distorted by columns of reduced character pitch (spacing) on printer.



Gone are the days that I could easily create this kind of distortion. Good old WordStar — I’ve never seen a word processor since that kept ASCII in a strict grid — which allowed me to select vertical columns that stayed true. Software comes, software goes — it’s as sure as tides. Hardware comes, hardware goes. The world of digital breathes in/out like an ox. Luckily the savvier we get the more technologies bob to the surface. That means more technologies to rummage around in and turn up something new.


Sloan Nota artwork, Distorted Poser face with artwork distorted over it. Two eyes and a mouth.


By on June 28th, 2020


Artwork copyright Sloan Nota. Copyright-free photos from Unsplash. left, Njenga Jed; right, Noah Buscher.

Ahem. Thoughts About Women in Art


I read an extensive interview with Anselm Kiefer that called him the best living artist. He’s among my favorites, but Frank Stella? William Kentridge?



I pause here and have a Guerrilla Girl moment. How likely there are no women working at this level? How many billions are we humans now? How likely no women pull in the money to support giant studios with lots of specialists at their command?






What art could you make with prime assistants, each with a different brain filled with another trove of know-how?



I think of Rosie Lee Tompkins whose quilts were so royally reviewed by the New York Times’ art critic Roberta Smith. More documentation than I can remember in an art review. I think of a William Kentridge documentary in which he selects a soprano from another part of South Africa with a certain odd type of voice who comes to his appropriately-equipped studio and takes instruction into just how to make her voice even stranger for one of his videos.



I think of Mrinalini Mukherjee of India who can spend a year knotting one sculpture out of rope. Times’ art critic Holland Cotter on first seeing her work: “How on earth did someone even think to do this, never mind do it?” [see Mukherjee link]



I think of Anselm Kiefer bicycling around his enormous studio (and longing for a bigger one) deciding to apply molten lead to a painting. He has a special crew for molten lead. He himself rises up in a cherry-picker to direct them from above.



I think. I duckduckgo. I go to WikiArt. In all of mega-cross-referenced WikiArt there is no search available for living female or living women. Living woman returns two works, one of which is Woman in Living Room. Female artist, female artists? Four paintings, two of which feature a nude female and a self-portrait of the male artist.






And I think of Frank Stella who loved blowing smoke rings with expensive cigars. His assistant Earl Childress told him how amazing smoke ring physics are, and then he and Stella’s assistant Andrew Dunn went on to research the topic, and they went further on to educate Stella, and Stella then incorporated smoke ring dynamics into his paintings.



Childress and Dunn constructed a device for freezing the flow dynamics of smoke in mappable [digital] form: an 8-foot-square enclosed box, lined with black cloth and lit by four bulbs, with stop-action cameras on every side focused into the center. Drilled into two of the vertical edges were holes through which Stella could exhale Cuban chaos into the space [his smoke rings].  Wired




I keep on thinking.






Roberta Smith, 2002 Rosie Lee Tompkins

Roberta Smith, 2020 3 Art Gallery Shows to Explore From Home [An extra timely taste of Roberta Smith]

Anselm Kiefer in The Guardian, ‘Art is difficult, it’s not entertainment’

Stella’s Ring Cycle, New Yorker, May 8, 1995

Vortex Ring Physics



By on June 24th, 2020

Humiliated Dog by Karsten Winegeart on


Reboot, the abashed blogger said, looking red-faced and rather silly. I muffed my opportunity on Sunday to post new work in both the Create and Playground sectors. The collections were there, sure, but I misjudged my new software so you, my audience, never knew.


Please enjoy them now that they’re alive. And please follow me if you don’t already.



By on June 23rd, 2020


Detail of Kristallnacht, showing the child’s face behind broken glass. by Sloan Nota


Kristallnacht, Babi Yar, Tulsa


miso – a combining form meaning “hate,” with the object of hatred specified by the following element: misogyny.


I’ve never forgotten the fact of the Nazi Kristallnacht, an incident so horrible it does not allow you to tuck it quietly into some drawer of yourself. Or have you read Babi Yar? I actually couldn’t finish it.


Babi Yar is a ravine in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv and a site of massacres carried out by German forces during their campaign against the Soviet Union in World War II. The first and best documented of the massacres took place on 29–30 September 1941, killing approximately 33,771 Jews. Wikipedia



At one time I felt I must understand the Holocaust. At Babi Yar I could stomach it no more.



Butchery. The unfathomable ability to commit cold murder of terrified others. And still live with yourself forever after. Seemingly normal beings, the whites at Tulsa, bartenders, investors, actors. Swept up in a frenzy of hate that blinds them to the simple equations of humanity. To terror in the eyes facing the ghoul in you.



Was the ancient Greek Procrustean iron bed where unwary travelers were stretched or amputated to fit — was that a true tale? Not even a frenzy but an after-dinner routine. A sociopath. Did he waste food on them for dinner before they discovered his hospitality?



Can the perpetrators of Babi Yar, Kristallnacht, Tulsa be described as anything but sociopaths? And yet they faded back into their barrooms, their counting houses, their troupes as if they’d merely burped once in polite society.



Perhaps later they became more fervent in their religion.



The Tulsa attack was ‘carried out on the ground and from private aircraft.’ White people got into their airplanes with bombs. Premeditated bombs. That they felt the right to drop. Their consciences in cold storage. But not dead, oh no, not dead.





By on June 22nd, 2020


Michael Hansmeyer, Subdivided Cube 4, Computational Architecture 2009. (Note from blogger: watch the pores change.)


Michael Hansmeyer and the Fourth Industrial Revolution

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is the fourth major industrial era since the initial Industrial Revolution of the 18th century. It is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.


Sounds like fusion in cuisine and music, yes? Aspects of globalism, compass points converging. The tendency in modern practice to both hyper-focus and intermingle like a red sweatshirt in a laundry of white. In hyperfocus a medical doctor becomes an internist becomes a cardiologist becomes an expert on heart arrhythmia. The push-back tendency is for artists to work fruitfully with doctors, doctors to probe brains with physicists, physicists and musicians to learn things together.



You may think that the parer-downers have difficult work and complexifiers have it easy. Throw in a bunch of newts, some old silver dollars and onion soup mix. Complexity! We need to understand that mindless complexifying can be done by a dog undigging bones in a nice lawn. Don’t even need a human. But brilliant complexifying takes imagination and rigor.




An installation by Martin Hansmeyer, courtesy the artist.


Michael Hansmeyer, Computational Architect, is among the elite who think about reasons to wantonly complexify rather than to simplify. This unique corps of thinkers buck the trend of paring off the dross to find something pristine and spit-shined inside.



He has taken a platonic solid (think sphere > cube > pyramid >…dodecahedron) and designed a way to create thousands of unique versions. (The Hansmeyer site says if you have 3d glasses the forms will come out to meet you.)



Hansmeyer’s goal in complexifying is toward the discovery of brand new and hitherto unknown forms. Often their geometry is more complex than humans have been able to conceive before computers. Hence the computational in his job description. In a TED talk the artist shows a diagonal fold in a sheet of paper. His Platonic Solids and the elaborating columns that followed grow and morph based on that one fold. Innies and outies pushed to a paroxysm of expression.


Platonic Solids by Michael Hansmeyer, courtesy the artist.



All of the forms shown are generated using the same single process, Only the variables that control the process’ division operation are allowed to change. This single process affects both the form’s topography and topology. It influences attributes such as the degree of branching, porosity, and fractalization – just to name a few. Hansmeyer, Platonic Solids.



Origami, the ancient Japanese art of paper folding, has become a hot topic in mathematics and engineering. The father and son duo at MIT, Eric Demaine and his father Martin have famously pushed the study forward. “It’s very cool to make something that doesn’t exist,” says Martin.



Sound familiar?




The installation Murquanas by Michael Hansmeyer, courtesy the artist.



His fabrication information is well-sifted. You can learn plenty in a few short paragraphs.

Of Muquarnas (above): To articulate the the tiles of the original design, 15,000 individual hollow aluminum tubes were inserted into the tiers and glued into place. Specific tubes were custom fabricated in order to minimize their weight. Muqarnas, Fabrication


This is a mind that starts at computers and gets from algorithms to totally unique computer-controlled manufacturing. Abstract digits, touchable renditions. Imagination assisted by computers works out the practicalities of design. Plus people recognize the strangeness and bend their curiosity to understand.



Once the math has had its say the architect in Hansmeyer takes over to devise a visual form and make the airy math palpable. One thing I love about his work (I was a museum guard once) is that he invites viewers to touch. In one installation of columns each pillar was up-lighted in a small circle so that those who asked questions with their hands reached into a spotlighted space.  The human encounters with his strange work seem another layer in his strategy.



A delighted viewer. Photo by Kyungsub Shin of Michael Hansmeyer columns installation, courtesy Michsel Hansmey





He obviously experiments with materials and architectural problems like gravity and force flows.



And architects need a crew of experts — with forms that no one has created before, they need wised-up experience.




You say to brick, “What do you want, brick?” … Brick says to you, “I like an arch.”
If you say to the brick, “Arches are expensive, I can use a concrete lintel over an opening.
What do you think of that brick?” … Brick says, “I like an arch.”

The question today is: What would a grain of sand like to be?

         (Hansmeyer on beginning a new project that will be of cast sandstone.)





Hansmeyer website
There’s a wealth of information in multiple formats, but sly little arrows reveal other whole troves. Like a clever mirror of complexity as a phenomenon, the volume keeps on expanding.

The variety of Hansmeyer’s endeavors can be found on his Projects page. You see his scope, from columns of evolving complexity to an encircling room of lace to a stageset for the Zauberflöte.


•  Meaty quote about Eric and Martin Demaine, the MIT origamists:

[The Demaines]…built the piece by starting with a three-dimensional hexagon they folded from paper. They then inputted the shape into a computer and virtually erased all of the paper, so that only the creases remained. Next, they turned back to the tangible and created a dynamic piece of art, using aluminum rods, locked together at the joints with plastic spheres, to represent each crease.

“We took something real and virtualized it, and then made it real again,” says Martin.

Yes, we say.




By on June 19th, 2020
Website Change by Sloan Nota (061220 11dd)
Website Change by Sloan Nota (061220 11dd)

Website Protocol Change

(Less Art for More Art Savvy)



Those of you following this website from the beginning know that it is still in a shakedown mode. My coder, metazai Productions, says railroad folks call this the teething stage.


The groupings of art I’ve been posting have been more or less eight images each. But it occurs to me that my sheer volume of output may be overwhelming.


What I want is that you find things to look at and ponder in the art and the accompanying topic, not that you blitz through examples. So I’ve started posting about four images per topic. Each group has a theme, a story, as usual, but not every dish is on the menu.


Looking is a skill that there’s no end to getting better at. Bare-eyeballs is the kind I mean. Forget lenses, machines, AI. Just you and what you’re looking at.


Size and resolution matter. The bigger your screen, the better you see. We think we’ve outgrown that. How? Eyes don’t have any new skills than they had before.



Ask questions of what you see. You ask, you answer, how can you be wrong? However if you don’t ask questions however will you learn?



Where I grew up you went up a short road, then had to turn right or left. For home, I’d turn left. At some point, probably in college, I realized that my eyes were glued in a scanning pattern for that corner. I noted the same inconsequential landmarks every time I turned. It was darn near impossible to change that longstanding routine. I’d been practicing ever since getting into the driver’s seat.



Seeing can easily devolve into a physical habit during which you’re thinking blah-blah-blah about your lunch.

By on June 17th, 2020



Bach and Yma Sumac (061620 10)
Bach and Yma Sumac (061620 10)

Linguistic Lilt

One of the palpable pleasures of language is the rhythm and soundings of words. Poets once prided themselves on mastering it. The ancient art of rhetoric takes note of it. If I say bumpity-bump I communicate something to you. Potholes, klutzes. If lala land, palm trees softly sway. Swoosh, crack, bam, lullaby.



Language was spoken before it was written and its nuances of delivery must have been rehearsed in Homer’s time of epic reciters. Now most of our linguistic intake is read, keeping cadences inside our bony chambers. My ‘twas a dark and stormy won’t quite be yours. Unless you grew up in Southern California with Hoosier variants from your folks.



Our other verbal drenching comes with songs but songs come with music, notes alongside of words. That conditions how the language presents in your head. Very hard to detach the two. You see a sidewalk walker suddenly step to a beat and understand a favorite anthem is reverberating in their eardrums. The words tug hard at their emotions but what moves their feet, their waists, their hips is the musical form that the song artists provided.



In prose and poetry there’s no musical help — or hindrance. My favorite authors can invoke rhythm that you can read.




My favorite single sentence is Wallace Stevens’

The bird’s fire-fangled feathers dangle down.


[Of Mere Being, from The Palm at the End of the Mind: Selected Poems and a Play. Copyright © 1967, 1969, 1971 by Holly Stevens1967]



And in Saul Bellow’s novel Augie March there is this paragraph about the character Five prope’ties. I’ve copied it out and reread it numberless times. It actually has a pulse.


That would be Five Properties shambling through the cottage, Anna’s immense brother, long armed and humped, his head grown off the thick band of muscle as original as a bole on his back, hair tender and greenish brown, eyes completely green, clear, estimating, primitive, and sardonic, an Eskimo smile of primitive simplicity opening on Eskimo teeth buried in high gums, kidding, gleeful, and unfrank; a big-footed contender for wealth. He drove a dairy truck, one of those electric jobs where the driver stood up like a helmsman, the bottles and wood-and-wire cases clashing like mad. He took me around his route a few times and paid me half a buck for helping him hustle empties. When I tried to handle a full case he felt me up, ribs, thighs, and arms — this was something he loved to do — and said, “Not yet, you got to wait yet,” lugging it off himself and crashing it down beside the icebox. He was the life of the quiet little lard-smelly Polish groceries that were his stops, punching it out or grappling in fun with the owners, head to head, or swearing in Italian at the Italians, “Fungoo!” And measuring off a chunk of stiff arm at them. He gave himself an awful lot of delight. And he was very shrewd, his sister said. It wasn’t so long ago he’d done a small part in the ruin of empires, driving wagons of Russian and German corpses to burial on Polish farms; and now he had money in the bank, he had stock in the dairy, and he had picked up in the Yiddish theater the fat swagger of the suitor everyone hated: “Five prope’ties. Plente money.”



The pleasures of reading are many. How language aligns itself against the passage of time is just one of the delights.




By on June 13th, 2020

White Humans

White Humans are Whites who identify as humans rather than as better-than-any-other-humans. Simple. I’m white as skim milk and secretly wish I could be browner for beauty’s sake. But I’m not fool enough to sincerely wish that.


Dear Black, Asian, Latinx, Samoan, Maasi humans, I was  born white. It happens when your parents are white. They can’t help it. Same as you can’t help mirroring those who gave you life. Most humans know that before they’re teens.


Honestly, I can’t deny that I’ve rolled in White privilege like a frisky horse in grass. I can’t help that either. Wouldn’t you? But I keep wanting us all on the same greased chute into life. I’m a White Human. And I don’t care whether you have a different eye flap than me or another tone of skin.


Well not much. Because I am a woman and I admit that strangling the sexism out of my brain has not been completely successful. I bet you’re sexist too. If you live in a New York loft or a house of straw and mud. Apache, Haitian, Parisian. Sexism. Us.



And to that extent I admit to you I’m a racist. I bet you are too. I was reading Ta-Nehisi Coates and getting mad. OK sir, but what about us women? You can’t be that aggrieved while ignoring the rape, mutilation, income inequality. Etc. Of women.



So here we all are. Imperfect, abjectly human, pimpled, third grade teachers wanting  kids to thrive, pimps. Hooked noses, button noses, blond, white-once-brown, jet black. Crooked toes, crossed eyes, hunger. Anyone here not belong to that group?



And I’m tired of hearing Black Americans. How about Black Humans? Isn’t that the point? Black Americans can’t come out of your mouth without dragging hundreds of years of intolerable history along with it. You can’t say it without hearing chains clank. But Black Human? Level playing field. Which biology tells us, folk wisdom (when wise) tells us, common sense tells us. We’re human animals in a world of other animals. We’re animals with pretty music and Vermeers, but we’re meat. Meat.


No Munchkins, no Oz. That guy behind the curtain whispering trash? He had to fly home to Kansas. Good luck to him assembling a following in Kansas.


Best of all would be “We’re humans.” But none of us has gotten that far yet. But now there’s ferment in the human lab, beakers bubbling, odors changing. Let’s get going folks, change.


By on June 10th, 2020

Rubberband Ball; free from PixelSquid. It’s watermarked with a net but that suits me here.


I’ve long been reaching for the perfect metaphor for the combined natural forces I think of as Gaea. A rubberband ball is the closest I’ve come. Now, even better is this ball encased in netting. So that there’s a second layer of holding-together.


Gaea is the primordial Greek goddess personifying Earth. She doesn’t need to be Greek to be recognized on most every continent. (If Antarctica ever had a primordial culture no one remembers it.) For me Gaea encompasses both lifeforce and ocean currents. I can’t see her as a goddess in robes as I did in childhood, but as a palpable zinging reality nonetheless.


She is not only a clump of violets in the woods, an arch carved out of rock off a coast, but more thrilling to me she is the epitome of change. She goes on. She is one instance of violets begetting another patch, a rock arch crumbling into unorganized debris. Think when New Hampshire’s iconic Old Man of the Mountain’s craggy face slid away. A mountain’s process of being a mountain, but in human hearts a loss.


Old Man of the Mountain, New Hampshire by Rob Gallagher - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Kelly using CommonsHelper., Public Domain,

You’ve heard of the Butterfly Effect? Part of Chaos Theory in mathematics. The influence of the barest down-stroke of a butterfly wing in a Malayan meadow can influence the actual facts of a tornado forming in Kansas a week later. Or a weather pattern boiling bigger than a continent. One little flap. Afar.


You understand how picky mathematicians are. They’ve vetted this math.


I see a rubberband ball and sense the movement coursing through each band like bloodflow. Of course the defect in my metaphor is that the bands stay discreet when the magic is they’re functionally intermingled. A Jacquard weave, a monomaniac’s macrame.  Threads, knots, snarls, well combed passages, complicated plaits. Plus you feel the pulse of it. Beating like a runner’s heart, beating like a ninth wave upon the sand. Gaea.


Much has been made recently about monster air currents that whisk damp air from the Amazon and cascade it down much further north.  Deciduous push their way through each season, greening, changing, shedding, bare — but always busy. Next year’s buds show wanly in winter.


Think if another planet spawned living beings without what we know as the urgency of lifeforce. I don’t see how that would work. Just the dynamic energy in a fertilized egg, immediately starting to divide, divide. The same egg that develops after years of building the strong urge to replicate, tend offspring, marry them off. Start anew. Instinctual life. The silent unconscious, precise instructions  of cells. Instructions that can’t be understood without the idea of the passing of information. Communication.



The reptilian brain with its blunt urges. In the cod, the human, the cat. Surging onward, the push of it. That’s Gaea. And the clever use of her long fingers or tentacles, that wind among each other, the pulse of living things interacting with the effects of the moon’s gravity like one hand pressing on another, felt, answered. Gaea. The brine intertwisted with the sweet water running from earth, each water feelng the breath, the palms of each other. And the moon, and living things. Responding.



Gazelle in a herd quickly know if only one takes fright. The sudden twitch of an acacia tree might do it. Soon the savannah is awash in motion. Ground pounding. Which stirs the underground waters. Which subtracts or adds a tree to the desertification of the Sahara lands. Which seed the transatlantic winds with just so much dust that falls in a New York apartment on a windowsill. Which is picked up on the cuff of the carefullest criminal who nonetheless gets caught, identified from a cocktail of dust and DNA. Which leaves his home empty so that when a pipe breaks the water flows down into… Gaea.



To be truly singular in this world would be to be quintessentially desolate. No bubble for a bubble boy to languish in. No disembodied stranger on the internet to argue with. No air around you to transmit the slightest wave.  No air? No life.



If the Butterfly Effect is true then everything-on-earth resonates as one with the slightest ping at any point.



(Please stop here if flighty metaphysics talk makes you mad.)




A ping implies a pinger who needfully is outside the vibrating system. Which unravels my whole argument. Or can I posit enough energy in my Gaea, enough friction of racing changing facts, that entropy could be averted? A burp here, a pile-up there. Chance, singularity. Unity, convulsion, gliding again.



By on June 9th, 2020

“Careful, You Know It’s Not About Black Lives” Using free characters from PixelSquid.

Yesterday I discovered a new form of digital media and my eyes lit up. Today I browsed through its 25 page catalog of characters. (One of many catalogs.) Turns out many many of them are licensed depictions of Mario — even 8-bit flat Mario, and even of Boston Dynamics’ yellow creature-machines — even on skis. You can download them but there are corporate strings everywhere. Aesthetically it’s nice because the strings stay invisible.



They want $199 a year (or $12.99 per character) to remove the white netting of their watermark from your bit of image. This does nothing to address the corporate toes you’re in danger of mashing. It feels a little rushed to market, lumps to be massaged out — but maybe that’s just me.



Main thing is their characters catalog is as cloying as a rootbeer sunday triple fudge banana split with chopped candy on top. They are cutesy-pie adorable to the sensibilities of maybe a 12 year-old. My their eyes are big!



This at the same time the malodorous Tucker Carlson declares today’s demonstrations against racism “Definitely not about black lives.”


Presto, two strong urges joined. My desire to see Carlson trip face-first into a mass of Great Dane excrement and my desire to see what mischief could be done with white-netted Cute. Slapdash but heartfelt.




It should be noted that the only characters I noted who had been chopped of in the middle as if by fishmongers were the mermaid tails. Could it be they were inviting people to fantasize a snarky top? I took the bait.