On Becoming a Dangerous Artist

As I write this, it all seems overly melodramatic to me. Things can’t really be so bad, right?

Most of my career, I’ve focused on creating visualizations of data and scientific concepts. Always striving to share the beauty I see in patterns, for an elegant presentation, and enlightenment. I can’t say that I’ve always succeeded, but sometimes I actually create something special.

But all this requires an open and free society, where scientists and artists can work without fear of persecution at the whims of political celebrities.

Recently, a certain political celebrity demanded the names of scientists who had attended any meetings on climate change. Even though the demand was rebuffed, our society is indeed showing signs of closing.

Amid all this, a phrase from the past comes to mind:

“Beware of artists. They mix with all classes of society and are therefore the most dangerous.”

The original intent was to warn against artists breaking out of society’s little boxes. But I’m taking it as a rallying cry. To be dangerous to fascism, one must simply be an artist. And so, all art is “protest art”.

In my new generative art series, I’m creating my own protest art with algorithms I explored with my ‘self-drawing code’ series. It involved a script which takes itself as input and renders an abstract image of itself.

Self-Drawing code

In my new series, I’m pushing my algorithms. And, instead of the script itself as the seed for the visual pattern, I’m using the phrase “Beware of artists. They mix with all classes of society and are therefore the most dangerous.

These are some of my first sketches from the new series:

“Beware_1482311012.84”
“A Multitude of Dangerous Artists”

I’d like to close with some thoughts on ‘art in crisis’. Firstly, this new series is not my best work. It’s self-soothing, while I figure out what it means to live in a ‘post-fact’ world. Secondly, the original thinking for this series occurred at a time when my world wasn’t threatened. For a more thoughtfully articulated and well documented piece, please read Glendon Mellow’s article on Scientific American.


Update Jan 12, 2017: As I continue to work on this generative art series, I’ll add images (and parhaps some thoughts) to this story.

“Focusing on the letters” in “Beware of Artists. …” added to story Jan 12, 2017

Update Feb 18, 2017: Was recently invited back to my neighborhood bookstore, as guest artist, for a night of Adult Coloring and Community. I couldn’t resist modifying my code a bit, and creating some black-and-white versions that could be fun for coloring.

The goal was to start with black and white versions, and making the words a little readable. But not *too* readable.

Bigger letters and Black-and-White

Eventually, I worked on the lines, so there was more white-space for coloring.

Ready for coloring.