Thursday, August 15, 2013

Final Essay

In the confusing stage our culture has come to, it is not uncommon for artists to try to make sense of it through their work. Two such artists, Lauren McCarthy and Katie Torn, have created pieces that try to reason with our inner thoughts, and how they are outwardly expressed. Both artists use modern digital technology in the process of creating and displaying their art.
Lauren McCarthy studies every day social situations that many can relate to their personal lives. She considers herself to be a designer, a programmer, and an artist and holds a Master of Fine Arts from UCLA. She creates game like tools to manipulate these social situations, many geared towards fluid conversations with limited awkward moments. While uncomfortable moments are meant to be limited in her experiments, she says that they fascinate her. More specifically, she is interested in the moments when patterns of social interactions are broken.
Works of Lauren McCarthy go past theoretical experiments. Although she doesn’t make her projects into marketable products, she does produce the zany instruments. One example of her work is the Conversacube. The Conversacube is a small box intended to get conversations started, and to train its users on how to interact with one another. It gives instructions to the participants to “notice, “react”, “touch”, and a variety of other basic motions one might go through in a conversation. McCarthy is making a comment on our generation that perhaps we have lost the skills necessary to have fluid social interaction. Social commentary is laced in many of her works.
Another work that demonstrates McCarthy’s style well is Happiness Hat, made in 2009. The happiness hat is a crocheted hat with an arm attached to the wearer’s cheek. It is able to detect whether the subject is smiling or not. If not, a small motor near the nape of the neck drives a sharp metal point against the wearer’s skin, causing moderate discomfort. Once a smile has been restored, the pain is instantly relieved. The object of such a hat is to train the wearer’s brain to always smile, and by always smiling, the wearer will experience an over-all increase in their happiness.
Katie Torn is also a modern artist, and has similar motives to her art as Lauren McCarthy. She primarily makes digital prints, many of which are animated. Her art comes without descriptions, only brief titles. The rest of the interpretation is left entirely to the audience’s discretion. Katie has a master of fine arts from the University of Chicago, obtained in 2012. She now lives in New York City working as a professor. Her work is self described as, “digital prints that reflect observations on American consumerism, culture, and its impact on the environment and human body”. Her work is said to have elements of Cubism and Futurism.
Torn’s work reflects messages expressed by The New Aesthetic. Both collections explore how our lives and the digital world are becoming one. The New Aesthetic gives numerous examples of how intricately intertwined we have become with our computers and smart phones, ranging from pixels in our 3-D world to the seemingly vast knowledge our devices carry about our lives. Torn’s piece The Calm Before the Storm is a video that shows a city scape with rotating pipes expelling dark smoke. There are trees trying to grow around the buildings, and it is unclear as to whether they are taking over the buildings, or if the buildings are crowding out the trees. Above the trees is a woman’s head, and the woman is frowning and crying pink gunk. This piece shows an unhealthy relationship between industrial technology and nature.
Another of Torn’s pieces, the one that will later be compared to McCarthy’s Happiness Hat is The Queen of Intrusive Thoughts. This is a moving statue with the focus on a green face perched near the top of the statue. The face shows signs of agony in its bared teeth, its pouted lips, and in the arms that are rubbing its temples repetitively. The statue is covered in a chaotic mess of colors, and includes rapidly flashing lights inside of the “chest” cavity. The flashing lights escape the body in a number of places. In addition to the arms that caress the temples, there are two that escape the mid-section and grope the air mindlessly. Although there is no caption to explain her piece, we can gather from Torn’s video that the sculpture represents repressed feelings of stress, ones that are manifesting into physical ailments. The title of the piece, The Queen of Intrusive Thoughts, supports this claim.
The two pieces The Queen of Intrinsic Thought and The Happiness Hat, although very different in the nature they are expressed, have similar inspirations. Both pieces deal with mental health, and suppressed feelings. The Happiness Hat is a proposed method of dealing with those suppressed feelings, while The Queen of Intrinsic Thought is a visual representation of those nasty thoughts. McCarthy says of her hat, “A smile is a simple action that has the power to make you and everyone around you feel better. Just using the muscles to smile can make you feel happier. Seeing someone else smiling triggers mirror neurons in your own brain, causing you to unconsciously smile yourself.” Although this is a nice theory, she does follow with the concession that fake smiles are often used to cover up what we are really feeling. There is no mention in the video or the description as to whether the happiness hat succeeded in making McCarthy (the guinea pig for the hat) feel happier.
Although the message of the pieces is similar, the way they are represented are starchily different. McCarthy’s piece is a video explanation of a product she produced, while Torn’s piece is an abstract moving digital print. It could be considered a video as well, but if the clip is stopped at any moment it is almost indistinguishable from any other moment of the clip, save that a few pieces that shifted. McCarthy’s video also differs from Torn’s clip in its humor. The idea of a hat that stabs you every time you stop smiling is preposterous enough to be mildly humorous. Although the intentions of the piece are not humor, it certainly seems to have been a driving them. Torn’s clip, on the other hand, can better be described as dark and disturbing. Its perfect symmetry, strange color combinations, and human limbs in odd places give the clip an extremely eerie effect. There is very little humor that can be detected in The Queen of Intrinsic Thoughts.
McCarthy and Torn, although commenting on similar topics through their work, go about this commentary in very different ways. Their styles are so different they can hardly be considered parts of the same branch of art. McCarthy’s pieces are humorous and ironic, while Torn’s pieces are dark, trippy, and, many of them, concerning to an unprepared viewer.

·      "Lauren McCarthy |" Eyebeam. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Aug. 2013.
·      "Katie Torn |" Eyebeam. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Aug. 2013.
·      Bridle, James. "The New Aesthetic." The New Aesthetic. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Aug. 2013.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Project 6: recreation of an abandoned building

This is the picture I took of the subject for my final project. It is a seemingly abandoned building that can be spotted from the Wells overpass. I was drawn to the building because of its haphazard color scheme that didn't come about intentionally, but is still aesthetically pleasing. I also had an interest in studying the building before it is renovated or demolished, as happens to buildings such as these. 

This is my rendering of the building done on Blender 3D. Because there are so many things going on around the building I had to make some cuts in choosing what to reproduce. 

I merged my two images, as seen above, in photoshop. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Selections for my final projects

This is the building I will be modeling in Blender 3D. It resides off of Wells and 5th downtown, and appears to be abandoned. I love the colors of the building, and that they seem to be there unintentionally (no one went about making the building look just the way it does now). Abandoned buildings tend to get condemned or remodeled without too much notice, so I thought it would be nice to give this old thing some attention before its time comes.

My chosen artists for my final paper are
Katie Torn
Lauren McCarthy
Both of these artists are interested in our culture and how it affects us. As an Anthropology major this sparked my interest.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Project 5: Blender 3D

Above are three photos of a 3D rendering of my face. This project came with many frustrations and do-overs, but I am pleased to present my model (one that can be recognized as a human female, at the very least).

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The New Aesthetic

Realeyes Emotion Detection Software

This, as well as everything on The New Aesthetic blog, is terrifying to me. It is just an example of the desire for companies to manipulate us in masses and to get us to buy useless goods that they want us to believe we need. The idea in general that computers can read our emotions (even if not completely successfully) is news to me, and it is a great indicator of just how far technology has come, and how rapidly it is progressing. Its possible that the machines will strip us not only of the privacy of our day to day actions, but of the privacy in the sanctity of our own minds.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Youtube Video Mixer

French & English Scramble

This is a mix of stories told in french and english. The first two clips are exerpts from two of my favorite books, Le Petit Prince and Mother Night. On the bottom are videos of French and American children telling stories. Play all of the videos at once for a fun garble of languages!

Monday, July 29, 2013


For this project I emulated Ralph Steiner's video H^2O ( This video was produced in 1929, and was a study of the motion of water as well as how light plays on it. I filmed various spots along the Truckee river, as well as a fountain on the UNR campus and water dripping off of a table in my backyard. Water, although commonly conceived as gentle and be a very powerful force, one that has helped shape the surface of the earth to be what it is now. When examined closely it can make beautiful abstract works of art. For these reasons it has always intrigued me, and was really fun to make a project out of. (Not to mention that I got to play in the river for a couple hours).