My early artwork extended my vision into the invisible realm of experience. Surrounded by natural forces that create physiological sensations locating us in the natural world; phenomena that brush the skin or perhaps enter the body, phenomena that resonate and reverberate in the interstitial spaces around us, cloaking us as resonant beings that have an intimate connection to the natural world - but all of which are invisible to the naked eye. Envisioning, as well as feeling these invisible phenomena provoked me to image them.
Examples of these phenomena are light waves reflecting off of irregular, chaotic surfaces, magnetic fields with undulating boundaries of attracting and repulsing forces, wind currents that shape and reshape materials in their path, or the vibration of electricity with a theatrical play of electrons. The simultaneous sensations of this complex multitude of sensually perceptible experience gave rise to my imagemaking. My interest in capturing the resonance of these invisible experiential phenomena led me to computer imaging because it was a vehicle for combinational synthesis of the analytical, mathematical description of these natural phenomena with the kinesthetic, physiological, sense perception of experience.
Working with the computer in the mid 1970's necessitated the development of Fortran computer programs that incorporated mathematical formulas describing various phenomena with a personal interpretation, to visually image these sensations. Initially I created a series of line drawings that were exhibited in a one person exhibition in 1976. The distance of these drawings from the natural phenomena was troubling to me as I wanted to create a synthesis, even a symbiosis with the natural world. Textile is a material that would connect with the natural world through its history, and by responding radically to light patterns and wind currents in an environments. I received a grant from Apple Computer in 1978 in the form of an Apple IIe to pursue this work. My algorithmic images extended into color and transformative patterns. Using the Apple IIe I created sequential series of patterns representing the invisible phenomena in motion, and transferred them to fabric using heat transfer xerography. The computer monitor was positioned upside down on a 3M Color-in-Color copier with back light capability to create individual pattern frames that were then heat transferred to fabric by hand. These electronic patchwork textiles were exhibited in a number of galleries including the IBM Gallery in New York city. This traveling exhibition was documented in the book Digital Visions by Cynthia Goodman in 1987.
I then received an equipment grant from Tektronix for further development of transformative natural patterning systems in the context of progressive color fields. I created large canvas tapestries using 3M's Scan-a-Mural process. I also received an Illinois Arts Council Project Completion Grant in 1994 to further investigate large format printing. My artwork led me to recombine the abstracted with the real - the synthesis of the abstracted model with images sculpted with time and light via a video digitizer. This work was exhibited in a one person exhibition in Chicago in 1987. In 1989, I published a book titled Creative Computer Imaging with Prentice Hall.
My work developed towards more narrative realms with the use of natural objects and phenomena directly in the work, in order to map processes from the natural world onto the artificiality of contemporary social constructs of motherhood and family. I frequently used water in creating my imagery because of its references to flow and transformation. This work extended into computer-based interactive installations which were exhibited in Montreal and in Chicago. I created a computer-based interactive photo album for this project. In this electronic ritual the viewers were costumed in a set of behaviors familiar to them that they acted out during their involvement with the artwork. This activated a collective memory of the traditional construction of the family, confronted by issues questioned by the artwork. In the recent installation, Torn Touch, visceral materials of barbed wire and old fence posts, with torn cloth caught on the barbed wire were used in conjunction with three computers and monitors placed in black cages. Animated sequences on the monitors were activated by the viewer's presence at the fence. Participants were asked to pin a personal item onto the cloth, creating a virtual community of all of the participants. The objective was to point out the disparity between and yet simultaneity of the synthetic experience of the virtual world and the physicality of everyday experience - the material world, and questions of reconciling these experiences. In 1994 I received a Scandinavian-American Foundation Fellowship to work on issues of interactive multimedia in Denmark.
I have been invited as a Visiting Artist to numerous universities, colleges and conferences, including a conference at the Institute of Contemporary Art in London, International Society of Electronic Arts conferences in Helsinki and Utrecht as well as in the US. In 1997 I received a Fulbright Fellowship, Research Scholar's award. During recent summers the Ohio Arts council has invited me as a visiting artist at their Summer Media Institutes. Recently I was invited to be the keynote speaker at a conference on Virtual Art at Beloit College. In addition I was a participant at a symposium at the University of Chicago.
In 1998 I was invited to be Chair of the SIGGRAPH 98 Electronic Art Show. I created the theme of touchware in which artists were invited to create work that reconciled the virtual experience with the material world. A catalog was produced of this exhibition. My artwork is included Frank Popper's book Art in the Electronic Age, and The Computer in the Visual Arts by A. M. Spalter, as well as other books. My work is also discussed in an article by Annick Bureaud titled Computer Art @ Chicago in art press # 246, May 1999.
My digital images are on exhibition in a one person show in the Wright Art Center at Beloit College during November 1999. My work is also on exhibition in group exhibition at the Beacon Street Gallery in Chicago during October 1999, and at Intermedia Arts Gallery in Minneapolis during November 1999. I am a Professor in the Art and Technology Department at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I am currently teaching a course titled Electronic Ritual and Ceremony that I have developed in relationship to my own electronic artwork.
- Joan Truckenbrod
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