1967 - First Algorithmic Drawing

1967 Algorithmic Drawing Landscape Coils

It might not have been the very first, but it was the first drawing we liked.

It's 1967 or '68, I'm sitting at my desk, looking at this drawing, when a sculptor from the University of Minnesota comes up behind me and says, "ah, a new Colette drawing!" And I replied, "fooled you! It was done by computer."

I don't usually make replies like this, but it amazed me that Colette and I had done a computer drawing that might relate to hand made drawings.

How was it done? Write a program to draw circles in a grid, then add a tiny bit of random to the center of the circle and each step around the circle. Believe me, when I wrote the Fortran, I had no more thoughts than what I said in the previous sentence.

1960 Field

Let me explain what I wish had happened. Above is a gouache drawing Colette did when we lived in Grand Forks, ND. The title is Field. Wouldn't it have been nice if, when the computer circles appeared, I had immediately noted the influence of Colette's Field?

Pause. At this point in the talk, its been fun recounting our history. Let's talk about some of the ideas that have been important to us.

Machine vs. handmade: these can be two distinct ways art can look. Note that I said "can," since for many works of art this distinction is irrelevant. Other related ideas are: clean vs. ornamental and minimalism vs. abstract expressionism. We certainly use plotters and printers to draw art, but most of our drawings do not have a "machine" look.

Art history is important to both of us. As a kid, I was dragged screaming to the Chicago Art Institute, but I seem to have learned something there. At Harvard, I took Slive's course on Northern Renaissance and was permanently imprinted. Colette spent time in art museums in Indianapolis, Chicago and San Francisco as a child, studied art history at John Herron and Boston University, and absorbed the reality of the European tradition in one summer.

Landscape is our interpretive focus. You've seen this in Colette's art school screen, in the title of the algorithmic drawing above and in the last image. Colette speaks of all of her work as Midwestern landscape. Most of our algorithmic drawings have suggestive landscape titles.

Other interpretive traditions are not as important to us. Minimal art and it's theory, conceptual art, postmodernism, even Marxism are not things we spend time on, though we bought our current house from a Marxist sociologist. We mean no disrespect to any of the forms of art critical discussion. They are just not what we happen to get involved with.

The simple fact that there is a relationship between Landscape Coils and Fields is a natural sign of our collaboration. The nature of the collaboration is clear to me and Colette. Other people may find it problematic. Every so often someone walks up to one of Colette's handmade works and asks if it is done by computer. We will talk more about this.