JOURNAL

3/16/15 (Statement accompanying: Victorians Oh Yeah) 
The final revelation is that lying, the telling of beautiful untrue things, is the proper aim of art. ~ Oscar Wilde.

It was only a matter of time before the appearance of Victorian images played a larger role in a series. For decades people have characterized my work as being “Horror Vacui,” a term meaning: a fear or dislike of leaving empty spaces, especially in an artistic composition. The phrase is also associated with the Italian art critic and scholar Mario Praz, who used it to describe what he perceived as “the suffocating atmosphere and clutter of interior design in the Victorian age.” While the appearance of overflowing complexity in my work is intended as a metaphorical portrayal of an interconnection between all things or a world seen on a molecular level, and not the result of a “fear or dislike,” I do have a fascination with the Victorian era, a time period when a bare room was considered to be in poor taste, so every surface was filled with the precision of orderly patterns and luxurious ornamental objects that reflected the owner's interests and aspirations. Over 115 years later, some can only see chaos, over-indulgence or even lunacy in the period’s designed excess. To me, the qualities that make a novel good, such as the complications, the errors of judgement, the inconsistencies and the dirtiness of the human condition explode during Victorian times, echo issues still being scrutinized, and all with a background that highlights division (including those between art and design).

In this project, the references to Victorian cultural norms, lifestyle, values and morality speak mostly to how and why current day concerns are either unchanged or have evolved from the past. Leaders in both cultures were/are compelled to address issues as varied as: the proliferation or extinction of the middle class, growing wage gaps, privacy, psychological compartmentalization, a crisis of faith in the face of scientific discovery, and a subconscious fear on the part of conservative elites that past purity is somehow being attacked and needs to be defended. The Industrial Revolution spawned huge changes that were addressed by Victorian codes of conduct, just as our current technology and information revolutions are begetting changes that ripple through every aspect of our interconnected culture. 
Partly because of the density of layering, my series projects tend to take a year or more to complete. A large part of the creative process is the research done in preparation. The joy of learning is an intrinsic part of the process and a primary reason why I make art. In addition to helping me accurately understand how culture and perception has evolved, the knowledge from research provides an intellectual framework supporting quasi-structuralist metaphor within my artwork. But Structuralism, real or imagined, is just one of many ways that my art can be interpreted. While I support the theory that the phenomena of human life is only intelligible via interrelations, I’m not a proponent of the linear “either/or” measure that predominates the popular means of understanding. But, as an artist, I believe it is my responsibility to communicate with the culture considering all popular methods of interpretation and analysis, as I attempt to blend together a unique perspective from what previously was perceived as several mutually exclusive ideologies.

In spite of my use of symbols, I don’t accept that any of the artworks components have a universal or prescribed meaning. Regardless of having a shared location, history, and language, two individuals won’t necessarily perceive anything in the same way. How can meaning be expected to function with the infinite variables of time, space, fashion trends and cultural diversity? Because of this, elements in my artwork also take on the role of being formalist modules, being purely texture, color, shape and mass. When I use a pink cropped section of a cartoon, it’s interpretation hopefully shifts among many possibilities: being a meaningless color shape interacting other aspects in the work, engaging the viewer’s memory of events that happened before the works creation, and as a component with insistent, stream-of-consciousness poetics hinting at a mysterious contained narrative. Colors may be chosen for reasons as varied as returning to color schemes from my 1990‘s enamel and varnish paintings, referencing printed art from the 1890’s, sourcing a filmmaker’s vintage tones in a 2009 period movie, or popular shoe lace colors in this year’s athletic footwear. As I’ve mentioned in previous statements, my intent is to blend symbols, colors, patterns associated with different time periods to create a non-linear timeless shallow exuberant space where both the present and history are interconnected equals, where abstract processes give way to mathematical concepts and humor/parody/nostalgia exists along side chiefly compositionally concerned manipulation.

I’ve chosen to strip away from my recent works the preciousness that comes with the appearance of the unique object, a hand-made aesthetic, but mostly comes with limiting the possibility of ownership. According to the numbers, the Internet is my primary means of disseminating the art I create. As such, the pretense of the preciousness becomes pointless and ultimately is counter-intuitive to my egalitarian desire for all things in my art to be perceived as being in a state of simultaneity. I subscribe to the notion that the ability to access and/or the method of distribution of my art should share the same ideals responsible for choices in my artwork’s imagery. We’re in an era where divisions continue to evaporate between fine art and other artistic disciplines. The safe, guard protected and environmentally neutral museum/gallery context is no longer the primary setting I pursue. My default means to exhibit in the real world now is out in the elements on commercially produced billboard structures sporting four-color printed single-piece vinyl coverings that are stretched over the frame like canvases. For those who wish to own physical pieces, smaller inexpensive media is available on the web, with surfaces filled or embellished with my idiosyncratic imagery printed from digital files, further blurring divisions by substituting art (created with layered designs) in a place that formerly was relegated to design without turning the art into design as a result of the contextual shift.

I meld together methods and aesthetics that have been perceived as being the opposite ends of some assumed spectrum: mixing the subjugation of aesthetic concerns and emotional coldness of Conceptual Art, with the attention-grabbing psychological manipulation of advertising, with the obsessive fervor and intellectual abandon of Folk Art. While in the past I’ve thought that a portion of my art-making process was similar to what a landscaper or a musician might do, I’ve lately been thinking from the perspective of being a chef who combines a wide range of ingredients to create an eating experience using balance, harmony and contrast between different tastes (salt, bitter, sweet) to achieve the transformative unique multi-course meal. While I employ my fine arts painter mindset to the task of working with digital tools, I often find inspiration in the artistic practices of others who fall outside that stereotype. Like Orson Welles’ 1938 “The War of the Worlds” radio drama broadcast; or Vollis Simpson welding and painting metal scraps, fan blades, bike wheels and reflectors to decorate his back woods North Carolina repair shop property with whirligigs; or Banksy covertly prodding the popular conscience via stenciled spray paint on a public wall; or the result of a years work by a Ryōan-ji temple gardener; or your grandmother cooking homemade vegetable soup for you; I make, I share, I try to inspire wonder or a desire to know more, ultimately I hope to enrich your life for a moment or more by creating new experiences that can lead to new perspectives, period.

It’s strange what moments stick with us and create impressions that define what we become. When I was in college in the late 70’s, I had a conceptual art class professor that once spoke of how the participants on the experimental leading edge of art were not unlike their counterparts in quantum physics. In the arts, mathematics and sciences there exists an area of inquiry and practice that most of the population has no desire to understand and would have difficulty grasping even if they wanted to. While I appreciate that value is not determined by anyone’s specific ability to see worthiness, I’ve come to recognize that what I’m doing is completely disconnected from the world. I’ve been running toward the singularity.

I’ve never had much interest in being a designer. Selling is not part of my creative equation. I’ve always been all about art made for its own sake, often without an audience in mind, let alone a market or a concern of what’s fashionable. I prioritize self-awareness, passion, thoughtfulness and innovation. Situational paradox is the human condition that I most often am attracted to, laugh at, am frustrated by, and which contextualizes the core of my art, begetting an outcome that’s heavy on process and unanswered questions. While my work may not fit into a neat pigeonhole, it is an accurate reflection of it’s maker’s interests, quirks and perspectives. Just like each of our identities, it is a collection of a lifetime’s experiences and attractions put together to create something new. It’s value is derived from the deeply personal nature of the blend. My motivation is to contribute in a new and insightful way to the larger conversation.

1/5/14 (Statement accompanying: #ERROR57)

People prefer the intentional errors for which there is no desire to fix. We want to believe that we all perceive things in the same way. We want to believe that life occasionally makes sense. We want to believe in right and wrong. The list goes on and on. The paradox is that the construct we call truth is like beauty and perfection… it doesn’t exist. There are no constants, except that we all will continue to be confused and create elaborate worlds inside our heads that have no basis in reality.

This series of work is a response to what I learned about my art after creating a website; posting much of what I’ve created during the past 30 years. Seeing it all for the first time in one place inspired me to take on the challenge of translating the reoccurring aesthetics, methods, and concepts that I’ve previously explored into a new visual form. I discovered that while my style has evolved or been purposely adjusted to communicate a specific aspect of the subject matter, the perspectives that spawned the work haven’t shifted dramatically. There are a core set of themes or ideas that seem to re-emerge in many of my series, including: our live's imposed appearance as a narrative and our futile search for answers; the apparent need by humankind to measure and turn everything into a symbol; the encroachment of polling, surveillance, technology and urbanization on how we think; the power we invest in mementos; the hazardous intersections of science, commerce and politics; what is real and what is not; how does one poetically describe a life lived in the paradox that is the human condition.

I’m not generally a rear-view mirror kind of guy. I tend to be engaged in the present and create art based on current events I’m experiencing and thinking about during the time I’m making it. But, time has always been an active element in all of my work. Just as I think in metaphor, comparing the subject in a time-shifted context to its previous experience stand-in, I like to play with the perceived timeframe of when the work appears to have been made. To contribute to a conversation in a constructive way one needs to know what has previously been said, referencing the subject as you advance the train of thought in a new direction, even when you’re talking to yourself.

The many values of gray in this digitally created series is a metaphor for my non-linear “Multiverse” world view. Additionally, it references what most perceive as the past, just as the burnt orange patina of varnish does in my paintings, making time and memory a more conspicuous element in what I'm trying to communicate and how the work is perceived. By limiting my palette, I hope to accentuate both the dream-like quality of the imagery as well as the work’s ambient complexity.

Photographs used in the series were captured by the artist in: Vienna (Austria), Munich (Germany), Tokyo and Kyoto (Japan), Baltimore - Maryland, Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, and in the artist’s studio in Alexandria - Virginia (USA).

10/19/13 (Statement accompanying: Painted Attenuation (Signal Loss 2): Video and Studies

Video: An animated sequence of 64 unique still images (studies for large scale paintings), each shown for 0.1 second, with the sequence repeated to fill 3 minute run time (minus opening and closing titles). Soundtrack: electronically manipulated recording of rain.

The image in this animation is the somewhat narcotic essence of television with the dark and light areas alternatively pulling the viewer's attention. It was important to me for the sound to be a bit softer than the hiss of a TV... rain proved to be a close enough sound, and it had a preferable organic audio quality that coincidentally (and poetically) also matched the visuals. Like much of my work, I am seeking to metaphorically describe what I perceive as aspects of the human condition... the need for numbing escape, the error at the core of humanities' identity and paradoxical tendency for turning the banal into an icon.

The paintings, based on a tech source, become like snowflakes made by man… integrating the human element into the chance precision. No two are alike and no area within any one is like another area within the same panel. They are abstract and photo-realist at the same time. Because they also draw on ideas from both the Abstract Expressionist and Conceptual Art movements, I think of the entire series as one piece… a conversation with time being an active participant. The pieces also reference, Color Field painting (like the Washington Color school), Op Art, Pop Art, Process Art, and Minimalist Art. I like creating work that straddles the fence and is not easily pinned down or pigeon holed.

5/23/13 (Statement accompanying: #TheAccessoriesSeries)

accessory  akˈses(ə)rē ( also accessary )
noun ( pl. accessories )
1. a thing that can be added to something else in order to make it more useful, versatile, or attractive: a range of bathroom accessories.
・a small article or item of clothing carried or worn to complement a garment or outfit: among the hottest items are hair accessories such as rhinestone-studded barrettes.
2. Law: someone who gives assistance to the perpetrator of a crime, without directly committing it, sometimes without being present: she was charged as an accessory to murder.

Why do you make your art?
 
Is originality relevant? Yes. But it certainly doesn't poll very well.
 
When I was a little kid, I often wondered “Why do people copy what other people do instead of wanting to be different?” I was naïve then. But the question is nonetheless valid. Today, leadership built on following long-held personal convictions, regardless of what a person’s peers believe, also seems naive. Corporations, special interest groups, and governments now mine our statistical data for their own ends. They mirror back at us what we believe, or what we want to hear and to gain our trust to sell us their bill of goods. But as an artist and a person seeking to contribute to our culture by airing divergent views, I believe it’s important to address timely subjects, such as this relentlessly expanding digital profiling in the context of art. It's important for the public to be thoughtful when being bombarded with so many images daily. Whether those pictures are mindless fluff or have the power to affect policy and/or the paths our lives take, they are being created, selected, and aimed by algorithms seeking to achieve specific goals such as making money, acquiring information or promoting some ideology.  
 
Money and power have been key factors in art—high, low and in between—for centuries. What has changed dramatically in the digital era is the speed with which some forms of art can be made, sold, and delivered. For example, with a few clicks of a mouse, a digital print on archival quality paper, sized and framed to your taste, can be on its way to you. So a huge number of people are able to buy original works of art via the Internet. But the best-selling Internet art seems strikingly unoriginal, relying heavily on the standard memes of landscapes, flowers, pets, pattern, glitter, superheros, celebrities and porn.
 
I had a conversation with my wife some months ago about the differences between art in museums and most of the art on Print On Demand (POD) art sites, as well as the audiences for each. She said that there’s a segment of the shopping public that primarily regards art as an “accessory”... embellishment for t-shirts, cell phone cases, and all of the other products a person can buy which can be covered in designed ornamentation. This includes POD prints. Many customers consider them accessories to match the couch or interior décor and make their home more beautiful. Much of POD art aspires to be fashionable, nostalgic, cute, comforting, whimsical, or pretty. It plays it safe and polls well with audiences employing variations on the same kind of images that you’ve seen before, like the never-ending movie sequels Hollywood produces. By definition, most POD art is banal because it is being created solely with the intent to sell to the largest possible number of buyers by appealing to the target demographic’s most common expectations and desires.
 
Art that innovates, challenges perceptions, or generally attempts to get the viewer to think about the world differently tends to be what is in museums. It was created by artists whose first consideration was to communicate new and unique ideas. Its stimulating originality and potentially transcendent qualities encourage me to participate, and promotes the cogitative difference it possesses.
 
I make art because I seek to be an advocate for seeing and thinking. I enjoy the intellectual conversation that artists have with each other and with the interested public. And I believe I can contribute something new to the dialogue.
 
I also believe that there is value in my art taking on issues facing the culture, as well as personal frustrations which may be shared by others, even if the resulting imagery is not explicit. Assuming the role of “canary in the coal mine” is both a cathartic process and a way to speak of things that I don’t see anyone else addressing in a way that I don’t see anyone else using.  

I enjoy the challenge of creating something with an initial modesty of scale, directing the process of realizing the growing concept onto larger surfaces, engaging people from many demographics by using site-specific methods, and being a participant in the gallery installations that can be enjoyed by others.

What inspires you to make it?
 
We are a species that counts and measures everything. Statistical diagrams, maps, charts, and graphs are manifestations of the way our minds work. We are infinitely curious to know what others think, do, say, and what is the easiest and/or preferred way to behave. Fortunately for the masses, our media and electronic assistants communicate inescapable infographic real-time polling results on nearly every subject all of the time. The desire to know what’s “most popular” is wired into every search engine, just as it is in our brains. When was the last time you went to a movie, a restaurant or bought something online without checking the Internet reviews? We all do that even though we don’t know the first thing about the reviewers, such as whether or not they have some personal stake in the deal.
 
There are also financial and political incentives to skew the facts presented in the ubiquitous visual data in which we are awash. In order for distorted information to be believable, a scientific presentation form—graphs, charts, diagrams—are often used to add a patina of verisimilitude. Typically, the “facts” are presented in an abstracted way where color and form are used to convince the viewer of the easy-to-understand evidence and implications. If it can be quantified and turned into an infographic, it must be real and true. Or not.
 
I’ve long been intrigued by our need for measurements, systems and order. Those things drove my process long before Big Data was the buzz word du jour. My recent work embraces digital methodology but rejects the goal of complete communication. Just as measurements or a diagram do not necessarily disseminate the essence of a subject, the art is meant to vaguely impart an intangible feeling of charted experience with a code composed in an unknown, holistic language. Recognizable, banal forms and processes of daily life are in the mix, parodying both the purely emotional source of the original quantified samples and the statistical collection process that dictated the positioning and size of components within the work... like fashion or culture feeding on themselves. The aesthetics of verity coupled with my own metaphorical hieroglyphic forms the starting point. But context and meaning are not revealed. Stripping away much of the communication, the work turns a structuralist process into a formalist outcome. While actual words (from appropriated forms, maps, charts and diagrams) appear in the works, they are chosen entirely by chance and function like flung paint, brushstrokes or halftones.

What does it signify or represent?
 
Let me backtrack... I’ve made the POD sites (Zazzle, Red Bubble, Society6, and Fine Art America) and the shopping sites that support them (Pinterest, Fab and Wanelo) the unwitting “accessories” (as in the second, “assisting a criminal” definition of the word) in the creation of my work by using statistics I compiled from their sites as determining factors in the size, placement and inclusion of covert, interpretive elements in my work. This series was created by a somewhat random recipe, as unaware people in the process of contributing to a celebration of consumerism via posting or voting on manifestations of temporary fashion, are metaphorically throwing the dice that determine the creative decisions.
 
I set out to create a body of work exploring our materialistic culture’s perception of the concept of art; about the commercial and the culture supporting it, while remaining paradoxically uncommercial. Just as the culture tends to feed on its own, in addition to making traditional art, I incorporated a product line into the concept in the traditional guises that artsy commercial merchandise takes (t-shirts, cell phone cases, home decor objects, stationery, etc.). It’s inappropriately decorated with the less than commercially popular imagery produced via statistics representing the story of a small segment of the culture’s fashion feeding frenzy. I’m intentionally playing with trend feasibility by creating images that are simultaneously attractive and repellant: by mixing aesthetics that appeal to dramatically different demographics... original and banal, tech and romantic, modernist field format and classical iconic, organic and pixelated, celebrity and obscurity, the consumeristic and the philosophical, the symbol and the meaningless, the measured and the intangible. At the heart of my work is paradox, which our culture rarely embraces because it flies in the face of the easily understood, knowable fact.
 
Because I wish to give an enriched focus within my art not just on process, but on metaphor, without sacrificing the strengths of non-narrative formalist abstraction, I'm the only person who has the key to deciphering the chronicled story of events beyond my control: coded documentation of other people’s consumerism, wants, needs, and choices. I’m thinking of art as diagrams transcribing everyday experience, so I’m not appropriating artistic visual images that are considered banal (as Koons and Hirst have), but rather the banal, patterned processes, activities, and events of digital age daily life.

Ultimately, it’s all a metaphor for the human condition: seeking answers, trying to obtain money, clout or power, endlessly building systems, and sometimes still having to accept that some things cannot be known or are random.

How do you make it? What is it made of?
 
The art in this series starts out as physical drawing, painting and handmade collage done on several sheets of paper. Then  it’s digitally scanned to become virtual layers assembled and colored in Photoshop.
 
For the most part, the original source material is monochromatic, nearly black and white. The drawing in these pieces was done with a Pilot G-2 pen. The collage is hand-cut from laser printed images on office paper and assembled with tape. The paint used is white latex interior house paint. All of the texture work is either drawn physically, painted or created with ink and a toothbrush. I do a lot of the work on light tables so each layer can interact with the others. While I don't use the fancy filters in Photoshop, I do use the eraser, so there is some information in these pieces that doesn't make it to the final version.
 
The following link will lead you to another page at Behance with images of several of the handmade paper layers that contribute to a work in progress: http://www.behance.net/gallery/The-Process-Creating-a-TheAccessoriesSeries-Work/9182353
 
My process begins with written outlines before the physical art-making starts. As the project proceeds, I write and collect notes which I distill later into a formal artist's statement. As with most series projects, invariably there is a bit of drift between the first piece and the last, even when you've set up conceptual rules in the works’ creation based on visual display of statistical data translated into a hieroglyphic. When I was making physical paintings, I went back and reworked/added information to earlier pieces to get them aesthetically consistent with the later ones. When I started #TheAccessoriesSeries, I was wise enough to remember this and built into my conceptual plan a "punch list layer" where I go through each of the works at the end, while finalizing my artist's statement, and add or clean-up. This is similar to the punch list that contractors create when building architectural projects. In addition to thinking about each of these pieces as individuals, I also think of them as a stage (in the theatrical sense), so it's appropriate in my mind that my prior experience as a carpenter finds its way into the creative strategy/process. In most cases, a single layer of information is then added to most of the works that does not change dramatically the overall aesthetics or composition.

What does it mean to you?
 
I recently searched and discovered that many notable artists whose art is part of major museum collections came from backgrounds in the sciences and mathematics. As my own art has always had a component concerned with "communication beyond language," I think that many mathematicians and scientists, who speak in a language of numbers or code to express what words cannot, are sympathetic to the ideas and goals of artists who visually pursue similar ideas. I've always been fascinated with the aesthetics of truth (via science), how language works, and how the mind processes information. The glitch-related work that I have done in the past was an extension of my additional interest in chance and error. In many ways they are parallel roads of thought traveling to the same destination... attempting to better know myself and being able to appreciate and poetically describe the broader cultural and the social arrangements that make up human lives.

12/10/12 (Statement accompanying: The Landscape of My Heart Project)
The Landscape of My Heart Project includes: a primary digital collage combining drawn elements with photographs taken at several locations in Kyoto, and satirical commercialized logo versions of elements used within the primary work symbolizing paradoxical emotional conflicts (simultaneous connection and disconnection). The work is a continuation of my musings about the lines between: nature and glitch, error and perfection, the sacred and commodity, and the dueling roles of the artist and the merchant.

10/3/12 (Statement accompanying: The Stripes Series)

My work is very process driven, as I believe the greatest magic happens at moments when the process delivers the image and not so much by my forcing a control over every aspect of the final visual output. What I'm attempting to create is an image that appears highly structured but in reality is not a lot different than what Jackson Pollock achieved by dripping and flinging paint. The element of chance plays a huge role in the work. Unlike earlier collage works where I intentionally sought to line up the outlines of variously colored imagery within the strips with similarly proportioned details in adjoining strips of paper (Glitch Pin-Up, and Provenance Series), The Stripes Series was entirely assembled image face down. I chose to not see what was happening as each piece was assembled. Nature and synchronicity was my partner in creating these works.

6/25/10 (Statement accompanying: P/D3 Glitch Collage Studies)

A sampling from a series of 48 handmade post-digital glitch collages, 2010, laser jet printed paper, ink, acrylic polymer emulsion and self-adhesive vinyl on corrugated cardboard, 7.5 x 9.25 in. (all original works before digitally cropping and resizing).

Our burgeoning dependance on machine created perfection and instant digital communication is the starting point for Wayne Edson Bryan’s evocative compositions that explore our complex relationship with human fallibility and the arcane.

Favoring common office supplies over traditional fine arts materials, Bryan uses cut and pasted copier paper, ball point pens and self-adhesive vinyl letters to construct horror vacui collages reminiscent of the electronic glitch and signal loss static we occasionally experience, inadvertently create and wish to evolve beyond. The black and white images sourced from the internet that he painstakingly trims into strips and glues into patterns are created by or associated with computers as well as nano-technology, satellite imaging, physics, chemistry and molecular biology. By rendering depictions of technological error by hand, their human origin and attributes are amplified and become more endearing. Another result of Bryan’s manual manipulation is that the present day time frame visually communicated by the high-tech source material reverts to the appearance of being rooted in a steampunk-like past.

Just as meaning is implied by the use of letters and symbols but denied by their random arrangement, Bryan denies public access to his original physical artwork. Instead, the handmade works are exhibited exclusively in digital form on the internet. For the artist, the ascendence of the imitations of things, of our easy forgiveness of desirable data being dispensed through globalization’s filters means we’re indifferent to being denied the real.

By transforming virtual information with the realness of the hand’s lack of precision and a metaphorical glitch-like error and then returning it to its simulated form, Bryan examines the boundary between realness and electronic distortion.

5/21/10  Eruptus, multi-screen MP4 video/sound collage, length: 1:03 (looped)
 
Eruptus metaphorically deals with the concept of strength through vulnerability. While the audio first sounds complex, the cacophony potentially becomes coarsely textured minimalism with time. The contrasting visual, stripped to the fewest elements, hopefully does the opposite as one invests time and notices the color flares and patterns within the repetition. I believe that simplicity is not only a visual or an aesthetic value, but it has a moral perception that looks into the nature of truth and reveals the inner qualities of materials and objects for the essence. The waterfall-like television visual, having both organic and electronic qualities, is intended to be a representation of the commonality between our sometimes banal lives online and in the real world. A drop of water leaves barely a mark just as a single banality barely leaves an impression on our consciousness, but the flow of tons of water can move mountains and the masses preference for the cliché can reshape cultures.
 
Error, as analogically characterized in this work as Signal Loss, defines us and is what makes imperfect human beings preferable to the fictitious myth of perfection. I believe that accepting error as a strength and not a weakness gives each of us the ability to be vulnerable and create original concepts instead of staying in our comfort zones and putting out more of the safe and commonplace imagery that dominates our culture.

9/99 (Excerpted from: Gallery K press release “Perfect/Defect, an Exhibition by Wayne Edson Bryan”)

The quest for "perfection" has become a cornerstone of our culture. Advertisers and marketing experts routinely use consumers' faith in the analytically reasoned truths of science and optimism generated by technological progress as tools for manipulating the secular marketplace. They play to and prey on the public's hopes, dreams, fears and insecurities. The great consumption machine provides perfect answers in the form of perfect futuristic products offered to rescue or revive our imperfect lives.
 
Wayne Edson Bryan's paintings challenge the fundamental premises of the consumer culture by using many of the same subliminal visual tools to embrace the antithesis of pre-packaged perfection: the defects; the accidents; the waywardness; and the imperfectability of human nature

In his newest works, Bryan employs metal-flake enamel and a pixelated, saw-toothed line to create multi-layered paintings featuring ancient Sung dynasty magic diagrams mixed with patterns and images created by or associated with computers, as well as iconography from biology, physics, mathematics, and chemistry. By rendering these normally precise, mechanically generated and reproduced images by hand, their human origin and attributes become more conspicuous and endearing.

Bryan’s new paintings explore at greater depth the visual effects created by using a power sander on many layers of variously colored paint. This technique emphasizes the element of chance and reveals hidden, raised eddies of each different color. In departure from his earlier works, which typically contained six to eight layers of more organically based patterns, Bryan has limited the pattern overlay and made it more geometric to heighten the contrasting organic qualities of the brush work and the subtle dynamics, revealed by the sander, of viscous paint covering irregular surfaces. The paintings celebrate the mysterious imperfections of existence: the incalculable, the fortuitous, the errant, the unpredictable.

5/1/98 (Statement accompanying exhibition: WEB, Gallery K, Washington, DC)

My desire is to make art that is personal, unique, and grows out of a dialogue about the times in which it is created. Repeated encounters with it should yield continued discoveries.
 
The supersaturated information environment created by marketing, regulatory, and anarchistic voices has been a constant inspiration. With its ability to create schizophrenic juxtapositions of meaning, this unrelenting message jungle has evolved into a virtually enveloping experience in the web reconfigured realm. As hype and consumer desire go hand in hand to facilitate our dependence for constant mainlining of data, my paintings speak to the beauty and absurdity of the bombardment.
 
By merging a critical approach to content with an aesthetic of hieroglyphics, the resulting painted cacophony is perceived as harmonious. The visual composition makes references to the arrangement of information on bulletin boards, in print media, in the rapid fire visual communication prevalent in televised advertising, in Microsoft Windows architecture, and in maps or diagrams.
 
The camouflaged symbol and arabesque pattern works I create also mirror modern music’s production, in which sampled sound bytes are added to layered patterns of sound through multi-tracking equipment to from complex orchestrations.
 
Many different procedures are used to fabricate the intricate images: traditional direct application of opaque paint with tiny brushes, use of masking tape stencils, drawing with fountain pens filled with thinned paint, use of transparent glazes, and precision sanding to reveal the elevated edges of previously painted lines or shapes intentionally covered with contrasting colored paint.  

1/29/97 (Statement accompanying exhibition: TOP, Gallery K, Washington, DC)

In contemporary advertising (for products such as: perfume, footwear, cola, jeans, automobiles, etc.) often we see or hear words that appear to be communicating a message. But when you stop to think about what the words mean, you realize they’re saying nothing. While the advertisement still has the purpose of selling you a product, it’s done through style, not substance. Likewise, in architecture and product design, ornamental shapes and patterns are used to fashionably decorate, entertain, and engage the eye, but ultimately convey nothing.
 
So much busyness, distraction, and trivia fills our experience. Its only purpose seems to be to trigger our attention, feed our curiosity, and empower us by providing factoids we can repeat. With the new ease of processing, storing, and retrieving information through computers and the internet, can we master our lives and our universe by recording all experience with words and pictures, or is it just another foolish attempt to gain a kind of immortality and the reassurance it provides?

Many believe the purpose of each human is procreation and providing the tools needed for their offspring’s survival. Immortality of the individual resides in recorded images, stories, and the offspring’s memories (often triggered by a collection of items created or purchased by the individual during their life and passed along as souvenirs of experiences). Spiritual immortality is gained as a reward for a life spent following a rule book. Immortality provides purpose.
 
As we experience the world through our eyes, symbols are constantly washing over our psyche from both a supersaturated information environment and natural sources. Memory also provides symbols that we use to interpret new input. While each separate symbol has a meaning, the total environment does not form a narrative. Yet in an artwork containing many chosen symbols, the implication is there must be a reason for the choices, i.e.: the whole must contain a meaning.

This new body of work is a response to my fascination with how the mind processes experience, the question of human purpose, and how as humans we need to believe that with enough correct information the meaning of anything can be understood.
 
Information in the paintings is arranged as one might place notes and pictures on a bulletin board: assumed relationships are formed by proximity or similar colors of the symbols. Interest is focused on images in the foreground, while in the background are residuals of past experience. An analogy to modern music construction is apropos, with sampled sound bytes being added to layer upon layer of repeating patterns of sound through multi-tracking equipment to form complex orchestrations.

I’ve created paintings that ultimately have no purpose beyond decoration. Camouflaged in an aesthetic of hieroglyphics, the works communicate nothing more than the previously mentioned supersaturated information environment does. Like advertising, the illusion of communication exists to draw the viewer in, but the complex eye-engaging style is the payback. Viewers often create meanings from their own associations with specific symbols within the works, satisfying their need for existence with purpose.

Many different mechanical processes are used to render imagery on my works. Traditional styles of applying paint with a brush are augmented with more industrial methods of color surfacing. The use of wood instead of canvas as a surface provides me with the ability to directly cut adhesive stencils applied to painted surfaces.
 
The procedure of creating custom stencils to apply paint is as closely aligned to drawing as to painting. The process begins by positioning a drawing (on transparent tracing paper) on the painting. Next, after taping hinges from the tracing paper to the painting, I mask the surface of the painting under the tracing paper image. I then use carbon paper to transfer the image to the mask, and remove the original drawing. Now, it’s a matter of cutting and peeling away any lines or shapes desired. When applying paint to the revealed areas, solid or modulated color is used.

The paint I use is sign enamel, the same commercial product used in the fabrication of hand painted signs. It dries smooth and glossy, showing no brushwork texture, and can be diluted with varnish to create transparent glazes which give the paintings a ceramic-like appearance. Between layers I lightly sand the surface to aid in the next layer’s paint adhesion or bonding. The finished work does not visually reveal the months of meticulous construction involved in the process. Many viewers ask if a computer was involved in the work’s production, due to its mechanically manufactured or graphic characteristic.

12/28/95 (Statement accompanying: Completion of Pelli Commission for National Airport)

The imagery I created for the three double-sided porcelain balustrade panels commissioned for Reagan Washington National Airport is untitled. I approached the project in much the same way artists and artisans decorated buildings during F.D.R.’s New Deal program of the Works Projects Administration.

The stylized and patterned symbol stars, crescent moons, and liquid droplets were chosen because of there obvious reference to the sky. Additionally, at the beginning of the sixteenth century, Italian painters portrayed God’s spirit or enlightenment shining on (and protecting) a holy person with the image of golden droplets falling on them in patterned lines from the sky.

The arched or curved olive branch is a variation on a leaf festoon, flipped upside down. Festoons, or “hanging clusters,” have been a popular decoration motif of pilaster and similar panels in the Roman Style. They were revived by the Renaissance, and have remained a classic theme to the present time. The olive branch owes its introduction into ornamentation to the symbolical significance assigned it by ancient Greeks. The olive is the symbol of peace and was sacred to Athena; olive branches were given to victorious heroes as they returned home. What better symbols to greet travelers as they disembark from their planes.

The curves, arches, glass, and metal structure of Cesar Pelli’s airport design reminds me of the “Neo-classic Imperial style” or a branch of the “Beaux-Arts export style,” popular in America at the turn of the twentieth century. A typical example of this style was New York’s former Pennsylvania Station 1906-10 (now demolished), which was a knock off of the Roman baths of Caracalla. Again, the terminal’s architectural style and the shape of the balustrade panels was a major factor in my choice of an updated form of classical imagery.

Colors within the work were chosen to be compatible with preexisting colors of surrounding aspects of the terminal space; however, the combination of red, gold, black and green are a color scheme that I have commonly used in other works. The smooth, shiny surface of the porcelain balustrade panels is an ideal material to translate the enamel paint and gloss varnish that I traditionally use to make my art on flat wood panels.

These new works for Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, and the subsequent Purple Gang III suite of twenty mixed media pieces, mark a return to the popular “Pattern and Decoration” style that I employed ten years ago. The symbols within the work, still referencing both their former meanings and the architectural relief decoration in Washington D.C.’s federal buildings, now have been placed in a new context of two dimensional comic colored cartoons. A checkerboard pattern background was chosen as a metaphor for the underlying games implicit in Washington’s political deal making and in social interaction as a whole.

I have always been an advocate for the necessity of public art. Any past civilization has primarily contributed to man’s awareness and enrichment through it’s culture. As an artist, I must seek out audiences in places other than museums if I truly expect to broaden visual arts role in our present culture. Great art is a celebration of humanity; why not place it where it can challenge the mind and dazzle the senses of a larger population without the context of an art institution to grant it validity.
 
10/95 (Statement accompanying: Purple Gang III / Ghosts)

This is the third suite of work that I’ve completed as part of the larger “Purple Gang” concept started in 1991. The title: The Purple Gang III / Ghosts is expressed in a number of ways. According to the dictionary, one of the definitions of the word purple is ornate. The word gang is defined as a set of like tools, machines, or components, designed or arranged to work together. The term ghosts primarily refers to a spirit or presence of a person leaving a living context and entering another, and similarly, it also is applied to experience becoming memories. The human mind, while located in the corporeal brain, has no specific location. Even while alive, the mind is a ghost. Perhaps, in the broadest connotation of the ghost concept, all knowledge is a ghost of a former dynamic living experience.

These new works mark a haunting return to the popular “Pattern and Decoration” style that I employed ten years ago. The symbols within the work, still in their original form referencing their former meanings, now have been placed in a new context of complexity. A handmade patterned matrix demonstrates what separates human beings from their vision of machine-made perfection and control - human presence. Drawn designs and pointillist halftones have a subliminal “human warmth” that can’t be generated with a computer. On a much larger cultural scale, human “flaws” have become a valued commodity. Deceit, greed, ignorance, brutality, and fear-mongering are the prized information currency primarily tracked via the media. Purple prose has become royal purple.

The old saying “information equals power” may be just that - an old saying. Within the works, information in the form of symbols, icons, and patterns are elaborated in quantities beyond my earlier attempts. The overwhelming amount of data within the “game board” squares and the overlaid surface of color outlined “stone shapes” frustrate total comprehension. The quest to gain control of our destiny drives the desire to possess everything recorded which has any bearing on our lives. But what of “such” that can’t be described? Does it have value? With a sea of useful information to catalog, the time-consuming endeavor of recording the intangible is quickly sacrificed in favor of the continual need to revise old data. As technology advances the ability to record more and faster, information obsolescence equally accelerates. An obsession with control, an attachment to logic, and a desire to trust yesterday’s information can cause a person to make incorrect assumptions. realizing the meaninglessness of inherited rules and having the will to be totally flexible are the new norms in the corporate culture.

As human identity submerges into the technological wave, is it any wonder that the hobby of gardening is making a comeback as an escape? Strangely, we can mentally separate ourselves from nature, like a player from a game board, to suit our need to dominate it. Nature is malleable, constant, responsive, and without conflict - the perfect submissive subject to manipulate. Human beings intellectually project opposition into every encounter (simulating the game) to have something to win. Winning is supposed to be good.

When the brain is in its formative period, an infant’s mind is “wired” with neurons growing a sophisticated network of connections that must be repeatedly stimulated. Thought and perception are shaped according to which connections are prompted. As children learn via repetitive games with task and reward motivation, the seed is planted for the later adult focus on inherent conflict and problem solving. Living routine patterned lives may leave each with a comforting false feeling of control, yet when chaos intrudes into our daily rituals, our programming has prepared us to play by the rules and overcome the hurdle. For many, anticipating problems and creating strategies for “the game of life” is a constant obsession and entertainment.

Repeatedly, my ideas have found their voice through what appears to be system-based art, reflecting the human desire to make sense of things and quantify the uncontrollable. Ornament and pattern often play a large role as an abstract metaphor or representation of human nature, affirming our propensity to impose precision and order on the environment.

1994 (Statement accompanying: Purple Gang II / The Herald's Blend)

The Purple Gang Suite was conceived as a series of identifying crests, which recall coats of arms or clan insignia. While the first phase of the series dealt with language and identity from the perspective of the individual, "Purple Gang II / The Herald's Blend" obliquely references on the concept of identity, stereotype and assimilation from the family and societal frame of reference. Additionally, the works speak to the rise of humanistic perspectives in a growing post-structuralist culture.

That is not to say that I believe that the human condition has dramatically changed. Times or eras do not stop and start, being marked by events... the so called “Middle Ages” continues today in many ways due to human inability to evolve. Technology may change, but corporate knights still flail swords, battle behind logo emblazoned shields, and blood feuds between clans are replaced by competing brands.

The polarized thinking that our language is based in extends into our desire to create “insiders’ and “outsiders.” Most human beings have the need to belong to some form of extended family or group in order to experience pride as individuals. We create ourselves by constantly adding preexistent layers of new identities we encounter and are attracted to. Via society and the mass media we are reinforced through common experience to be part of exclusive groups that know. For many, the instinctual aspects of the human animal, our language, and our cultural interactions keep us from reaching our full potential as open-minded, giving individuals.

9/17/93 (Statement accompanying: The Purple Gang)

The Purple Gang Suite was conceived as a series of identifying crests, which recall coats of arms or clan insignia. I’ve expanded the scope of these encapsulated signs of personal identity to include direct references to the thing which informs and creates identity in modern America: the mass media. I'm adapting much of the language of advertising and television - with its ability to create schizophrenic juxtapositions of meaning - to the task of formulating distinct pictures of personal identity as it is defined by universally recognizable cultural symbols. The works also are visual reflections of diary notes written during the creative process (Nov. 1991 - Jan. 1993) examining the relationship between language and identity, and how they shape or explain human behavior, understanding, and culture. A small sampling of these notes are reprinted below.

Language, by its very nature, is a growing evolving thing. Similar to living organisms, it can be cultivated, but cannot remain static without perishing. Like any other fundamental social activity, it undergoes changes that older generations will think regrettable, and indeed some changes turn out to be empty fads or fashions. Other changes are found to be enduringly useful. I attempt to draw parallels between conventional language and my pictorial vision by constructing the image in an analogous method. Before I start production and painting, an outline is written to establish the basic conceptual ideas I wish to express. As the painting process begins, the outline is expanded and transformed according to my changing viewpoint of what is needed or unnecessary. Each time I approach the work, the interaction is slightly different, since both the content of the work and I have changed relative to new perceptions experienced during the interim. The outline becomes the framework to focus both my stream of thought and experience during the creative process.

The important difference between using symbols versus words to engage the viewers/participants memory, is that language may actually be a second translation or reorganization of raw visual data that is the primary link in the chain of thought. By side stepping conventional language in favor of pictorial symbol references, a more direct access to man’s inner mind and the roots of psychological memories may be gained. Some psychologists and philosophers allege that thought does not exist without verbalization. We reflect in words, a silent speech. Before we permit silent speech to emerge as spoken language, we must make choices and arrange words in patterns of sense and form, accessible to other people. Physicists believe that language is inadequate to describe the nature of reality, and that numbers are more accurate. Since they are not dealing with the visible, it is difficult to articulate with a language based on perception. This would indicate that thought indeed exists without words, but a numerical system still communicates concepts in a formal structured way. Perhaps by examining how the mind accesses the world through the senses, we can better understand how the process of thought starts, and ultimately express an intuitive model of common reality free of the structured and logical methods our mind uses to decode the stored information and communicate.

The history of symbolism shows that everything can assume symbolic significance: natural objects (like stones, plants, humans, animals, mountains, sun, moon, wind, water, and fire) or man-made things (like houses, boats, and cars) or even abstract forms (like letters, numbers, circle, square and triangle). In fact, the whole cosmos is a potential symbol. Man, with his symbol making propensity, unconsciously transforms every kind of object or form into symbols (endowing them with great psychological importance). By using what I call “visual alliteration, rhyme and simile,” (similar shaped symbols with different meanings or similar meaning symbols with different shapes) I simulate some of the literary artist's methods to achieve a “poetry of forms and ideas” within the composition. If everything perceivable has the potential to be a symbol, including colors, then symbols can color each other, just as red and blue make purple. The image of a log cabin or a screaming skull can effect surrounding elements on the picture plane just as a brushstroke of color might. Additionally, the symbol potentially reacts differently with each viewers/participants memories of past experience.

The choices and patterns our mind makes with words in order to express thoughts are usage. Usage is the judge and ruler of language. Historically, both government and religion justified judgments by appealing not only to history but to reason. They strengthened the concepts of good and bad to become right and wrong by adjusting usage to suit their purposes. Today we inherit a language that initially was created to further administer control of the people by a ruler, to compel the citizen subjects to conform to the authorities’ predetermined social and moral codes, and accept “absolute truths” based on a fashionable linear model of contrasting concepts. This ingrained language continues to promote a logic that accentuates the “positive and negative” concept, but is inadequate to describe the relative “grey area” between (or around). By avoiding the language phase of the thought process, you begin to destroy the distinctions of polarized reasoning, giving all components of an image the same value as any other aspect within a multiplicity of events. Vision, experience, and imagination can all weave together into an infinite tapestry of symbolic forms to express a reality unlike what language was designed to communicate.

2/26/92 (Statement about “Trickster” exhibition and “Rastas Foo”)

My choices of symbol imagery portrayed in the works from the 1991 Trickster exhibition (shown in conjunction with the “By Rastas Foo” works) are drawn from my research of the attributes of the trickster in both primitive mythology and current cultures around the world:
Fool, clown, joker, jester
Shapeshifter (usually to a bird, snake, coyote, fox, or rabbit)
Transparent (not the ultimate image, masked)
Enjoys confusion, revolution, lawlessness (uses it to create change, to become new)
Humor (usually mixed with the cruel and unusual)
Grotesque
Childlike, uninhibited, instinctual (physical appetites dominate behavior)
Rogue, troublemaker (as Norse God: Loki)
Shaman, medicine man, magician, master
Violent, terrorist
Master of initiation
Messenger (as Roman God: Mercury)
God of crossroads, mediator
Fertility (as Greek God: Hermes)
Leader of souls to and from the underworld, guide
Inventor of the lyre, musician, minstrel
Inventor of the art of making fire
Androgyne
Satan, devil, beast

I find the trickster myth a fitting metaphor to describe the current nature of the media culture, social and political propaganda, and my conceptual and visual blend of the comic avant-garde, outsider craft, and candy-coated frustration. The lively saturated colors, glossy gem-like surfaces, and obsessively detailed imagery become an attractive mask concealing a hidden agenda of dissatisfaction.

By combining generic symbols from opposite ends of western polarized perceptions, I can confuse and reassign possible meaning/understanding of what seems to be their initial obvious content. In the “by Rastas Foo” works, the exaggerated cultural stereotypes are modified by the gallery context, persuading the viewer to reexamine the role of propaganda in shaping our values. Stereotypes of cultural styles are appropriated (as generic symbols have been in Wayne’s work) and used as an alternative language to speak to issues of authorship and identity, the growing awareness of a lack of multicultural representation in our art institutions, and the imposed separation between fine art and “outsider” art. While the work under my name attempts to bridge the gap between fine art and craft, the “by Rastas Foo” works challenge the perceptions that folk or obsessive creative gestures (that have traditionally fallen into the realm of craft) need be made by primitive or untrained people, or express benign opinions.

Sometimes my symbols evoke prior childhood fantasies and nostalgia or adolescent dreams full of sexually charged bittersweet idealism. Most often my symbols represent the traumatic, inconsistent, and absurd experiences that I’ve had to come to terms with. By painting them as icons, they become a vaccine of sorts, to render impotent repeated exposure to inappropriate observations. Similarly, in developing titles for my works, I often choose lyric segments from popular music because, like our culture, they trivialize fear, insecurity, and other forms of complex emotional pain.

7/22/91 (Statement about “Rastas Foo”)

I chose the pseudonym of Rastas Foo in 1984 to begin creating a second identity, and an accompanying body of work in a folk or “outsider art” style. This ongoing suite was originally a homage to Marcel Duchamp, with Rastas functioning like Rrose Se’lavy (Duchamp’s female persona). Unlike Rrose, Rastas is an exaggerated ironic metaphor of “the other” stereotype. He is a revolutionary, a shaman and operates as a contemporary embodiment of the trickster myth. To maximize the fictional character’s marginalization and denied status within any cultural group, I made Rastas Foo the product of a union between African-American and Asian parentage that was conceived and raised in Jamaica.

While the art that I create under my own name traditionally leans toward the cerebral, the “by Rastas Foo” works satisfy my need to vent frustrations with prejudice and unburden the heart through a simple, direct, unpretentious, and comic sensibility, similar to the concerns of cartoons, popular music or dancing. Themes common to all people are expressed by painted words appropriated from lyrics of soul, blues, and reggae classics. Predominantly issues of pride, fear, suspicion, survival, and freedom are echoed.

In Rastas Foo’s most popular work, the title “A Foo of Sorts by Rastas Foo,” refers to a kinship that Rastas feels toward Elvis, due to Presley’s preoccupation with both African-American rhythm and blues music and the Asian martial arts.

Most human beings have the need to be part of some form of extended family or group in order to experience pride - the bigger the circle, the more we are affirmed in making correct choices and perceived as attractive. Elvis Presley fans cross cultures, generations, social class, and gender like few other fraternities. As a remedy to isolation, the growing phenomenon of Elvis appreciation offers acceptance to all who are sincere in their love. For Rastas, Elvis symbolizes belonging.

Similar to Duchamp’s “ready-mades,” (everyday objects being placed into a new context) the stereotype concept is modified by its gallery environment. Foo’s minstrel quality has a disquieting effect on the traditionally liberal art enthusiast. The sensitive or politically correct viewer’s prejudices are challenged when confronted with what they may perceive as racial humor by a person that they might learn is not of the same race. In many of the “by Rastas Foo” works, the manifestation is empowered by the icon presentation, making its subject less comforting to viewers of both social/political extremes.

“Spreading strife is my greatest joy... through confusion change occurs.” - Rastas Foo

9/89 (Excerpted from: Artist’s Statement for “Beyond Language” Solo Exhibition)

Images and intellectual concepts which can be described are based on sensory experience, as is language. Beyond human perception exists a domain where language is no longer adequate to depict the transcendental.
 
While my vocabulary of hieroglyphs are used as a framework to express an idea, there is no specific key to decipher their meaning. The paradoxical combinations of symbols and patterns require the viewer to abandon dependence on reason and conventional methods of interpretation in favor of intuitive responses. An awareness of the limitations of logical analysis occurs where there is a discrepancy between the viewer’s prior context, and my interpretive use of each component symbol, or the mixture and arrangement of the characters. Similar to Duchamp’s ready-mades, the symbol is given additional dimensions of meaning by a changed context. Their identities are not fixed.
 
The active fields of interwoven and interacting symbols become a metaphor for the process of thought, the nature of matter, and the experience of everyday life.



Back to Top