Late last year, I made a promise to reignite my relationship with art. An easy feat in my city. Most people don't associate Tacoma, WA with the arts, but we rock.
(By J Brew from near Seattle, USA (Chihuly Bridge of Glass Uploaded by admrboltz) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Common)
Okay, I've never seen the sax guy any of the times I've ventured to Chihuly's Bridge of Glass, but you get the idea. We also have a fantastic public library system with an art gallery, the Handforth Gallery, which was where I fell in love with the mosaics by John Sollinger. I went to the show with the preconceived notion I would see designs that would make me smile. Thirty seconds in, I realized the world of mosaics was nothing like the pretty slides I stared at in Art History in college. Amazing canvases of glass, stone, and rock. The heavily abstract pieces by various artists were hit or miss with me. I went for movement and flow of energy. Also, I'm pretty easy to dazzle with anything sparkly.
Then my eyes caught a landscape in the middle of eternity and ether; a frozen landscape reached inside my chest and squeezed my heart. I could feel the cold ice. I closed my eyes and I could see my breath.
Your work is very much science and
emotion. With that kind of dichotomy, do you feel split between the
two worlds when you're working?
Actually, I find myself in the
hinterland where the two worlds converge. The pursuit of science,
biology in particular, for my entire adult life has shaped my
perspectives and visual vocabulary, but beauty and emotions are the
experience of everyone – even scientists. Having recently made the
decision to take my artwork more seriously, and, thus, redirect my
energies, I am gobsmacked to be learning principles of perception and
expression and styles that, heretofore, were unknown to me.
How do you choose your projects?
For the most part, I follow my heart,
which belongs to the forest. I make art for myself and without
(much) thought of monetary profit, which frees me from concern about
the business side of art, such as figuring out what sells, how to
better make use of internet home pages. I do think about making my
very small body of work cohesive, so I look to find common threads in
I had a drawing teacher who worked from
photographs. While I gaped at your exhibit, I wanted to know your
process. Do you take pictures, make a preliminary painting, have a
A photographic memory has long been on
my wish list; in its place, I use a digital camera to record patterns
and settings that appeal to my sensibilities regarding the beauty of
nature and, especially, the untamed remnants that remain. I then
look for images that have an overall interesting abstraction (e.g.,
the balance in tones, the contrasts, and other basic design
principles). Then I find a theme, such as radial symmetry, or
opportunity for commentary, such my latest work about global warming.
I crop, adjust contrast and color saturation, and then print a
poster that then serves as my template. As my work progresses, I
increasingly react to what I have layed. That helps maintain my
interest and results in generating my impression of the subject
rather than a biological illustration.
How did your creative side manifest
itself when you were a kid?
I do not recall being particularly
creative. I spent much of my time climbing trees, instigating fights
between spiders, building cages for my hamsters, and reading. Art
projects in elementary school are among the few memories I recall of
that period of my life.
There are endless stereotypes regarding
artists. What is one stereotype that is spot on with you?
Well, I am the absent-minded AND nutty
professor, but I am not the starving artist, which is the only artist
stereotype I know. I am at once an extrovert and introvert, which,
perhaps, describes a significant proportion of artists.
Thanks to John (Solly) Sollinger for taking the time to answer my questions. Northwest Mosaics Today runs through 4/26/13 at The Handforth Gallery (inside the Main Library). If you have the chance, see the show. It's pure visual delight.