Daniel Smith: Italian Perspective and the New Media


Daniel Smith, is a recent “Cortona Experience” scholar whose well-received solo show “Monumental” was on display last fall at the Lamar Dodd School of Art. The exhibition included “Inferno,” a 30-foot mural of hell and “Music of the Spheres, ” a constantly turning but never changing video mural synchronized to original music, which circulates around the viewer through quadraphonic audio composed by Cody Brookshire and Matthew Phillips.

“My work explores the violent confrontation of art with the divine. For the past two years, I have engaged in studio and art history research with professors Dr. Asen Kirin and Michael Marshall. This research has received assistance from UGA’s Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities and Ideas for Creative Exploration, and it has been presented and exhibited nationally and internationally at the Costa Rica Symposium in 2011, National Conference of Undergraduate Research in 2012, Mostra in 2012, Atlanta Celebrates Photography Ones2Watch in 2012, Parade in 2013, and (Un) Clothed in 2013. Recent works include “Inferno,” and “Music of the Spheres,”. Presently, I am working on a series of flattened figural images.” – Daniel Alexander Smith

View Daniel’s work and more about him at: www.newmonuments.com

Daniel shared an essay of his perspective with CIAO following his study in Cortona:

Italian Perspective and the New Media


This summer, I studied art, history, and Italian culture in Cortona Italy. None of the work I generated was directly related to my photographic research, which originally compelled my travels; however, this respite from technical trials and my exposure to alternative media offered me a uniquely refreshing perspective on art. Now that I have returned to UGA and my long term research, I have informed insights, unexplored methodology, and a sharply focused determination to make innovative art.

While in Italy, I used my camera only to document memories. I restrained myself from working on any photo or video projects in order to focus my energy toward Italian history and culture. I signed up for a drawing course rather than one in photography, and I exposed myself to as much non-photographic art as possible. This photo-phobic approach enabled me to see and understand things otherwise impossible. The painterly, sculptural, and architectural body of Italian Renaissance art, which forms the foundation for all photographic art, revealed itself entirely in non-photographic materials.  By retreating from my usually studio and computer oriented work to study Italian language, art history, and drawing, I was able to understand the words and marks of the Italian innovators.

The most significant innovation I studied was Brunelleschi’s one-point perspective system.  This bizarre and contradictory invention sought to provide images unrestricted possibilities of representation through the extreme restriction of the perspective of the artist and viewer. It eventually led to the development of the camera, and in the process dramatically changed how people conceive of images. The camera perfectly conforms to Brunelleschi’s theory, and it functions as a machine of perfect perspective. These inherent limitations in the photographic medium inspired me to explore the unbounded perspective in other media. Several other innovations that I studied also addressed the limits of the medium. Michelangelo’s David, carved from a partially ruined, awkwardly flat stone of poor quality defies all of the constraints of its medium. Though carved from scrap marble, it is entirely beautiful, and the flatness of the original stone is obscured by the dimensionality and movement of the figure. Even conceptual heart of this giant defies inherent limitations. Though the character illustrated is a small adolescent boy, the statue explodes the subject to a fourteen foot tall, fully matured man. David becomes as Goliath in this first monumental statue since antiquity. As I sketched Michelangelo’s and Brunelleschi’s works, I began thinking of ways to challenge the bounds of contemporary media.

These and other Italian masters imparted on me a new perspective towards art. Their innovation demonstrates that art requires innovation: conveying an interesting image is not enough. Michelangelo’s David and Brunelleschi’s Dome utilize inventiveness which reshaped not only various art media; they transformed the entirety of western culture. These kinds of technological and artistic sea changes never cease to occur. Muybridge, the early American photographer, exploded the media through his photographs of movement. Edison, the scientist who nevertheless stirred change in the art world, turned photography into the entirely new media of motion film. Steve Jobs, a prominent recent artist of technology, reinvented images in interactive forms on computers. These cultural architects set the benchmark for quality art. These are the figures I look towards in artmaking: making pretty and personal works is not my goal.

In Cortona I worked towards my new aims gingerly. Always interested in the figure, I attempted to draw the human form with the precision of a camera but without the limitations of photographic perspective. Understanding the fundamental differences between natural vision—a shutter-less, continual stereo-optic process ultimately re-calibrated by gestalt processes in the brain—and photographic imaging—an instantaneous, two dimensional, unfiltered technological process—I drew from photographs, from sculptures, and from life, in order to flesh out the various perspectives possible in my drawings. I stripped out perspectival space, and drew dozens of figures merged into one to illustrate individual characters. Each of these overlapping multiples was drawn with great accuracy in order to unbound the body from the traditional one-point, one-instant perspective system with which Brunelleschi has acquainted us. These figural experiments in drawing have since inspired me with new methodological designs for chrono-videographic processes, in which many figures are shown together with the realism of the camera, but the lack of typical temporal restrictions.

Upon returning to the US, I put away pencils and ink to again pick up my complex, contemporary tools: video cameras, motion software, projectors, and industrial printers. I have re-entered the process of developing new image making processes with two months of Italian cultural infusion to enrich my perspective. Now, only a few months after my return, I am fully entrenched in new work. As I write, I have a solo show, “Monumental”, on display at Lamar Dodd, depicting several large-scale photo/video works of Italian influence, and I am currently wrestling with my computer to manipulate and render new work. As I construct these images on my computer, I have not, however, forgotten my experience in Italy. I am no longer content to rehash old processes to convey old subjects in marginally new manners; to aim to invent new processes to convey new subjects in unimaginable ways. Specifically my goal is to invent a new medium and thereby reinvent how people conceive of images.

Presently, I am modeling a new video process for displaying multiple perspectives and trajectories of time simultaneously for different figures in a single image at the same time. This new process, in which I separately record individual figures in different manners for an ultimately singular composite composition is derived from the series of drawings I made in Cortona. Those drawings in turn were influenced from the inventiveness of Michelangelo, Brunelleschi, and countless other Italian artists. This work I am making now will necessarily require a long development time, and it will certainly direct my future efforts. In my final year at UGA, I am working to facilitate many possible futures for my art research. If my present exhibitions meet success, I will continue this research independently. If my academic efforts progress without obstacle, I will continue it as a professor. My technical skillset also provides me with a number of economic avenues in media technology. Regardless of these future logistics, I will undoubtedly continue my research, indebted to my time in Cortona and the generosity of the Cortona Experience Scholarship.

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