Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dissertation Preface to Unflattening

(Note - I have moved this site over to www.spinweaveandcut.com. All new material, information about Unflattening, as well as past archives will be over there. Please join me over there! Thanks - N)

My dissertation proposal was handed in this week and defense is around the corner. I prepared this preface for it - which gives a hint at where i'm heading with the dissertation itself, "a visual-verbal inquiry into curiosity" - that is a comics narrative as academic dissertation. In starting this with a nearly all verbal approach, i set up the final definition on page 4 - pointing to the inadequacy of this approach. The page following, when it comes, will thus launch forth in full comics fashion. (And likely i'll reference Alice, saying, "what is the use of a book ... without pictures or conversations?") Look for excerpts from the dissertation in progress in the year ahead (and other comics as well of course!). - Nick 

(Note: this piece didn't actually appear in the dissertation - only in my proposal. To see excerpts, go here. - N)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Five Critical Senses with professor Tim Eatman

This piece was produced for and with Professor Timothy K. Eatman, of Syracuse University and the director of research for Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life. In the midst of a conversation in which Tim was taking me through his presentation on the five critical sense of engagement, i was struck by his use of his fingers to convey his ideas along with his words. Given my interest in working with visual metaphor in my work, I saw a lot of visual material in this and it also resonated with one of my first (and still favorite) "mature" works - "Show of Hands." And so one thing led to another, and I created this piece out of text versions of his talk, and he presented it in conjunction with his acceptance of the early career award from the IARSLCE. Ok, all that said, let's get to the work itself. - Nick 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Mind the Gaps- Narrative Research as Drawing...

This piece was created for my advisor Ruth Vinz's forthcoming book on Narrative Research, co-authored with Dave Schaafsma. Given that i just finished it and that it's going in a book, there may be some changes before the final, final version.

Essentially, it's a piece about approaching research using a metaphor of seeing, or drawing, or perhaps it's a piece on seeing through drawing, or a lesson drawing, or on art - or all of the above. I'm never too sure about these things. - Nick

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

My Evolution

As a final project for Visual Explanations - thinking about the concept of visual analogies in comics with colleague Andrea Kantrowitz. Created this quick overview of how my process has developed over the last few years and what issues i'm interested in exploring in the medium. - N

Excerpts from my work include:

Excerpts from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons "Watchmen" and
Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie "This is Information"

quilt of student stories

I was asked by Erick Gordon head of TC's Student Press Initiative (SPI) to do a comic corresponding to the project they were doing in 5 schools with all English as a second language students. SPI works with schools and students to produce books of their own writing. This group of students came from all over the world - Bangladesh, Haiti, Pakistan, China - and most had been year less than a year. A lot of powerful stories that will be told in the five SPI books of student stories - and i wove together elements from a number of them here. - Nick
(More on SPI: http://publishspi.org/)
(Also, note p4 and p5 are a double page spread when it's printed. - N)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


This piece is prepared for a project for Dr. Barbara Tversky's Visual Explanations course in collaboration with Andrea Kantrowitz. Full citations to follow.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Threads: a spinning fable

This work was created for Dr. Ruth Vinz’s course on Postmodern Textual Practices. We were asked to draft a postmodern take on a fairy tale or myth. At the same time we’d been mapping out our definition of what postmodernism means. Mine includes a lot of developments in science and mathematics and music – sampling and DJ culture. (Wrote an essay on this back in my Detroit days: http://www.thedetroiter.com/JUN03/ArtCut.html). Anyhow, this riffs on my method of spin, weave, and cut, and takes that approach to discuss modernism and the turn to the postmodern through myths, fairy tales, and similar literature all “mashed up” with philosophical and scientific notions. Often given the referential nature of my work, I feel like providing a key to all the imagery. (I did this once with the Rabbit page from Possibilities (though note, the key is not provided on the website, sorry…) Due to just how much is pulled in for this one, I felt it would be fun to do so, show my hand and offer the equivalent of footnotes, or perhaps hyperlinks. So if you’re interested at looking behind the curtain – check it out below the comic itself. – Nick

Threads – the Key
Page 1: A single panel on an otherwise empty page!? Shocking for someone who likes to cram nearly everything he can in a 6.5 by 10in space. Was pleased to experiment with that and the similar emptiness of page three provide breaks between the more jammed even pages. The opening line is my take on “once upon a time…” The image is Atlas, specifically referencing Lee Lawrie’s statue at Lincoln Center. The “world” is partially a reference to the statue itself but also to Kepler’s sketch of the nested Platonic solids. I’d wanted to work in those rigid forms to accompany the text and this mashup allowed for that.
Page 2:
Panel 1: Greek myths are full of stories of locking away the primal, irrational, and chaotic in Tartarus (as with the Titans) or as this panel references – in the Labyrinth. Labyrinth imagery makes its way into a number of my pieces – as the double axe (also seen here) has come to be connected to butterfly and metamorphosis. (See A Conversation with Charles, Maxine Says, and A Cosmology of Ideas V2, for instance.) I pull some of my thinking here from Michael Ayrton’s “Maze Maker,” a novel about the creative process, as told through the story of Daedalus, the builder of the labyrinth and father of Icarus. The Minotaur is seen less as a monster in its own right but as some primal aspect of ourselves necessary to keep down in order to seek a more rational life. Theseus follows Ariadne’s thread up into the light, and my text is also meant to hint at Plato’s story of the shadows in the cave and escaping to enlightenment (here, the radiating ball of string.)
P2: Wonder Woman, and her lasso of truth. In the Bi(Bli)ography piece, through a coincidental juxtaposition in my layout, I started thinking about the connection between Ariadne’s thread, Wonder Woman’s Lasso, and the Yellow Brick Road as golden paths toward truth. That thread ended up becoming a partial genesis for this piece.
P2-5: Yellow Brick Road – a quest for knowledge, for heart, home, and bravery.
P6: The text is a reference to Descartes’ split between mind and body.
P7: Continental Drift Theory had a huge impact on how we think of the world and I sought to depict that here with images of earth as Pangae, Gondwana, and today’s configuration of the continents. (Also placing them as I did is also a reference to the way multiple earths are depicted in DC Comics’ “Crisis on Infinite Earths” for those keeping score at home.)
P8-11: “No fixed points in space” is a quote from Einstein picked up by Merce Cunningham as part of his approach to dance. Moving fast to keep in place is a nearly direct quote from Through the Looking Glass. The Cheshire Cat is joined with Schrodinger’s cat – and the idea of superposition. This would’ve been fun to explore more, and Alice’s cat playing with a ball of string almost made its way in (only the string stayed in back up at Panel 1.)
Page 3: When the cord is cut, literally, I wanted to show our perspective falling like Alice down the Rabbit Hole. However I was concerned with how to bring the reader back up after a strong vertical sequence (which I was less than successful in doing in A Cosmology of Ideas V2), so I opted to give it its own page. This then left me with an odd number of pages, which for printing purposes I’m not a fan of, and so I opted to shift the proposed Atlas panel onto its own page – which I think gave it greater impact than it would have had as a tiny panel alongside the others. The fall not only references Alice’s fall, but the Great Fall text is a reference to Humpty Dumpty’s fall, which we’ll see the effects of on the next page.
Page 4:
Panel 1: Arriving on the scene to fix up Humpty Dumpty after his fall from the wall, are all the King’s Horse-Men. Having already decided to use a Spider-woman and a Mermaid in the piece, this compression of all the King’s horses and all the King’s men into one worked well. Plus I got to draw centaurs, which are really weird. Furthermore, I mashed this story with the Four Horsemen of the apocalypse, whose appearance here doesn’t spell the end. A hint that our fears from the beginning of things to lock away, might have been a bit rash.
P2: I’ve referenced Arachne before in Maxine Says, and given the threaded nature of this she was one of the few players I had in mind from the beginning. (Spiderman stayed out of it…) I saw Athena’s punishment as being seen as a gift instead, one of a number of reversals of perspective in the piece. “Fabric of relations” comes from Lyotard’s text on the Postmodern Condition. The image draws on Gustav Dore’s rendering of her in Dante’s Purgatorio.
P3: We see the Three Fates, the Grey Women, or Moirae – maiden, matron, and crone. Those who spin, measure, and cut the thread that is our lives (and for whom my website and method draws its name.) Neil Gaiman used them a lot in the Sandman and that serves as a big influence in using them here. Depending on where you read – their sight is ambiguous. Destiny or fate is often seen as blind, so while some accounts say that they share one eye between them, I went with the blind depiction here.
P4: Rapunzel lets down her hair – a braid of DNA connecting us to our past, as postmodern methods cut up samples of past works to make new. I touch on similar stuff (in terms of “cleaving”) in both versions of Cosmology of Ideas. The cycle of the moon also references the symbolism for the Three Fates – waxing, full, and waning, as the DNA becomes a coiled spiral, becomes waves – tides caused by the moon above. (Had hoped to do more with that connection – but not here.) The text borrows heavily from Ayrton’s Maze Maker: “Life is not a circle but a helix.” Worked well with the imagery that was already emerging, and liked the idea that the past doesn’t come full circle but a cycle of a different sort.
P5: Heraclitus’ words connect to the panel previous of past feeding present and the final panel on Chaos, as the Little Mermaid speaks to the merged creatures we’ve become, necessary for a world that’s constantly shifting.
P6: As this developed, it turned out for the most part I was working with stories featuring women – even when Theseus is depicted, it’s Ariadne that saves the day. Keeping with that, I read up on Pandora who seems to have gotten a bad rap. Her name properly translated means “all-giving” and the “box” actually means a jar of sorts. I used the image of a jar and hoped by referencing box in the text that the connection was clear. I wanted to connect what’s in the jar/box back to thing locked away in the Labyrinth, and in taking a different look at Pandora, take a different look at Chaos theory as well. And so what comes out is the fluid, nonlinear stuff that makes this world, and butterflies – symbols of metamorphosis and the butterfly effect – or a sensitive dependence on initial conditions. Even the smallest of things has an effect on connected systems. I think it’s a beautiful thought, and from the physics referenced by Alice to Chaos theory here, all of the narrative speaks to a world shrugging off a search for certainty and perhaps embracing complexity as complexity. – N

Friday, January 22, 2010

A Cosmology of Ideas Text

A little text about the creation of the two versions of a cosmology of ideas, and a few more samples of the sketches/scribbles/notes that led to each piece. See here for Version 1. And here for Version Two. - N

A Cosmology of Ideas V2

A second version of the cosmology of ideas idea - in slightly more traditional comic book format - in 2 pages. See here for Version 1. And here for a textual explanation with sketches. - N

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Cosmology of Ideas

A sort of comic, prepared for a catalog for a forthcoming exhibition at Macy Gallery at Teachers College. The subject of the show is studio practices, and so i focused on how ideas are generated, or born, in my notebook. It was in part shaped by a conversation with my dad on how stars form. Furthermore, the piece talks about not knowing where I'm going, and how ideas start to generate themselves as you assemble pieces - this is very much true with this piece, as right up until i finished it, i didn't know a lot of the various parts. It was pretty excited, and i'd like to share the details of how it came about if prompted.

Also, this is a lead in to a true comic version of this, which will be completed in the next 2 weeks. Much of the same material, but as format shapes content, we'll see how it shapes up. Should be interesting to compare. - Nick
See here for Version Two. And here for a textual explanation with sketches.