written for the Roosevelt Borough Bulletin, December 2008

Fletch and Dave's Excellent (Digital) Art

Brad Garton
December, 2008

Maybe it's a symptom of encroaching curmudgeonhood, or perhaps my old-age inertia is really beginning to take hold, but there are times when I'm at some performance or event and the thought most present in my brain is something like: "Dang I wish this would end! I want to go home!" The Roosevelt Arts Project night at Borough Hall this past December 6th was most definitely not one of those times. "Digital Art with David Teich and Fletcher Grayson" was an absolutely wonderful evening put together by two intensely creative members of our community.

The works presented by David and Fletcher were terrific, but the truly interesting aspect was how they turned the show into an exploration/explanation of the creative process itself. It was pure delight to hear these two talented artists discuss how they accomplished their art, especially because what they do is mediated by advanced technological capabilities. Their work is inextricably bound to digital machinery, but they have mastered the machinations to express profoundly human feelings.

David Teich is a known graphic artist whose recent digital work involves the conception and creation of 3-D "immersive" environments, like the flight simulators used to train pilots or the 'virtual reality' rides encountered at large-scale theme parks such as our nearby Six Flags Great Adventure. Two of David's most recent projects are, in fact, a state-of-the-art flight simulator and one of those Six Flags "rides". At the RAP event, however, he visited some of his earlier work -- work he had done for previous RAP events.

For several years, David designed a number of elegant, thought-provoking posters for the Roosevelt Arts Project. He passed around examples of these posters, prompting many of us to revisit unexpected memories. Then he took us through the process of developing one of the posters, this from a RAP event from the 1990's: Poems of the Children of Terezin. It was fascinating to see how David's artistic sensibility informed his choice of fonts, the positioning of the text, the use of a barbed-wire motif (and the digital manipulation of the 'barbs' to yield chilling Nazi symbols), and the placement of virtual lighting to realize the finished work. For Dave, the use of computers isn't a situation in which he (the artist) confronts some “other” (the technology) with the crafted object being the result of some embattled man/machine compromise. Instead, the technical means is an integral and inseparable part of his creative imagination.

This is also true of Fletcher Grayson, another respected graphic artist here in Roosevelt. Fletcher took a different approach to his presentation, however. Rather than preface his work with an explanatory context, he began by showing his latest piece, a 9-10 minute video set to the music of the Icelandic group Sigur Ros. The material for the video came from 'found' sources, and it was Fletcher's vision and technical facility that cohered the imagery into a powerful audio-visual statement. The short film was very moving, in ways I can't quite put to words. There were patterns! There was a big light! There were leaves, and snow, and dark, and… (!) I really hope to see his video again, somehow.

In conversation with the audience after the video, Fletcher described in more detail his working methodology, the enormous amount of data he culled for the final product, and the corresponding time-investment required for this work. As with David, he drew upon extensive knowledge of the digital tools at his disposal to build a compelling (although at times rather dark and disturbing) work of art.

Interestingly, Fletcher and Dave represented two semi-oppositional approaches to working in the digital domain. Dave's art was built 'from the ground up' using innovative virtual-modeling tools. On the other hand, Fletcher took existing real-world imagery and de- and re-constructed it using a different set of digital techniques. The works met, however, at the point where awareness of the technologies employed faded into a potent (and for me at times, quite personal) artistic experience.

It was the extended conversation with us in the audience that made the night so special, though. Certainly the 'performance' put on by Fletcher and Dave was great, but an entire new dimension was added through the discussion surrounding the presented pieces. Artists are often good at the 'how' of what they do, but sometimes not so forthcoming with the 'why'. We gained a privileged insight into the technically sophisticated and acutely emotional process of creation as related by both artists. And the work was indeed extraordinary. You should be sad if you missed this one.