The Simulation series (2003-2007) continues the exploration of scientific images that began with the Macrocosm series. I chose images that researchers have created in an effort to simulate interesting phenomena which cannot be observed directly. Some of these simulations are created using supercomputers, others are physical simulations, created perhaps on a workbench or in a wind tunnel. The subject of interest is being seen indirectly, a step removed — the eye in the sky has become the eye of the mind. Another layer of abstraction comes into play, as the process of painting echoes the process of simulation.
Color is an important element in these paintings. The freedom and responsibility of selecting a palette for an image is both mine and the original scientists’. Often scientists use some sort of “default” palette for presenting their images, either from a lack of interest in other possibilities, or a belief that color has a taint of subjectivity that must be avoided. In his book Chromophobia, David Batchelor discusses the bias against color that he sees in many aspects of Western culture. This bias is perhaps especially strong in science, where color is valued for its ability to represent information but suspect whenever it seems to have any kind of aesthetic agenda. I have chosen colors for my work that I hope will reference the original images and at the same time resonate with the richness of color’s meaning in the tradition of painting. In some cases I have used a palette that closely replicates the highly saturated “rainbow” palette often used in science, which I think has very different resonance in painting – in science, this “default” palette connotes objectivity, whereas in painting it suggests the psychedelic or the mystical. In other paintings I have “colorized” black and white images or radically changed the colors, to different ends. The Drop Formation paintings take on a highly ambiguous quality from the warm, saturated tones they are painted with, sharing an iconic reference to soft-drink advertising and nuclear explosions.