Here you can see some of my paintings, drawings, photomontage and other visual art.
Note: I do occasionally do art on commission. For instance, here are some pencil drawings I’ve done for Shira Glassman and her Second Mango series, a lovely work of Jewish LGBT feminist fantasy. If you’re interested in commissioning art from me, just send me an email at humanalien at gmail dot com.
I hate tomatoes. I don’t know why. It must just be the texture; I like tomato soup and ketchup, but I can’t put a tomato or a chunk of a tomato in my mouth without gagging.
I didn’t hate my high school art teacher; she and I got along very well. But I did get kind of annoyed with her when she kept nagging me to do artwork that had “meaning.” I disagreed, maintaining that art could fulfill its purpose merely by being pleasing to the eye, and I retaliated with a photomontage that had a meaning, namely, that I hated tomatoes.
At first it was going to be the outline of a tomato made out of clippings of things I hated, but she said I had to narrow my focus to one thing that I hated. I surveyed my list of hates, found that “women portrayed as sex objects” were the easiest to find in magazines, and made my tomato out of those. Only later did I realize that “tomato” is a slang term for a sexy woman.
That was one of several photomontages I did in that class. I had developed something I called the “outline-montage,” where I searched magazine pictures for bits of outline and borders between colors, and then pieced those bits of line into a shape of my own. Sometimes you have to look at the montage for a while before you can see the outline.
A few of these did have meanings, expressed by the choice of outlines and the choice of clippings to make them from. For example, often I made a food outline out of human images. One issue that interested me was that all the organic material in the world is constantly being reused, and however much I try to be a vegetarian, I will always be eating particles that have been part of animals, including humans.
In my high school art class, I did a lot of paintings of aliens. I had invented this species that lived on a faraway planet and did all sorts of things: hunted while riding in the pouches of strange domesticated flying creatures, took baths with pet “cleaning-fish” that ate the dirt off them, played a sport kind of like life-size chess, got married in groups of three (one for each gender), and harvested and cooked “wheelberries” from the “wheelberry beast,” an animal that grows fruits on its tentacles.
Paintings in college
In freshman year of college, I took another art course and improved my painting skills considerably. Here are the paintings I did in that class.
My final for that course was a triptych of paintings that has great meaning for me, entitled “Earth to Erika: An Interplanetary Eclipse”. It is a vertical triptych of acrylic paintings. They are mounted on a reddish-brown-painted wooden board of 41 inches by 24.5 inches. The first and second of the pieces are on 11×14″ canvas boards and the third on a 17.5-by-12.5-inch canvas, which I stretched using two clumsily attached smaller pieces of canvas and a wooden stretcher that my classmate Nic gave me. The first two are attached with glue and the third with small nails. All are horizontally placed.
The series depicts the first moments of an eclipse of the planet Earth by Andromedia II, one of the imaginary planets I have created in an attempt, failing “fitting in” in this world, to make up ones where I would. I kept volumes of information on these worlds on a shelf in my dorm, written and illustrated in whatever blank books I could find, and the culture and behavior of the people reflect my feelings at the time I invented them. Andromedia II, the second planet I created, is the one that best expressed my personality at the time I did the painting, and so I chose it to represent me. Since it is supposed to be in the galaxy Andromeda, there is no way it could get as close to Earth as it is pictured, but this use of creative license is necessary to the theme.
The depicted eclipse is an allegory for my life and my movement toward closer interaction with the rest of humanity as I have overcome my autism and Tourette’s Syndrome through the use of medications and, like Temple Grandin in Oliver Sacks’s An Anthropologist on Mars, studied the human culture until I understood the behavior of my species enough to begin to function like a “normal” person.
The first canvas shows Andromedia II and Earth very far apart, and the seven or eight-year-old image of my face in the planet is looking away from Earth as though completely disinterested. Until my teens I had little concern for what other humans thought of me, and lived in my own world, sharing regular positive interaction only with close relatives, some of my teachers and social workers, and a very small number of my peers. My experiences with peers usually involved inappropriate behavior on my part and/or teasing and tormenting on theirs.
The second shows the planets a little closer, and my face turned an equal distance toward and away from Earth. I am shown about fourteen or fifteen, when I was beginning to realize my predicament: that I was born on a planet where the way I acted was unacceptable, and that I had to learn what behaviors were appropriate here before I could be accepted. At this point I wanted to be accepted; my “human side” was longing for contact with other people, though the rest of me didn”t know how to get such contact, neither understanding nor totally approving of illogical human codes of conduct.
The third, final and largest of the paintings shows “first contact”: the moment of the eclipse when my planet begins to cover a tiny corner of Earth, when I start to comprehend a little bit, but not anywhere near all, of what it means to be human; when Earth and Andromedia II have both moved a little closer to each other and the world has shown more and more interest in me and I in it, until the reddish haze around Andromedia II begins to envelop both planets and color the Earth, and I have begun to have a positive effect, leaving my mark on the planet of my birth with my art and my writing. The rotation of Andromedia II is apparent. My face, shown at the age of eighteen (my age when I did the painting), has made the full turn from looking away from Earth to looking toward it. I am who I am now: a person who has initiated contact with her planet.
Paintings since college
Here are some paintings I have done since graduating from college. I think that, in most ways, I have continued to improve.
An oak leaf I found that had an interesting shape.
A red glass candleholder before it broke.
The same red glass candleholder after it broke.
Some clipped wing feathers our parrot shed, and some of his newer unclipped feathers (at the time of the painting, it had been a while since his last clipping).
A bikini top I crocheted, glued onto a canvas decorated with random painted designs. (Originally I planned to make the bikini wearable, but it didn’t fit me, so I made it into a piece of art. The title comes from the fact that, all the time I was crocheting it, my husband was telling me how pointless it was to crochet a bikini.)
The bottom of the same bikini, also incorporated into a painting. (By the time I started on the bottom, I had given up on wearing the bikini and was making it solely for painting purposes. It’s much smaller than the top.)
While driving toward a friend’s apartment, we saw a lady walking a little black dog, and the angle was such that, for a moment, I thought the dog was a huge crow. Somehow, it inspired a painting. I’m not sure it’s fully done yet– I’ll probably work some more on the grass– but this is the way it is now.
Inspired by birds at our bird feeder.
An Asian style teapot from a set we have.
“Belief” and “Disbelief”
“Belief” and “Disbelief” are an idea I had been toying with for a long time… I finally got around to doing it in the week after New Year’s Day, 2005 (after graduating from college and moving into my first apartment).
Belief and Disbelief (2005)
“Belief” is a closed, wrapped box, affixed on a canvas on which I wrote the words, “There is a beautiful sculpture in this box; that is the point of this work of art; that is, in fact, the work of art that is on display here. But, you may not see it; you must simply have faith, because this work of art is about belief.”
“Disbelief” is the reverse: also a closed, wrapped box on a canvas, but the words say, “This box is empty except for some cardboard and Kleenex. There is no point to this work of art–it is in fact not a work of art at all. People may tell you otherwise, but you must show them only disbelief.”
For those who must ask me whether there is really anything in those boxes, I do have an answer.
There is a sculpture in one of the boxes, but even I do not know which. I know what the sculpture is, though: it is an intricate blue flower that I made out of paper (the blue flower, or die blaue Blume, was the German Romantic ideal of a goal that cannot be reached, but I didn’t consciously think about that until after the piece was finished).
I found two nearly identical boxes, dimmed the lights until I could barely see (to avoid picking up any visual cues that might have allowed me to distinguish the boxes) and placed the sculpture in one of them, and some cardboard and Kleenex of similar weight in the other. I moved the boxes around until I had no idea which was which, and then I turned the lights back on, wrapped the boxes in colored paper, mounted them on the canvases and added the words.
I chose which box to put on which canvas based on my gut feeling… which may be based on some subconscious awareness, or may just be random.
Remember, however, that you have only me to rely on for the truth of this explanation– I might have invented every word of it for art’s sake. The artwork is still about belief and disbelief.
Drawings in college
I took a drawing class during one summer semester, and did several drawings and studies.
on Powdered Charcoal
Here are some cartoons done later in college:
And here’s one more little thing. See if you get the joke.
Lately, my brain wants to make palindromes, so I’m collecting a few of the better ones and making cartoons of them. (The cartoons are very sketchy, the kind that I draw when I have three spare minutes and a cut-rate computer graphics tablet. If you want to see what I can do with lots of time and motivation and some real drawing supplies, my pencil-and-paper drawings are the place to look.)
Spackle Elk Caps
Bats Never Even Stab
Pop? Is Pepsi Pop?
Laminate Pet Animal
Niagara Gar Again?
Phyllis’s Silly HP
Muffins! Sniff ‘Um!
Mad Amadeus Sued a Madam
Garlic Nets, Stencil Rag
OK, I Ate Taiko
Murder! A Rare Drum!
(These ones make more sense if you have heard of taiko drums.)
A Moray Aroma
Repel a Leper
Not Lima! Hamilton!
Stop, Pilfer DNA, and Re-Flip Pots
Liar, Nail a Tin Italian Rail
Bob Snoops, Ergo, Ogre Spoons Bob
Mike! Talia! Janie! Diana! An aide in a jail ate Kim!
Bus to Nevada, Dave! Not sub!
Harp On Oprah
And here are a few that I can’t think of good pictures for:
Seven Mutual Autumn Eves
Nemo Cigar: Tragic Omen.
Is Evita Native? Si!
Viva le Tel Aviv!
Air, Am I Maria?
Wal-Mart Tram Law
Art: USA Makes Reverse Kama Sutra.
Dorm! Integrate Target, Nimrod!
Mad at egret time? No dark cab? Dial a laid-back radon emitter! Get Adam!
Here are some of my animated movie clips– some of them interactive.
A Walk in the Woods
This is a computer game where you can make choices and get various different endings, like a “choose-your-own-adventure” story. I made this for a college computer design class.
Monster Makers: a game for one or two people
Shortly after taking that class, I made this. You can design monsters and make them play various sports. (I’ve noticed some errors in this, and I seem to have lost the editable version of the game. But there are no problems that’ll crash your computer or anything. It’s just things like the wrong monster appearing in some scenes. Also, the 2-player version is kind of awkward to play; I couldn’t figure out a really good way to design it.)
Interactive pet tribble
Another silly Flash game I made. If you don’t know what a tribble is, you need to stop having a life.
A Klein bottle is a theoretical shape that can only truly exist on 4 spatial dimensions, which is impossible in this universe. People have made 3-dimensional representations of Klein bottles:
but they are not true Klein bottles because a true Klein bottle’s neck has to pass through its side without a hole.
But in Jan. 2006 I had an idea: If you used time– this universe’s fourth dimension– in place of the nonexistent fourth spatial dimension… then you could make a much truer representation of a Klein bottle.
Unfortunately, I don’t have the equipment to make a four-dimensional animation, and my Klein bottle still has only two spatial dimensions plus the dimension of time, so it’s still an inadequate 3-dimensional representation. Someday I may make a Klein-bottle-shaped frame and cover it with Christmas lights programmed to chase in that pattern…
I learned to crochet in summer camp… I made several hacky-sacks, and then forgot about it for many years. My interest re-awakened, though, and here are some of my more recent pieces.
I meant to make it big enough to give to my cousin, but it turned out too small for anyone but my teddy bear.
Shown mid-creation. Ended up shorter than I planned, but still long enough to wear.
This one turned out big enough for me. I look like a ruffly snowball, though.
Done with Angel Hair yarn. By this point I was getting the hang of it pretty well. The hat’s tight on me, but feels nice and soft.
I spent a really, really long time on this one, and I’m very satisfied with the result… my first try at crocheting lace. It’s now sitting on top of a lamp shade.
These were basically done for fun; I don’t have any idea what I’d do with them. They follow the hacky-sack pattern, but are stuffed with cheap white yarn. The fuzzy ones are made of the stuff they call “eyelash yarn”… I suppose if you got that in light brown, you could crochet a tribble.
A toy I made for our parrot Rain Man. Includes three little bags for edible treats, and three loops on which I hung tape dispenser rolls full of strips of paper. Rain Man loved to chew on it.
When Rain Man wore out his old toy, I made him a new one for Christmas. This one not only has food bags and tape dispenser rolls full of paper strips, but also some loose ends for him to unravel.
This crocheted toy is much more complicated, with cardboard rolls and wooden stars incorporated into it.
Note: For most birds, I would not recommend toys like these, because there’s a risk of getting toenails caught in crocheted string. Rain Man has very thick, short toenails and a generous dose of common sense; that is how he avoids getting tangled up in his toys.