NEW: Click here to read May 2008 article on Dennis Dreher: AT THE INTERSECTION OF ART AND SCIENCE

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Stars, Spaces, & Captain Marble

Even though I am known as a sculptor, I consider myself an 'organic' painter, choosing color by emotion and form from color. Early in my career I became intrigued by the color reproduction process. This led in turn to my involvement with 'space weaving' and computer graphics. My work has come full circle and one step up as I now weave masses of color in space.

Dennis Dreher I am a visual person and I can feel things with my eyes. If an intellectual concept doesn't reach me physically and emotionally, then it's not working for me. When I am succeeding as an artist, my audience will respond to my work on a primal level.

Much of my sculpture is intensely complex, and there's a lot of intellectual stuff that goes on in the building and the designing of it. For me that is not the end in itself but a tool in the work that I do. For me art is trying to get or create an emotional response. "Oh wow" is not an intellectual reaction. It is a gut reaction. I want gut reactions from people. I don't give a damn if you understand it. It is the gut reaction I am looking for.

As an artist I want to give a message of joy or ecstasy, the uplifting experience. Some artists are very political, very message oriented. I don't have that. I don't do art work that portrays pain and suffering. There's plenty of that around. Joy and ecstasy only last a moment. It is that moment that I am trying to create in my art work.

Even though as a sculptor I work in geometry, I don't really like geometry per se. It has to be transcended. There has to be something about it that has a lyrical quality to it, not crystalline, not harsh. Things that are organic are geometric in a complexity that is far above our understanding. There is a point where we make that dividing line even though it is based on our own intellectual limits. We tend to divide things into geometric or organic. I want my work to be organic and so the geometric forms that excite me the most have that organic quality.

There is a contradiction to this. I do some geometric constructions that seem to me less lyrical than my more fluid work, but I believe they are important and need to be done. Examples of these would be The Tetraxi and The Six Axis Stars, which were invented by John Kostick. Later on I developed new forms using his process, but I still make his stars to honor the beauty and significance of his work. Some day somebody is going to discover that these things are really important models of some physical truths, laws, or processes, but I'll be damned if I can tell you what they are.

Kostick's method, called 'space weaving,' contains an important concept that I really try to get across to people. In 'space weaving' you are taking structural elements (wires) and putting them in the right place at the right time and they stay there. This is a radically different type of geometric construction. In traditional construction techniques you have to take materials and alter them and then fasten them in order to keep them where you want them.
These spaces are created by an arrangement of simple elements and the arrangement causes these spaces to be self-defining.

Most of the shapes themselves are not really new, hence their Greek names. The reason most people haven't seen them is because they are so difficult to make. To create these shapes with conventional construction methods would be extremely arduous. You would need higher mathematics in the calculations and great precision in your construction methods.

In relation to the color in the sculpture I'm doing now.... I started painting before I did the geometric work in 3-D, but through my paintings I got a job designing and silk-screening rather expensive fabric. I started to ask questions in color theory that I couldn't find answers to. I found that to adequately portray color theory it takes three dimensions. Serendipitously I met Kostick and he asked me to join with him in his research. I quickly found that using his 3-D techniques allowed me to build models that helped me to understand color theory. In fact the initial work I did also led me into computer graphics Using Kostick's methods and some of my own vision I was able to project three dimensional objects into two dimensions in ways that would allow things normally obscured by perspective to be visible. I had never attempted or even thought to build one of these color spaces until someone actually commissioned me to do one, until someone saw a painting I did using these methods of two dimensional projection and said, "OK, build it."

So again using the methods of space weaving and painted wooden balls I built a couple of color spaces. Then Gemma, my wife, and I, built a third one when we were at Harvard, but I wasn't satisfied with the particular matrix I used because it wasn't dense enough. Worse yet it was cubic. I looked for years until I found the matrix that I am using now. Then I looked around for a couple more years until I found a marble company that had the right palette. I started building color spaces as three dimensional paintings. These 3-D paintings have the same emotional impact on me as my two dimensional pieces. So what I am trying to say is that my work has come full circle. I got into geometry originally as a tool to understanding color as I used it in two dimensions, and ended up with a whole new medium of painting in three dimensions.

When some people look at these color sculptures, these 3-D paintings, they are just plumb fascinated by the wires and the weavings. I tell them I'm not in it for that. They're only there to hold the colors where I want them.

When I work in pure wire, the ones I like the best are the shape changers, 'cause I like the way they move.

Dennis Dreher


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