Date of Award
Master of Fine Arts (MFA)
For six years I have documented and chronicled phenomena I encounter in my life every day.
This compulsive habit began as a way to explore and study light and space. Over time this activity not only defined my practice, but became essential to the way I go about sensing and living my life.
Most of the phenomena occur in the periphery of my senses, and are documented in passing. They are comprised of familiar materials and objects, and illuminated in some way, by the sun, or a local source. Although they are made up of the commonplace, they manage to completely stun me into a sense of unabashed awe.
These experiences are rarely sought out, and instead surface amidst the motions of my daily activities. When a special moment appears, it emerges from the context of the familiar and suddenly manifests within the realm of the unknown. A bizarre reflection, or image, or encounter comprised of fragmentary attention and variables of circumstance, creating one wonderful instance. The trajectory of my day is briefly interrupted and I find myself suspended between awareness and not knowing. The intersection of myself with this fleeting particularity is profound, a moment completely suspended in time as it unfolds.
Most people have all encountered these moments, but often there is a lack of words or taxonomy for these experiences. Some are vaguely recognizable but often the whole of the instance is beyond words entirely. After the initial shock, when the origin of the moment can be ascertained, a sense of astonishment persists, and to give one or two examples of personally observed moments to communicate their nature, somehow falls short.
Early on, I learned that a moment of wonder was rarely, if ever repeated, and that I was unable to return to it if I chose to ignore it. I try instead to investigate these moments, in their dazzling specificity.
I began to compile my documentation of these encounters and organize them, reflecting on their nature in an accompanying catalog of observations and associations. This investigation and research, this body of experience born from my devotion to the transient and ineffable, began to form to a deeper understanding of myself in relation to the world.
Gradually this system has helped define a subtle yet consistent faith in the “unknown”. A phenomenological approach to the metaphysical made possible by the inherent limitations of perception and expression. Each moment of wonder is a glimpse, a brief awareness of something infinite and unknowable, while remaining rooted in the approachable and recognizable physical world. It is evidence of an infinite simultaneity of circumstances accessible only through the specificity of experience. The image of a street sign across a river lit up by the setting sun, shining directly into my apartment (at a particular time of day, on a particular day in the year), at once unifies the unfathomable cosmos and planetary motion, with the visual language and scale of the everyday in relation to the space I occupy as I bear witness.
As I developed the ideas, this way of being in the world, I was reading incessantly, collecting ideas and metaphors hoping to what these moments of wonder meant to me and why they were so important to my work. My sources varied greatly and ranged from nineteenth century scientific texts, field guides from the 1950’s, to current research in cosmology, theoretical physics, and philosophy. I began to collect lines from each text, particularly poetic lines that stood on their own when isolated, as partial yet profound “truths”. I hand-traced these passages and phrases onto small sheets of semi-transparent paper. As I carefully composed them, I discovered that when the text was secluded as an independent drawing, I not only had agency over context, but over the content itself.
As I continued moving through my library, I realized that I was able to meander from subject to subject working associatively. I was drawn to texts that were in some way outdated, wrong, or flawed.
This was especially true of the older scientific or instructional texts, which freed me to be reverent of the continual, impossible human pursuit of knowledge instead of beholden to scientific fact and accuracy.
I’ve since amassed over one thousand drawings, and though the method by which I chose each selection was organic, at the mercy of chance and whim, the nebulous qualities of the wonder moments began to materialize in the body of drawings. Through selection, persistence, and accumulation, I was able for the first time to contend with amorphous concepts like infinity and the limits of perception, the horizon, scale, time and timelessness, experience, faith, vulnerability, and poetry (without actually writing about these concepts directly). My selections embodied the nature of the moments themselves, emerging from a continuum of every moment that had ever happened, will happen, or is currently happening. Each selection, or verse, referencing a greater whole, while remaining independently declarative.
What lies ahead are a series of pages stitched together from the fragmented texts, arranged to tease out the predominant arc of my work in a way that helps me articulate a working system of faith and belief in the experience of being alive.
Bullock, Katie, "Through magic glasses" (2016). Masters Theses. 36.