01 March 2015

Subjects of Recent Interest

Extinction Aesthetic - Tom Baumgartner
 Title: Extinction Aesthetic 
Extinction Symbol. Dark Extropianism. Apocalyptic Witchcraft. Dark Mountain. Uncivilisation. In The Dust Of This Planet. Health Goth. Accelerationism. After Nature/Dark Ecology/Ecognosis. Early signals: The New Nihilism, Speculative Realism, Neoreaction, Occulture. Cusp: Toxic Internet. Post-Westphalian. Developing (if only in my own low-powered head.  Picking black flowers early in the day).
-Warren Ellis

I just love lists. The following are my discoveries and trails of referential mania sparked by Warren's list.

Extinction Icon

Extinction Aesthetic / Dark Ecology

The human catastrophe has already happened, we're just watching the fallout. World history is a series of overlapping catastrophes and periods of stasis. What kind of culture develops and dresses for the funeral of planet Earth? A gothic one obsessed with death of course. Curl up on the couch with some strong black tea and have some extinction fiction or dim the lights and indulge in some doom porn.

Though I'm optimistic we will squeak by to the next step of evolution, medals given out to charitable tech billionaires and citizen scientists, it won't happen until we finally see ourselves as not separate from nature. This threw me out into some art aesthetic philosophy by Timothy Morton. We set nature high on a pedestal away from ourselves. Ecology is it's replacement, dark ecology, where we face the grim reality of where our meat comes from and the cell phone in your pocket is why there's a giant hole in the ground somewhere - the invisible meshes every living being is involved in. Not in a hippie-dippy energy way, but in a direct, Newtonian engineering sort of way.

Health Goth

I love birthing creative movements like this. Living on the space station, or maybe being on part of the colonization team, what do you wear? The most comfortable clothes with the most hi-tech materials and design are in the world of sports. Is there such a thing as formal, dark sportswear? Yes there is. I love the inventiveness of asymmetrical zippers, one-legged compression pants, sleeves with thumb holes, silky synthetics, adjustable shock running shoes without laces and faux corsets. It always makes sense to have your clothing work for you. With my Brandoesque physique, I'm not jumping on this trend-subculture any time soon, but my inner futurian wants it bad.

Though is there more than just limiting your fashion to black and white? There is a tech savvy, weaponized intelligence about it. A youth culture digerati expressing elite skills through their functional fashion. Part ninja, part hacker, part cyborg, part athlete. Transhumanism fetish.

Apocalyptic Witchcraft

Peter Grey walks you through an exhaustive history of magick and witchcraft building a case for an edge society who are ultimately the defenders of the earth. Feared by societies that found nature to be the source of all evil, they were unjustly scapegoated and marginalized for their clear vision. Presently, Grey throws artists, musicians, and writers into this edge group. Grey calls for a revolutionary defense of Mother Nature, Earth-First style. Although my personal exploration of magick revealed the multiple crossovers it has with art, I'm not convinced that grass-roots sit-ins and terrorist-like acts in the name of conservation do any good. Legal action, although not the most creative tool in the tool box, is the one that usually gets things done.

This got me thinking about counter culture and it's influence on the culture at large. Look at the alt culture obsession with the "Authentic," a reaction to mass marketing and lack of quality. Now we have in-house brewed beer and in-house roasted coffee beans served to you on rough solid wood tables in bare brick rooms. A restaurant cheese platter served on something other than a raw slab of wood or stone is highly suspect as to it's quality. I haven't cracked any new idea here but I am suggesting you might have more influence on the society as a whole by effecting society in your community. Even if you aren't political, your choices in life are, and being a creative person is a pretty big statement.

Object Oriented Ontology

Another book by Timothy Morton, Realist Magic, introduces some ideas that have a flavor of an almost alien intelligence, or at least a digital one. Object Oriented programming/scripting has a naming convention like: "TucsonMap.MapRenderer.MapPage" : "Inside the map page is the map renderer and we are focusing on the Tucson map in relation to those"; a way of dealing with hierarchies that lets you get as granular as you want. Now think of "GraniteShard.Cliff.CrystalMesa" and you can see the concept of how every object is defined by its' relation to other objects, but this is when things start to go down the rabbit hole.

Objects are elusive with self contained archeologies that will never be known. A 'pebble' was once a 'cliff' was once a 'volcano' was once a 'sea floor'. A bird might have picked up the pebble and dropped it from miles away. Eventually the pebble will become sand. If you exposed the pebble to radiation, to acids, intense cold, ate it and ran it through your digestive track, would you know it any better? This is the magickal aspect of reality, we know much less about it than it is. And yeah, ideas and concepts are objects too.

This is less about "How much of a table can I cut away until it isn't a table anymore?" than "Everything you can think of is completely unique and completely unknowable at the same time." Processes are more permanent than objects. Knowing the nature of nature lives more in the mystic realm.


Automatic writing is nothing new and many artists practice it today. Working with my own set of symbols in my artwork, I'm still playing with what they mean. I'm beginning to think they are in relation to natural forces and am slowly teasing out how that works.

Diane Slattery documents her journey into automatic writing, communicating with aliens and art while under the influence of hallucinogens. I love reading about other peoples' trips, and her story is pretty far out, but I'm more interested in the ideas that came out of her exploration. Life, with it's massive alphabet of DNA, is made up of language. Diane started seeing a set of symbols she named "Glide." When they are grouped together they become larger symbols of things. Sounds like a sentence or a paragraph? Her symbols (or one symbol that changes) are animated and change through time. They are not only covering everything she sees in her visions, they are everything. Anyway, I'm not done with this book but it's some nice mysterious candy to chew on.

20 November 2014

Terminus Pinacatix

Camping on an other-worldly lava flow in Mexico inspired thoughts of targets, portals, and interdimensional travels. Earth symbols surrounded by life symbols in a star chart. This fantasy of looking through the the windscreen of my interstellar ship with targeting interface has me thinking a lot about interface in art. Controls, symbols, maps having internal meaning. Don't hate the interface, become the interface. I admit, I catch myself dreaming of punching radio buttons, pulling scroll bars, and watching lines of code spill into the screen. Oh great RGB, have mercy on me.

Crow Quill and India ink, digitally colored. This will go to print for my next show. From here I move back into painting.

Terminus Pinacatix

13 October 2014

Desert Museum Installation

If you've been to the 'cave' exhibit at the Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson Arizona in the last year, you might have seen an installation I created. It's a touch screen interface concerning subjects of climate change that mirrors on a large video screen. I built it in Flash as a stand-alone application, designed the interface and edited all the video included. Working with Earth Knowledge, the museum staff, and oversight of NASA who's grant made it possible, I'm pretty proud of the outcome. (There was no money to document the piece so I put this together with my iPhone.)

04 September 2014

New Portfolio Website

I think this is the 5th personal site redesign I've created since I hit the internet.  It doesn't go back as far as 2000ish, but Internet Archive Wayback Machine has bits and pieces of it from over the years.

The biggest plus is that my website and blog are now hand in hand.  It feels good to have all the galleries up. I had all my paintings scanned so I can have nice large closeups of the work. I like the dynamic article feature on the front page because it allows you to navigate visually.

The site was to originally to have a massive background video.  Yes video!  My better instincts eventually shut that idea down.  Too troublesome, too much loading, and too distracting.  I'm inspired to make some video shorts and interactive pieces eventually after that whole experience.

In the next 6 months, I should have a good collection of prints for sale. The first edition is in the mail right now and I can hardly wait to see it! So the site will also have a simple store on it for things like that.

Go take a look:


10 August 2014

Triax Prima

This is worked from a photo I took in the Glen Canyon Dam area in 2004.  I'm sure the water level is even lower 10yrs later.  I featured this landscape in my Future Primitive project being taken by the nearly all rock landscape.

I've been fascinated with man-made infrastructure in natural locations since back when I was reading everything J.G. Ballard.  Industrial imprint on landscape seems almost natural and honest.  I get a sort of "It is what it is," feeling from it.  At the same time, something as large as the dam still seems as transitory as any other natural system, like the fracturing and erosion of the surrounding rock formations.  I'm still not sure what it means.  The image could be read as a 60's triumph of technology over nature.  The image could be read as a warning considering the obvious lowered water level.

There are monumental energies stored in this place.  The hovering glyphs I see as Earth powered in an elemental language.  I pioneered a new technique in this painting.  Brush marks in a cross hatching method usually reserved for drawing.  I've started on a new painting which continues the theme with a number of radio and television transmitting towers in landscape.

"Triax Prima" by Tom Baumgartner, 32" x 16" oil on panel.

25 June 2014

Obelix Havasupai

Obelix Havasupai Closeup
I've been working with some graphic symbols that came out of a vector-based automatic writing set of sessions.  Thinking about letters, sigils, symbols and am exploring their meaning more specifically now. Maybe they are part of a larger symbology.  Maybe part of a mandelic pantheon of universal balance.  Maybe part of a personal psychological system like tarot.  The world-building continues...

The symbols used in this one are geologic, stone, earth-like.  A cube shape has been haunting me so I built one from the symbols themselves.  Could be a 3-dimensional sentence.  Could be a set of dice.  Could be keys turned to access another realm.  I want to explore this concept further.  I keep tuning into an "Ancient Future" feeling that has a lot of juice and I'm scurrying down the rabbit hole after it.

I worked from a photo I took while riding a helicopter out of Havasu Falls, a tributary of the Grand Canyon.  All the inking is done with a Crow Quill and india ink.  I listened to "Kafkaesque", an hour-long ambient drone piece of music by Australian artist "Soul in limbo" over and over again while working on it.  So, I guess that might be the soundtrack.

Obelix Havasupai

17 March 2014


Doing a sketch for a new drawing, halfway through a slow-going landscape painting (needing 4 hour blocks of time at a shot) and 5 other inks that need coloring, I decided to finish up coloring on Canix tonight.  Based on a oil painting of the coyote-headed man, but this time in a landscape.  I don't get a huge amount of feedback on my inks, but I draw what I want to see.  I've come to accept my scratchy technique and like it a lot.  Maybe this will develop.

13 January 2014


I was offered a show at Art House Centro in Tucson and had a little over a month to get some work together.  I decided to extend the one painting series I had started two years ago that started with "Cervidex," an image of a man with a deer head.  Continuing on the therianthropic path with Ardeidix, Timidix, Canix, and Astutix.  My pantheon of deities all end in "X."  These are my first attempts at figure painting, which is hard for me, which is why I think I avoided it for so long, or until I had the skills.  Always had the ideas, but not the skills.  Turned out to be kind of a mental trick along the lines of "you can paint realistic rocks, the figure is just a weird rock."

So a human with an animal head is a common theme throughout history and presently for that matter.  I am thinking more about variations on the Green Man than Egyptian gods like Osiris, Horus and Anubis.  Spirits of the natural world.  Although I have so much interest recently in mythology, arcane magic, psionics and ancient texts etc., I see these characters appearing in real life now, not in historic situations.  I see a naked, hyper intelligent God with a deer head materializing in front of me with beams of energy washing out of them.  Now.  The embodiment of natures' power and personality, warning, or simply stating their existence in the parking lot, in an abandoned gravel lot, on a path in the desert, on a mountain top.  I see them now, in 2014 while my iPhone notifies me of a text message.

I still feel like all of my artistic efforts are moving towards a publication, and I'm afraid of straying from that subject.  The Sutra of Tranquility.  This book appears to those ready to study out of thin air when summoned.  Filled with abstract patterns, complex diagrams, strange characters, and indecipherable text, the reader comes away with a sense of calm they can call upon the rest of their life.  A fantasy object I can't tear my mind away from but I feel like I'm the one to author it.