DD Hello there Masha and welcome to Disco Droppings! I met you at Recess Festival over the summer in Tonasket, Washington, and am pleased that the timing is right for this conversation. How are you?
MF Hi Jimi! I’m doing great. I have a nice fire going in the wood stove, and a kitty on the couch next to me.
DD I celebrate your varied approach with art. Working within several mediums is an enjoyable method for me too. Could you share some of the many areas you work in? Most recently I’ve seen your “Mandelbulb” realms, which are fascinating.
MF I enjoy working with ink and a wide variety of digital media. In the digital realm, I use a combination of photomontage and painting with custom brushes – mostly my own brushes, but sometimes ones made by other artists as well. Everywhere I go, I look for unusual textures and lighting, and other cool stuff I can photograph to use later as elements in my work. So that’s all part of using Photoshop for me. I wanted to try playing with a pixelated aesthetic, so I bought the program Hexels and made a couple of pieces using it. I just started playing with Mandelbulb, which feels really alien to me because I’ve never used so much CGI before. I use far more traditional art values with Mandelbulb than any other work because it’s just so easy to get lost in its infinity. When I work with a pen, I just feel so grounded by comparison. There’s things I can make with a regular pen and paper that I can’t make on the computer only because it feels different to use. But every new medium I try, I learn something new!
DD What have been some of the major transformative periods that built up to the artist and human we see today?
MF When I was in high school, I was felt kind of depressed about art. It felt like my imagination, in relation to drawing, sort of died, and I couldn’t get it started up again. I still took art classes, and two really wonderful things happened: The teacher, Mr. Yee, was about to teach us contour drawing. He showed us a very detailed and realistic drawing of a sandal, and asked us how long it took for the student to learn to draw like that. Everyone answered responses of 5 years or more, until he revealed the poor drawings that person had done earlier in the semester. It only took one semester for them to get that good, because he had the right teacher! I think we were all galvanized by this demonstration. I felt liberated. Also, right about that time, my mom bought me a set of gel pens, which had just appeared on the market. They were very consistent and downright frictionless compared to any other pen or pencil – just perfect lines. Suddenly I was in love with drawing all over again, and didn’t really stop from then on.
When I was in college for biology, I was doing all kinds of crazy projects – I made a nature documentary, I rode my bike across Florida, through the Keys to write a travelogue. But I was increasingly feeling that whatever I wanted to do with my life was not aligned with sitting in a lab and taking measurements. I left school for a few years to figure out what to do next. The jobs available were obviously dead-end, so I went to St. Armand’s Circle and began to draw portraits for a living. At least that way I could improve at some sort of skill! In between customers I drew for fun and eventually developed one of the styles I still use today. I later returned to school, but still tried out a wide variety of classes before settling on art. I owe so much to my partner Dustin, who supported me through so many periods when I wasn’t making any money, and continues to help me in so many ways.
DD I sense waves of fresh interest towards the power of consciousness. Your energy definitely has that mind expansive quality. What’s your understanding of this area, and what role do you see yourself playing?
MF I believe that we have not yet scratched the surface of what the human brain can do, and that today, more than ever, we have the tools with which to discover its possibilities. It’s really amazing, especially when science and consciousness exploration work together. But what I notice is that people tend to fall in-step with each other. Visionary art (for lack of a better term) is so meaningful for us, because it captures so well the places we’ve been or want to visit. For better or for worse, these works are modern-day icons, like pictures of Jesus and Mary in a cathedral. They subtly direct our minds to have particular kinds of experiences as we expand. And so, there is the possibility that unless we become aware of this type of conformity, that as a community we may hit a collective mental ceiling.
Compare it to our internet use. How much of your time do you spend on Facebook, compared with going out into the wild beyond where Google can barely reach? Facebook users share a lot of awesome things, but if some of us don’t visit pages outside of social media, we’ll all just be recycling the same old memes over and over. And so with our consciousness exploration.
DD Some resist change and the future. Some of your instruments, like the graphics tablet have certain techniques that “old school” instruments wouldn’t be able to do. I like hearing the new positive ways expression can be opened up with developing materials. Could you expand on this?
MF Well, technology hasn’t changed anything about staring at a blank page trying to decide what to make!
One of the things, in 2D art that I’m really excited about is pattern recognition in neural nets. Most people I think, have seen the Google DeepDream images last summer. It’s taking a neural net designed for recognizing certain objects and asking it what it sees in another image, taking that image and feeding it through, over and over until you get weird things like puppy slugs and eyes everywhere. The computer now has pareidolia! But even though the code is freely available, there aren’t that many vast neural nets around yet, so mostly you’re getting the same old puppyslugs and architecture recognizable as Google’s
or MIT’s nets. Right now there’s some loose code and software available through CUDA that lets you train your own neural net through machine learning, but it can only be used on an older version of Linux, which can be massive pain to install. But, DeepDream breaks the predictability of typical Photoshop filters and almost any other 2D image manipulation, so I think there’s a lot of possibility for a new tool. I wish I could code better so I could use it already!
In 3D art, right now 3D printers are on brink of being available and usable for anybody. It’s very satisfying to model even the silliest thing and then to print it out – but the real strength lies in the ability to print something very complex which cannot be sculpted or assembled by human hands. People have already been designing stunning mathematical objects and displaying them in galleries, and sometimes making the files freely downloadable so others can print them out on their own machines. Furthermore, one can take these printed objects and cast them into a mold, out of which a more permanent and beautiful sculpture can be made.
DD There are so many layers to this art of yours. “City Arch” for example. It took me many looks to really notice the landscape at the bottom. For a while, the arches and trees grabbed my attention. Do you like the idea of people exploring your visuals, with some elements hidden for discovery?
MF Yes! It makes me so happy to hear you say that. When I was a kid, I went to the Museum of Natural History in NYC with my grandma. We would sit for some time in front of the elaborately assembled dioramas, looking for hidden animals. It was always surprising. I can think of so many instances where my imagination was set aflame just by realizing that all around us are hidden worlds we could find, if we just took a minute to step outside our regular paths. So in many of my ink pieces such as “Wet Cats” and “The Weaver”, I enjoy placing little details everywhere to be found later.
DD What does support mean to you? Has your experience and understanding of this changed over the time you’ve been exploring these other realms and dimensions?
MF Support means a lot of things to me. But I suppose at the end of the day it’s that I can be myself around a few close friends and not feel like I’m out of my mind. And maybe that someone brings me food when I’m in a flow state so that I don’t have to stop. Since my husband and I both tend to get into flow states a lot, we drink a lot of smoothies now.
I am surrounded by the most amazing, supportive people. I suppose it is my greatest fear that I’d let the ones who mean most to me down, and oddly, that fear has grown with time instead of disappearing. It is like a gnawing flame, reminding me to get better and try more. Some people talk about letting that type of motivator go, but I’m not sure if I can. I heard it’s not really a very healthy outlook to have, but I suppose that at my core, I’m just not very Zen. Maybe it keeps me anchored so that I don’t just drift off into strange realms. Being given support of any type to pursue your passion is really meaningful, and I feel like I’d better give some kind of returns to those who have invested in me. Otherwise it wouldn’t be very fair, like some unspoken contract had been broken. Gah, that was a tough question.
DD How can readers get in touch with you about acquiring pieces?
DD As we come close to the end of the year, any insights to share or thoughts on the future?
MF Ummm…there’s a thing you want to do. No, not that thing. Not chores or taxes or emails. That thing, sitting in the back of your mind for a decade. What was it you were planning back then? A trip to someplace you now deem impractical to visit? A painting you think you lack the skill to create? A story you wanted to write? And then you got distracted, and it never made your to-do list, because it wasn’t so important. Go and Do The Thing. Sure, it sounds trite. But do it anyway. Now, you can’t say that nobody ever told you to Do The Thing. Cheers and thanks!
Masha Falkov – Facebook
– Jimi Jaxon