Stories, Musings & The Vision Thing

Tag: artistic vision

The Lang’s Creative Vision

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“Pickup Sticks” by Judith and Richard Lang

Whatever an artist’s creative vision – they see the world through a different lens. Yes, some want to create an aesthetic experience and some want to make us think… or do both. I’ve always been curious about found art, those random bits and pieces of our lives tossed aside, left by the road or lying on the beach – only to be resurrected as art by a curious eye and inventive hand.

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“Bosky Dell” by Judith and Richard Lang

But plastic? It’s so commonplace we don’t even think about it – although we probably couldn’t survive without it. Still, it seems to be a strange medium for an artist to work with.


“Bottles” by Judith and Richard Lang

Plastic is so trivial it’s just part of our disposable lifestyle. That’s what we do, we cast it away without a moment’s thought. Or maybe recycle it. Either way, an amazing amount of the stuff winds up in our oceans.


Point Reyes National Seashore from the National Park Service site

By a fluke of the ocean currents there’s a constant stream of plastic bits washing ashore at Kehoe Beach, part of Point Reyes National Seashore. That’s where our story begins.


“Wreath Hairclips” by Judith and Richard Lang

This is a tale of two California artists, Judith and Richard Lang, who make art from the plastic debris they find as they wander the seashore at Kehoe Beach. Smithsonian Magazine describes how they got started:

In 1999, Richard and Judith had their first date on this Northern California beach. Both were already accomplished artists who had taught watercolor classes at the University of California and shown their work in San Francisco galleries. And both (unbeknown to each other) had been collecting beach plastic for years.


Richard and Judith Lang’s first creative vision – photo from the Mountain Film site

Richard: “This is a love story. Our passion is not only plastic but each other. We could never have imagined, on that day, what an incredible life would unfold—picking up other people’s garbage.”

Judith: “But it’s pretty sad to see this plastic strewn all over the beach. And it’s so recent. I remember going to the beach as a child; I never saw plastic. This problem has washed into our lives—and it’s not going to wash out any time soon.”

There are several videos about the Langs and their work. I like the one below the best, it’s well shot, nicely edited and they talk about their artistic journey, their found medium and why they try to make beautiful work from all that plastic junk.

I like what Judith says in the video about thinking of each plastic shard as a brush stroke. It gets to the artist’s creative vision to see several things as true at once – which gives their work depth and punch – drawing us in and making us think. We’re struck by the beauty of the images and, as we muse about what they represent, are fascinated and repelled at the same time. I especially like their chroma series because the color palette takes the abstraction to a deeper level. The chroma series also recalls Louise Nevelson’s sculpted wood assemblages.


“Chroma Blue” by Judith and Richard Lang


“Chroma Red” by Judith and Richard Lang


“Chroma Purple” by Judith and Richard Lang

For me, what’s powerful about their creative effort is seeing them think outside the box. And, as artists, discovering a way to fashion work that’s surprising, moving, and meaningful.

Does their work have that affect on you too? How do you feel about what they’re doing? Do you connect with their art? Leave a comment.

Flower Power: Art v. Science


From my Richmond Hill series

When an artist ponders a flower, what is observed?  What does an scientist see? Here’s Richard Feynman’s take on it:

Richard Feynman – Ode To A Flower from Fraser Davidson on Vimeo.


Richard Feynman at Fermilab

Richard Feynman physicist, teacher, musician, was brilliant in many regards and his remarks for this animated piece came from a much longer interview with the BBC.

I’d like to explore this seeming dichotomy between the artist’s vision and scientist’s quest for understanding, because I think Feynman’s take on how an artist experiences a flower misses something important. The way I hear Feynman’s comments, he’s basically arguing that while the artist is concerned primarily with beauty, or the world of the senses, science is concerned with context, meaning and knowledge, or the world of the mind.  And he seems to imply that science brings “value added,” or a deeper understanding of the essence of flower and its place the natural order of things.  So is science more worthy that art?


From my Richmond Hill Series

I don’t want to get too abstract here, but I think the artist brings much more to the table than Feynman perceives.  Art works on so many levels… there’s the flower’s shape, form, color, smell, taste, texture… all that our senses tell us. They’re very inviting, these aspects of how we interact with the world.  Art tries to capture them.

There’s the space the flower inhabits.  In the photo above, no longer is it just a flower, but it exists in a ambience of contemplation… inviting us to muse, make associations, or perhaps just experience a quiet moment.  Visually, the soft focus of the background adds a little mystery.  Where is this space?  Who tends this garden?

From my Richmond Hill series

From my Richmond Hill series

Going still deeper, the flower conjures emotions and images… birth, passion, awakening to a new day, the freshness of morning dew…

The peony’s shape is so enveloping… you can imagine the bud gently opening… in slow motion… each petal revealing a deeper sense of flower unfolding.

The artist’s work transforms our perceptions… their view is often dreamy, instinctive, almost pre-verbal… but their vision invites us to see the world with new eyes.


Renoir’s Woman with a rose in her hair

What I’m trying to get to is that the search for meaning flows in different directions at the same time.  There is the scientist’s passion for knowledge and the effort to understand the flower’s place in the natural world that propels Feynman.  There is the artist’s quest to explore an emotional, sensual and perhaps symbolic relationship with the flower and connect it to our humanity.  To tell us something about ourselves and our place in the world.

Between science and art there are so many connections to be made.

The intellect and the emotions bring us different ways of seeing and understanding.  Both are essential to teaching us how to inhabit the world.  And together they make our lives deeper and richer.  That’s what I wanted to say to Feynman.  That it’s not either/or… we need and should embrace both.

If you’d like to explore more about Richard Feynman, here’s a link to Feynman Online.  And in the current political debate about fiscal priorities, I hope our leaders will remember the value that art and science brings to our lives.