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The Ghosts are Coming, from the Metamorphosis series, 2011
Below you will find all of my blog entries in reverse chronologic order.
Siberia Souls was exhibited at ArtPrize, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This is the largest competitive art exhibit in the world. The exhibit took place at Fountain Street Church in downtown Grand Rapids, in September and October 2016. The exhibit was sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union.
A total of 17,000 visitors saw Siberia Souls! The turnout was, to say the least, stunning!
The exhibit, Columns of Dreams, at the Trinity United Methodist Church in Chicago, was simply magnificent. The light sculptures, themselves, fit beautifully, and elegantly, into the stunning interior of this classic church. They also reflected the intense colors of the stained glass windows. A sense of the wonder of this exhibit can been seen in the YouTube video by clicking here.
This two week exhibit was extended to a full two months, running through October and November, 2016. This extension was in part to satisfy the request of Connie Mixon and Wally Braunschweig, who were married with the Columns of Dreams as a background to their marriage ceremony. They both have suffered neurologic difficulties, thus making these art works particularly salient.
May their future years together be filled with love, wonder, and endless dreams.
The Siberia Souls exhibit, at the Beverly Unitarian Church, in Chicago, took place in October and November 2016. This exhibit accompanied a parallel exhibit which took place in Grand Rapids, Michigan, sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union, as part of ArtPrize. The timing of these exhibits was incredible–they immediately preceded the US presidential election. The purpose of Siberia Souls was to remind the general public that demagoguery and inhumanity, on a mass scale, can take place here, in the US. Indeed, the results of this election have led to a attempts to start mass apprehensions and deportations. It is only the court system that has put a halt to these demagogic actions. Hitler and Stalin are being resurrected right here in the US–just in time for Easter! Thus, Siberia Souls was a prophetic exhibit.
The amount of local press coverage that this exhibit received is very gratifying. These evaluations can be found in the Art Reviews section of this website.
The Beverly Unitarian Church is notable–it is the only castle in the Chicago metropolitan area. It was an honor to be invited to give a Sunday’s sermon at the castle.
Two simultaneous showings of Siberia Souls will take place at art exhibits sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Fountain Street Church will exhibit these LED light sculptures in an exhibit themed about social justice. A total of 18 artists have been invited to participate. This will take place as part of ArtPrize, the world’s largest competitive art exhibit. It fully takes over the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, for a month. The ACLU was involved in the definition and selection process of this exhibit.
Fountain Street Church, 24 Fountain St N.E. Grand Rapids, MI, September 18 through October 10. This exhibit will feature white-light LED sculptures. Opening reception is Sunday, September 18, 2 to 4 PM.
Beverly Unitarian Church, 10244 S. Longwood Drive, Chicago, IL, will also exhibit Siberia Souls from September 16 through October 10. This exhibit will feature color-changing LED light sculptures. Opening reception is Friday, September 16, 7 to 9 PM.
If you can, please attend the opening celebrations. Otherwise, make sure to stop by and view the exhibits.
This past weekend, as I was digging through my old files, I came across a series of correspondences with Chicago’s Art Institute and Museum of Contemporary Art. Collections of my photographically based art are in the permanent collections of these two museums! For any artist, having their work in the collections of important museums is an incredible accomplishment. How is it that I did not remember this accomplishment?
Well, this was the end of 1981 and start of 1982. I was arranging to relocate from the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minnesota, to work at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. This entailed several trips to Toronto for job interviews. Then, unraveling the complex and uncertain state my Canadian citizenship. Followed by arranging immigration and work-permit papers for my wife–which included many trips to the Canadian consulate in Minneapolis. Not to mention the birth of my daughter in early 1982, and her citizenship and immigration papers. Also, all of the paper work about moving a household to Canada, and making all of the arrangements by U-Haul. And all of this as I was working 60 hour work weeks!
It is not surprising that I forgot this correspondence. What is amazing is that I found the time to arrange for my art to be in these institutions. Boy, was I energetic!
I cannot help but wonder: if I had placed this information on my art resume 35 years ago, might not my artistic career have been much more successful? As they say, “better late than never.”
Blue Consciousness was commissioned by the Blue Man Group’s Briar Street Theater in Chicago, three years ago. The piece is 10 x 10 feet in size and was placed on the building’s south-facing exterior. It is easily view-able day and night, since spot lights illuminate it. A smaller version is in the entrance lobby to the theater.
Well, the three-year run has been great! The Blue Men have decided to install a new set of art works. Of interest is their advertisement for this competition, which appears on the Chicago Artists Resource website. Blue Consciousness is the center of their PR campaign!
Trinity United Methodist Church, 9848 S. Winchester Ave., is located in the Beverly neighborhood of Chicago. Last weekend I was invited to display Columns of Dreams. The pieces were placed around the altar, and near several of the stained glass windows.
We could not be human without our aspirations, hopes, and dreams. It is only through dreams that our imaginations take hold, and progress takes place.
The columns included one dedicated to Sigmund Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams. This included a hand-written passage which explained the fear of falling. This section is possibly the only commonsense, non-psychoanalytic part of his book.
Another one included my own dream of a horrific event. At exactly the same time, an identical event took place to my daughter, who was visiting Milan, Italy, but her event was real, not imaginary. Coincidences do not happen. For that time period, my daughter, who was on the other side of the world, and I, were united.
Two other columns dealt with the creative application of dreams—images and passages from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, and images from the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch. Since all of Bosch’s art was created for church settings, it was very appropriate to incorporate his dreams into this installation.
A total of eight different Columns of Dreams will be displayed at TUMC during Beverly’s Art Walk on Saturday, October 1, 2016, from noon to 7 PM.
Amazon recently listed a new Kindle book, The Intersection of Art and Psychology, edited by Darius Illevicius and Russell Chartier. This open access volume is a discussion of various topics related to art and psychology. I am one of six artists reviewed in this book. There are four color reproductions of my art works.
Caption from The San Diego Union-Tribune: Kylie Luttrell, 8, left, of Custer and her sister, Alex, 11, looks at Illuminated Thoughts by Audrius Plioplys in Grand Rapids, Michigan, during ArtPrize, Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2015. (Neil Blake/The Grand Rapids Press via AP)
Illuminated Thoughts, an installation of eight LED, color-changing light columns, was displayed as part of ArtPrize 7 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. ArtPrize is the largest competitive art exhibit in the world. It took place in September and October, 2015. Only recently I learned of an Associated Press article in The San Diego Union-Tribune on October 9, 2015.
In this article, only three art works were reproduced–the largest image being that of Illuminated Thoughts. Given that there were several thousand art works, by over 1,500 artists, on display, this is truly an honor.
The full review can by found in the art reviews section this website.
This summer and fall, when you drive into West Chicago, Illinois, the first street banner that you see is my art work “Constraints / Freedom”. This is one of 17 banners on public display as part of the city’s cultural festival. You can find this 5 ft tall piece on Main Street, just east of the intersection with Chicago Avenue.
The pieces for this installation were anonymously judged by Chicago-based artist and Assistant Professor of Photography at Northeastern Illinois University, Nate Matthews. “Seventeen exceptional works were chosen” according to the city’s Cultural Arts Commission posting.
Freedom cannot exist without constraints. This concept seems to be an obvious one. However, given the Congressional decisions and political statements, during this US federal election season, it seems to be ignored, to the detriment of all of us.
ArtPrize is the world’s largest competitive art exhibit. It takes over the entire city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, in the fall.
Siberia Souls LED light sculpture installation has been selected for display at a centrally located venue, the historic Fountain Street Church, which last year had over 17,000 visitors.
In collaboration with The American Civil Liberties Union, Fountain Street has organized “Art to Change the World: Inspiring Social Justice.” Art plays an important role as an agent for social and economic justice, and peace in the world. It is an honor to have Siberia Souls included in this exhibit.
I organized the Hope and Spirit project to commemorate the victims of Stalin’s mass deportations. Due to my efforts over 400 long-lost letters and photographs, sent from Siberia, were found, and the tragic family stories revealed. In Siberia Souls I incorporate these photographs and letters. Further information can be found here, and a YouTube video viewed here.
Art must address pressing political issues. In Hope and Spirit, I tried to inform the general public of Stalin’s atrocities–if history is forgotten, it will repeat itself. That is currently taking place with the rise of demagoguery and hatred–Germany of the 1930′s is reappearing here, in the US.
In the Lithuanian city of Marijampole, an expansive and modernistic cultural center was opened in 1991. Since then it has been deemed the best cultural center in Lithuania. The scope, diversity and quality of the artistic programming there is truly impressive. Sixteen of my art works will be on permanent display at the Marijampole Cultural Center. The pieces were matted and framed in Vilnius.
Problem: how to deliver these art works.
Solution: the Lithuanian army was mobilized!
The army picked up and delivered these pieces a week ago!
The oldest school in Lithuania, the Collegium Vilnense Societati Jesu, was founded in 1570. The Vilnius Jesuit High School is a direct descendant of this educational institution. In 1579 an offshoot became Vilnius University, which is the third oldest university in Eastern Europe (universities in Prague and Krakow are older).
16 of my art works have recently been placed on permanent display in this historic center of higher education. The selection of the pieces was made by Father Antanas Saulaitis, the director of the Lithuanian and Latvian Jesuits. I became closely acquainted with this wonderful individual in the 1990’s, when he worked in Chicago. He even baptized our daughter, Ausrine.
I have a tremendous respect for higher education (just look at my own background)—I cannot stop studying and learning every day, even now. To have my art displayed in such an important historic educational institution is a tremendous honor for me. This is particularly the case when the selection was made by a truly wonderful human being.
18 of my art works, including large scale ones, have recently been permanently installed in a historic Eastern European mansion. Since origins are dear to my heart, I shall digress into a segment of European history.
In 1807 Lithuania was occupied by Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon gave a large track of land to Juozapas Poniatovskis. When he died in 1813, the holdings were inherited by Poniatovskis’ sister, Terese Tiskeviciene. The Zypliai holdings included 155 villages and 15,600 acres of forest. The actual Zypliai manor had about 40 acres of land.
The holdings went through several ownerships until the manor was purchased by Count Tomas Potockis. Between 1891-1901 he rebuilt the mansion, making it two stories. In 1897 the wooden farm buildings burned down and had to be re-built.
One of the most popular and beautiful museums in Lithuania is the Amber Museum in Palanga. This mansion was built in 1897-1902 by Count Feliksas Tiskevicius. The design was by the German architect Franz Heinrich Schwechten. The surrounding botanical gardens were by the landscape architect Eduard Fancois Andre. Given the geographic proximity, the similarity in architectural design, and the identical dates of the buildings, the Zypliu mansion must have been designed by these same architects.
After the count’s death in 1912 and the manor became a seminary. Between WWI and WWII the mansion was used as an agriculture school, and after 1945 by a collective farm board.
The buildings were eventually abandoned and suffered much damage. In 2002 Vidas Cikanas started the arduous process of restoring the estate. The renovations were completed in 2014. The mansion hosts exhibits, art displays, concerts, lectures and symposia. It is visited by 10,000 visitors each year.
The largest room in the mansion is on the first floor, just off the main entrance. It serves as a reception and conference room. It is in this room that my art works decorate all of the walls. The display is, modestly speaking, magnificent.
ArtPrize, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is one of the largest competitive, international art exhibits in the world. I was fortunate in being selected to display eight of my LED color-changing light sculptures in a centrally located art gallery. This installation of freely standing columns is called Illuminated Thoughts.
There are three separate series which comprise this installation: Columns of Thought, Writing, and Art. Further information about these series can be found in the light sculpture section of this website’s Online Gallery.
ArtPrize is a unique art festival with hundreds of participating artists at venues all over the city. Besides art exhibits there are performances, lectures, concerts and events for the entire family. It is one of the world’s premier art exhibits and art fairs.
From the ArtPrize website: “Three square miles of downtown Grand Rapids become an open playing field where anyone can find a voice in the conversation about what is art and why it matters. Art from around the world pops up in every inch of downtown, and it’s all free and open to the public. It’s unorthodox, highly disruptive, and undeniably intriguing to the art world and the public alike.”
ArtPrize took place in September and October 2015. My installation was at the First Park Congregational Church, 10 East Park Place NE, Grand Rapids, Michigan. The church had just completed a $2 million expansion in order to have space for art installations.
I organized the highly successful Hope and Spirit project, which took place at the Balzekas Museum in 2011-12. This was to mark the 70 year anniversary of the mass deportations from the Baltic republics to Siberia by Stalin, and to commemorate the victims of these atrocities. Four of my blood relatives died during NKVD interrogations, and eight were deported to Siberia.
The primary purpose of this project was to inform the general public of these events and the deaths of 20 million innocent people. If history is forgotten, it will repeat itself. With the recent events in Ukraine and Syria, it appears that my concerns were prophetic. History is repeating itself.
It is due to my efforts that over 400 letters and photographs sent from Siberia have been found and saved from oblivion, and the tragic family stories revealed.
In this exhibit of seven LED light sculpture diptychs, I incorporate these photographs and letters. If we remember departed individuals, in a sense they remain immortal. Memories are stored in neural networks in our brains. I incorporate the photographic images under layers of my own neural networks, brain scan images, and brain wave tracings.
Several of these diptychs focus on individual families, including my own relatives and those of the famed author Ruta Sepetys.
Each diptych consists of a steady white light, and the other with color changing lights. This diptych structure parallels our own brain functioning, where the left hemisphere is analytical, black and white, and the right hemisphere creative, colorful.
The images were printed on three layers of polycarbonate to parallel the three layers of our own thought processes: conscious, subconscious, and unconscious.
The exhibit is located in the street-level entrance lobby of the museum. There are broad glass doors and windows through which the exhibit can be seen day and night. The lights are never turned off.
The exhibit opened on March 27, 2015 and was to run through June. Due to it’s popular appeal, it has been extended several times, and will now run through December 2015.
On September 3, 2015, this exhibit was selected Pick of the Week by the Chicago Tribune. Given the number of gallery and museum exhibits up in Chicago at that time, this truly was a tremendous honor.
Further information, and links to YouTube videos can be found in the Online Gallery tab of this website.
The exhibit continues at the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture, 6500 S. Pulaski Rd., Chicago, Illinois.
Art in Motion is an important fundraiser and unique art exhibition hosted by the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago’s Associate Board. It brings together the thriving art community and philanthropy community of Chicago, to support the very important cause of art therapy.
Mr. James Rondeau, Curator of Contemporary Art at the Art Institute of Chicago, selected the art works to be displayed in this highly competitive exhibit, where hundreds of artists from across the country submitted their work for consideration. Just a small portion were accepted.
This exhibit was a benefit for the RIC Art Therapy program. In addition to traditional physical, speech, and occupational therapy, art therapy is an integral part of a patient’s care at RIC. Art Therapy not only allows patients to re-learn motor skills and coordination, but also helps them express the emotions they feel as they adjust to a new, challenging way of life. Some patients even discover previously untapped artistic talent, which they often continue to enjoy for the rest of their lives.
This exhibit took place in June, 2015, in Northwestern University’s Lurie Center Ryan Family Atrium, 303 E Superior St., Chicago.
Over the past two years, I have been working to transform my art from 2-dimensional paintings to 3-dimensional light sculptures which I call Illuminated Thoughts.
In April 2015, three of my Columns of Thought were installed for permanent display in the entrance lobby of the Beverly Arts Center in Chicago. They continue to be on display there currently.
With the video-graphic assistance of Rytis Januska (TVS Digital Media) we have produced five YouTube videos dealing with each of the separate series of light sculptures. Links to these videos can be found on this website’s Video tab.
Columns of Thought are free-standing, independent, light-emitting structures, paralleling our own human existence.
Dreamscapes deals with the origins of dreaming, of fantasy, of creativity.
Color Symphony is a sequence of works where the primary investigation is how changing colors affect our visual perception.
Midwest Souls and Siberia Souls deal with immortality and remembering the past.
The videos are only three minutes long, and are quite entertaining and educational.
Illuminated Thoughts was the premier showing of almost two years of work on a new form of artistic expression. This exhibit consisted of 14 of my new art works, all LED light sculptures. The images were printed on three separate layers of polycarbonate to parallel the three layers of our own thought processes: conscious, subconscious and unconscious.
There are several difference sequences on display. Color Symphony and Dreamscapes address how our neurally-based color perception is markedly modified by changes in the background color of light.
The Souls series investigates immortality. In Chicago Souls, photographic portraits of Chicago residents from the 1890’s were incorporated in the images. In a sense, you can remain immortal if others remember you. Our memories are stored in our neural networks. These pieces include my own neural networks, brain waves and brain scans. They are an attempt to bring back to memory, back to life, individuals from the distant past.
In Siberia Souls a similar process takes place, but here the images are of my eight relatives who were deported from Lithuania to Siberia in the 1940’s by Stalin. The photographs were taken in Siberia.
This exhibit was on display from November 7, 2014 through February 2015, at the Beverly Arts Center, Chicago.
Aspirations / Contemplation, painting on canvas, 5 x 6 feet, Audrius V. Plioplys
The BRAIN-ART Initiative exhibit was very well received, and even was named Pick of the Week by the Chicago Tribune. The show ended at the Beverly Arts Center and moved to the University of Chicago hospitals. The title of the exhibit was changed to Galaxy of the Brain. This exhibit was displayed in the 2nd floor corridor link between the Duchossois Center for Advanced Medicine and the Center for Care and Discovery from November 1, 2014 through April 2015. The exhibit then moved to the 3rd floor link between the Knapp Center for Biomedical Discovery and the Gordon Center for Interactive Science, in May 2015 and continues to be on display there today.
The University’s art curator, Ms. Monica Hork, prepared a write-up for this exhibit which continues to be posted at the show. Here is the beautiful and poetic text:
Considering all the recent scientific and medical discoveries about the structure and function of the human brain, it is a timely subject ripe for creative exploration as well. This unique collection of work by 24 artists was organized by Audrius V. Plioplys in support of the BRAIN Initiative (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) and includes topics ranging from the artists whose ranks include neurosurgeons, stroke victims and caretakers who have much more than an aesthetic interest in the subject. This was originally exhibited as the BRAIN-ART Initiative at the Beverly Arts Center in Chicago.
Since art is more about interpretation than scientific accuracy, the images evoke conceptual abstraction and emotional interaction. Each work engages the audience with an idea that contains the essential ingredients of our humanness. The physiological brain is the mechanical center of our thoughts, our feelings, our senses, our memories, our motions and our individuality. Brain activity is used to determine that we are alive from birth to death. In that context, artists look for meaning beyond function. That open ended search carries the work of scientists and doctors to another level, the spiritual level where we find purpose in our existence.
That is why the artistic interpretation of the brain is so vital and matters so much. The connection between the brain and our being is like no other in the known universe. It is our personal galaxy.
The University of Chicago, Medicine & Biological Sciences, Healing Arts Program.
Carla Winterbottom, curator of the Beverly Arts Center, and Audrius V. Plioplys in front of Lia Cook’s hand woven piece, Connectome, which won first place in the BRAIN-ART Initiative exhibit. Photo credit Howard A. Ludwig, DNAinfo.
On October 17, 2014, DNAinfo published a review by Howard Ludwig about the BRAIN-ART Initiative. According to my daughter, this is an extremely “hip” online publication. This is a very nice article. A link to it can be found in the art reviews section of my website and electronically on the DNAinfo website: BRAIN-ART On the Move.
The electronic link also contains a five minute interview with Howard.
On October 16, 2014, the Chicago Tribune declared the art exhibit, BRAIN-ART Initiative, the Pick of the Week. October is Chicago Artists Month, with an extremely large number of gallery and museum shows. To be selected Pick of the Week is an incredible accomplishment.
The BRAIN Initiative is a US program providing an additional $100 million for brain research. It was announced by President Obama a year ago, and funding to research laboratories across this country was starting at the time of this exhibit.
The BRAIN-ART Initiative was a nation-wide competitive art exhibit which I organized. We had a very large number of submissions of superb art works. It was juried by Aron Packer of the Packer Schopf Gallery, who indeed had a difficult task. He selected 39 pieces by 33 artists.
Artists submitted works that investigate how our minds work, where thinking comes from, what is the origin of consciousness.
It is not only scientists who can shed light on how our minds function – artists can also do so. The exhibit ran through October 26, 2014 at the Beverly Arts Center, Chicago.
Neurology, published by the American Academy of Neurology, is the most widely read neurology publication in the world. Since appearing in January, 1951, it’s front cover was either plain green, or had a table of contents. With the January 1, 2013 issue, this 62 year tradition was broken with the appearance of my art work, Dreams / Explorations, and then once more on page 121.
At the request of the Academy, I allowed the use of this image for their own promotional purposes. Dreams / Explorations appeared in Academy advertisements for Neurology in subsequent issues, and in other publications. In fact, in most issues, it appeared several times.
In 2013, the average number of times a color image of Dreams / Explorations appeared in each issue was 2.1, and the average number of times a black and white image of this piece appeared was 4.2, for a total of 6.3 times per issue. The record breaking issue was the February 5, 2013 one, where Dreams / Explorations appeared 15 times, of which 9 were in color.
In 2013 and 2014 Dreams / Explorations was the unofficial logo of the Academy.
Valley Peacefulness, 4 x 8 ft, painting on canvas
The Center for Care and Discovery, the newly built University of Chicago hospital, recently commissioned an eight foot version of this piece. It has been installed on the seventh floor, and is one of 27 art works available for public viewing.
The exhibit was designed and collected in partnership with the Healing Arts Program which is committed to the restorative power of the arts at the hospital. The coordinator of this program, Ms. Monica Hork, wrote: “The forefront of medicine includes recognizing the importance of making patients, visitors and staff feel comfortable and supported in the environment. Art has many innate attributes that people respond to in a positive way.”
The piece itself is a highly transformed photograph of an image I had taken of a valley in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Intertwined in the image are my own electroencephalogram (brain wave) tracings while thinking of the art work of Johannes Vermeer. Musical elements from Handel’s Water Music are also incorporated. The visual and philosophic elements of tranquility, beauty and musical intonality are very appropriate for a healing environment.
This piece is part of the Metamorphosis series. Besides large scale versions, it is also available in a limited edition of 20, archival quality, prints on paper, 20 x 46 inches. Purchase information about this piece, and others, can be found in this website’s shop.
In the 1980′s I was represented by Fiterman Fine Arts in Minneapolis where I had individual art exhibits. The director of the gallery, Dolly Fiterman, purchased several of my pieces for her collection of contemporary art, which included Warhol, Lichtenstein and many works by Rauschenberg. Recently, she invited art curators from St. Thomas University in Minneapolis, to pick out pieces to add to their permanent collection. They chose two of my works, including Stone Time Line!
This installation was done in Grise Fiord, Ellesmere Island, in the high Canadian Arctic. This is the most northerly civilian settlement, and the most northerly of the Canadian islands. At high noon, on the Summer Solstice, in 1980, I placed seven stones, each one at the end of the shadow cast by the previous one. Hence the name, Stone Time Line.
When I asked the curator why she chose my pieces, she stated that the visual elements were exceptional, as was the philosophic content.
Transformations of this piece have been the visual basis for subsequent art works: Creative Thoughts / Tango and Ritual / Solstice (both are now also in the collection of St. Thomas University).
Kathy Czopek, Blue Frenzy, from St. Louis, Missouri; Kuzana Ogg, Khshathra, from Bakersfield, California; Dan Olvera, FREN Z, from Chicago; Cody Rounds, Pulse, from Mahwah, New Jersey; Candace Wark and Shirley Nannini, Tangled All in Blue 5, from Chicago.
The unveiling was part of Chicago’s EXPO ART WEEK. After refreshments, the Blue Man Group performed a special 15 minute show, and then unveiled the art works. These are all 10 x 10 feet in size, installed outside on the building’s southern wall. The plan is to have the pieces displayed for 3 years.
Blue Man Group 2013 Art Competition and Exhibit, Briar Street Theater, 3133 N. Halsted, Chicago, Illinois, September 20, 2013–indefinite
Here is my verbal description of the piece:
The joyful essence of the Blue Man Group comes from unbridled creativity, imagination, teamed up with humor. This creativity arises from the interactions of our neurons–the interplay of their immensely tangled processes, coupled with stored associations, memories. In Blue Consciousness there are multiple layers of my own neurons, brain scans, and brain wave tracings overlying a transformed photograph I took of a polar bear on Beechy Island, in the Canadian high arctic. The images in these layers span many decades of experience. The polar bear is surrounded by blue ice, blue skies, blue consciousness.
Today Oxford University Press published Michael Graziano’s book, Consciousness and the Social Brain. He is a professor of neuroscience at Princeton University, and is a highly accomplished scientist and author. In this book he presents a novel theory about the origin of consciousness.
Of note is the cover the book: Mirror Neurons. This is my 10 x 13 feet, wall mounted installation piece, which I described in a previous posting (please see below). It was installed in November, 2012, and continues to be on display at TB Studios in downtown Chicago.
A suite of my artist books from the late 1970′s and early 1980′s has found it’s way to this new contemporary art museum in southern France. The FRAC (Fonds Regional d’Art Contemporain) Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur building was designed by Kengo Kuma and opened on March 22, 2013. This city is located 100 km northeast of Marseilles. There is a large section of this museum dedicated to artist books, where my pieces are on permanent, public display. How my works traveled there, I have no idea. These books documented walks that I had performed and photographed in Washington DC and in Minnesota. Given that they document outdoor performances, it is appropriate to also consider them environmental art works.
With my art work evolving into conceptual installation pieces, which included windows, doors, mirrors, sound and light systems, a certain amount of theatricality was also evolving. In 1978 I corresponded with Samuel Beckett, who was living in Paris. I proposed that if he could write a play without actors, I could incorporate a recording of the text into one of my installation pieces. He was intrigued by the idea and wanted to collaborate, but at the time he was overwhelmed with commitments, and could not take on any new projects. Subsequent life events did not allow a resumption of this project.
In 1978 I had a chance to show slides and photographs of my art work to Ivan Karp, the director of the OK Harris gallery in Soho, New York. Along with Leo Castelli, Ivan Karp was the co-discoverer and promoter of Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, and Robert Rauschenberg, amongst many others. I do not recall how I was able to have this celebrity of contemporary art spend an hour with me. At the end of the hour, his comment was: “This is some of the most creative art work I have ever seen.”
However, there was a problem. Given that my art work had evolved into environmental installation pieces, he did not feel that he could easily sell them. This was a problem with installation art works in 1978, as it continues to be in 2013. One of the admired window/light pieces did appear on the front cover of the Mayo Clinic’s Mayo Alumnus magazine.
As part of the exhibit, Cosmic Consciousness, which took place in January and February, 2013, at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, University of Chicago, two large-scale paintings on canvas (10 x 20 feet in size) from the Origins series were displayed. Further information about these pieces, and detailed images, can be seen in this website’s on-line art gallery and in the Cosmic Consciousness YouTube video.
As part of the exhibit, Cosmic Consciousness, which took place in January and February, 2013, at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, University of Chicago, the four kinetic pieces of art, Whirling, were displayed. Further information about these pieces, and detailed images, can be seen in this website’s on-line art gallery and in the Cosmic Consciousness YouTube video.
ARC Gallery is celebrating their 40 year anniversary with an exhibit titled “Approaching 40.” Two of my pieces will be on display. In 1995, these same two works were shown at the ARC Regional II Exhibition. The show was judged by Mr. Richard Francis, the chief curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, who previously had been the curator of contemporary art at the Tate in London. 300 artists submitted art works, only 20 were selected. This 1995 exhibit led to individual exhibits of my work at ARC in 1997 and 2011.
Of note is the Canadian content in both of the pieces. One was an installation on Toronto’s Sunnyside beach, and the other in the Canadian high arctic. Both of these images were subsequently transformed and used in my large-scale paintings on canvas.
ARC Gallery and Educational Foundation
2156 N. Damen Ave.
Chicago, IL 60647
April 3 through April 27, 2013
Hours Wed to Sat 12-6 PM, Sun 12-4 PM
Opening reception Saturday, April 6, 4-7 PM
The exhibit of Chromodynamics, four large scale paintings on canvas, 5 x 12 feet in size, has been indefinitely extended at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, University of Chicago. On March 10, 2013, the smaller version prints on paper of this series were displayed in Navy Pier’s Crystal Ballroom. I was invited by the Consulate General of Lithuania to exhibit these pieces as part of the Lithuanian Independence Day celebrations.
Neurology, published by the American Academy of Neurology, is the most widely read and cited neurology publication in the world. Since appearing in January, 1951, it has always had a table of contents on the front cover. With the January 1, 2013 issue, this 62 year tradition was broken with the appearance of my art work, Dreams / Explorations on the front cover, and then once more on page 121.
Alvydas Pakarklis invited me along with other artists to participate in a flash art exhibit, at the studios of Tauras Bublys. The title of the exhibit is Reflections from the Bottom of a Well. I used my thought fragments to create the site-specific installation piece, Mirror Neurons.
Mirror neurons were first discovered by Italian neurophysiologists in the 1980′s. In studying the movement controlling neurons, in the cerebral cortex of monkeys, they found neurons that participated in active movements, such as reaching for an object. They also responded, in a similar electrophysiologic fashion, to monkeys seeing that same movement performed by another. This confirmed observation in animals and in humans, led to the concept that mirror neurons are responsible for us having empathy for others. If our neurons respond to our own activities, and similarly respond to activities we see performed by others, the network instantly produces empathic understanding. Thus, empathy emerges from networks of these mirror neurons. The “Theory of Mind” arose from these concepts. In clinical neurology, there are many theorists who feel that a deficiency in the functioning of mirror neurons may be a cause of autism. This link to autism is very speculative, but worthy of serious attention.
In creating this installation I wanted to include a sense of mirror actions and of movement. The elliptical loops suggest whirling, the course of planetary motion, the endless loops of reverberation within our own memories.
On June 9, 2012, the American Academy of Neurology had the grand opening of their new headquarters in downtown Minneapolis, on the western bank of the Mississippi River, across the street from the Guthrie Theater. They had requested that my art decorate this new building, which it does. That Saturday, the opening went from 6:30 PM to 9:00 PM.
The city of Minneapolis, totally independently of the Academy, organized a summer arts festival, along the Mississippi River, just a few steps away from the Academy building. This festival included visual arts, light installations, performances and live music, and was to continue, overnight, until sunrise.
The title of this art festival: Think and Wonder! It started on June 9 at precisely 9 PM!
The purpose of the Academy is to understand and treat disorders of the brain. For 35 years my art has dealt with thinking and consciousness. The opening of the new Academy headquarters, decorated with my art, ended at the same precise moment as the beginning of the Think and Wonder festival!
On June 9, 2012, the American Academy of Neurology had the grand opening of their new headquarters in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Academy is the largest organization of neurologists in the world. They moved the headquarters to downtown, on the western bank of the Mississippi River, across the street from the world-famous Guthrie Theater. (Sir Tyrone Guthrie had established the Stratford Festival of Canada and ran it for three seasons, prior to moving to Minneapolis. He is considered by many to be the father of Canadian theatre.)
I was requested to provide the art to decorate this five story building, which I did–a total of eight pieces, one of which is 5 x 12 feet in size. My art is displayed on each floor, and is the only art on display. The pieces are all placed in the most prominent locations. For me this is quite an honor!
The staff even re-named the floors from 2nd, 3rd, 4th to yellow, orange and red, depending on the color of the piece in the lobby.
A team from Minneapolis visited me in Chicago and video-taped me for almost six hours–to produce a six minute video! This can be seen on YouTube:
There are two large flat-screen TV sets on the main floor, one of which shows the YouTube, and the other my art works. These TV’s can be seen from the sidewalk, which is quite impressive, especially at night.
If you ever have a chance to visit Minneapolis, please do stop by the AAN. All of these pieces are on permanent display, and the Academy staff would be glad to show them to you. Just tell them I sent you!
The Brookfield Zoo, in Chicago, requested that I submit a proposal that would cover the topics of “environmentalism”, “sustainability”, mixed with “Chicago as a multi-cultural, immigrant community”. I submitted my work three weeks ago, and it was immediately accepted.
The piece will be printed and installed by the staff of the zoo before the end of June. At 6 x 20 feet in size, it will be one of several, displayed outdoors on a very long wall. Because of the high resolution of the image (1.4 GB), when actually walking by the piece, the detail will be quite magnificent (a detail is below).
Equally important is the narrative, which accompanies the piece:
No pesticides. No purchased fertilizers. For 500 years the Plioplys family, generation after generation, cultivated this land using natural, farm-produced materials. Totally agrarian, totally organic. The Plioplys homestead was and is located in Kazlu Ruda, Lithuania.
In the 1940′s, my great-grandfather, both grandfathers and one aunt were killed in cold blood, on this land, by occupying Soviet forces. A few miles away, in the city of Pilviskiai, a scene from the Lithuanian holocaust took place.
The ground is fertile.
To escape these war-atrocities, my parents, with hundreds of thousands of others, fled Europe for the safety of North America, and eventually settled in Chicago.
AVP May 2, 2012
The piece was installed in June 2012 and continues to be on display. It is located just south-east of the Roosevelt fountain, across from the Hamill family pet zoo.
Brookfield Zoo, 8400 W. 31st Str., Brookfield, IL 60513, 708-688-8000
The hippocampus is essential in memory processing. The pattern for the wall and ceiling installation is based on drawings of the human cerebral cortex, made by the Nobel prize winning neuroscientist, Ramon y Cajal, more than a century ago. The installed pieces are “thought fragments” which incorporate neuronal profiles, my own art works visually transformed, along with images of my own MRI brain scans and electroencephalograms while thinking various artistic topics. In many of these fragments, pieces of words emerge, just as our own verbal thought processes emerge from web-works of neuronal activity.
The wall installation is 13 x 32 feet in size (over 400 square feet) and the cylindrical conduit along the ceiling is almost 80 feet long, for an additional 240 square feet of interacting neurons. In this exhibit, the conduit serves as a metaphor for neuronally based information, which flows in and out of the hippocampus, to memory storage sites throughout the cerebral cortex. The hippocampus serves a central role in organizing memory storage.
It is in reference to our memories, our experiences, our self-reflections, that we as cognizant human beings emerge. In the wall installation, I purposefully designed a pair of “dancing neurons” performing a tango, and a joyful “swinging neuron” enjoying the moment. These details were included because this is not simply an illustration of neuronal networks, rather this is a denotation of us as human beings, enjoying life, enjoying others, engaged in social activities. It is because of these neurons, and the memories contained therein, that we emerge as individuals and as social beings.
The Neuro-Salon exhibit is from April 11 through May 4, 2012, Stubbins Studio Gallery, East Architecture Building, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia. With special thanks to Barbara Stafford for organizing this exhibit, and to Faraz Kamili for his assistance during the installation. Below, It Takes Two to Tango:
On Sunday, March 11, the Lithuanian Consulate, in Chicago, organized a festive day commemorating Lithuanian independence, in the tropical gardens of the Crystal Ballroom, Navy Pier, in downtown Chicago. Given the dour and bleak out-of-doors, in Chicago’s early March, this was a most pleasant reprieve. The day was filled with dancing, songs, food, drinks, performances, crafts demonstrations, and the obligatory political speeches. I was honored to be invited to display several of my art works during this festive event. The art exhibit was organized by Ms. Nora Ausra (dressed in white in the photo above) and included a total of 11 artists.
On February 18, the Child Neurology Foundation held it’s annual Mardi Gras fundraiser in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Christopher is a noted local fashion designer of Project Runway fame. These two fashion statements, along with an original print, sold at auction for a total of $3,300. It is wonderful that my artistic activities were able to raise funds to support child neurology research.
In the picture below, to the left is Dave Dahl, the noted Minneapolis TV weatherman, who was the master of ceremonies. Then myself, and Christopher. We are applauding the winning $1,800 bid for the dress.
Cubit, from the series Chromodynamics (2011)
John Wheeler (1911-2008) was a theoretical physicist who for most of his career worked at Princeton University. He collaborated with Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein. His graduate students included legendary figures Hugh Everett and Richard Feynman, amongst others. He personally coined the terms black hole, quantum foam, and wormhole.
In his recently published book, The Hidden Reality, Brian Green, a physics professor at Columbia University, describes a conversation that he had with John Wheeler in 1998: “I asked him what he thought the dominant theme in physics would be in the decades going forward…He put his head down, as if his aging frame had grown weary of supporting such a massive intellect. But now the length of his silence left me wondering, briefly,whether he didn’t want to answer or whether, perhaps, he had forgotten the question. He then slowly looked up and said a single word: Information.”
Wheeler was suggesting that the things we experience continuously, matter and radiation, are secondary manifestations of a more abstract and fundamental entity: information. Wheeler was not suggesting that matter and radiation are illusory, rather that they are material manifestations of something more basic. (Parallels with Plato’s teachings are stunning!)
With Peter Gray, early next year, we will be having a large installation of site-specific art works, at the Lubeznik Center for the Arts, in Michigan City, Indiana. Appropriately, the title of the exhibit will be: Informatika.
In many European languages informatika means informatics, which in turn means information science.
Matvei Petrovich Bronstein and his 1936 equations on a background of quantized chromodynamics.
In trying to understand the essence of the world, of our own physical existence, theoretical structures that describe the forces of nature have been defined. Attempting to unify the fundamental forces has been the primary activity of many physicists, for many decades. These efforts have led to the development of string theory, and the possibility of multiple universes, including parallel ones. The primary challenge in these efforts has been to incorporate the force of gravity.
One leader in trying to quantize gravity was Matvei Petrovich Bronstein (1906-1938). In a landmark 1936 article he wrote:
“The elimination of the logical inconsistencies … requires a radical reconstruction of the theory (Einstein’s theory of general relativity)…with quantities which are unobservable in principle, and perhaps also the rejection of our ordinary concepts of space and time, replacing them by some much deeper and non-evident concepts.”
He was suggesting a total restructuring of Einstein’s theories, and the formation of entirely new concepts of space and time.
On August 1, 1937, he was arrested in Kiev, and was accused of counterrevolutionary activity. All of the charges were false. He was imprisoned, and after a summary 20 minute trial, on February 18, 1938, he was executed by firing squad that same day.
While in prison he was well remembered by the few prisoners who survived. Not only did he distract the inmates with discussions about time, but he knew an extremely large number of poems, which he would recite.
Bronstein was interested in teaching science and authored several children’s books, Solar Matter, The X Rays and Inventors of Radiotelegraph. All of these books were eventually published.
His widow, Lydia Chukovskaya, was a writer and prominent human rights activist. She kept the memory of her husband alive. To commemorate the 400 year anniversary of the first scientific discoveries by Galileo, a symposium was convened about the origins of gravity. This meeting took place in 1991 in the Sicilian city of Erice, and was sponsored in part by the World Federation of Scientists. It was during this meeting that the accomplishments of Bronstein were presented to universal acclaim. The members of he Federation were so moved that they immediately established the Matvei Bronstein Scholarship, their second named scholarship. The first one was named after Andrei Sakharov.
Bronstein’s tragic history at the hands of Stalin’s genocidal forces, is in keeping with my own concern to commemorate the 70 year anniversary of the beginnings of mass deportations by Stalin to Siberia. Matvei Bronstein’s death is as senseless as the deaths of many millions others. The Hope and Spirit program that I organized is an attempt to educate the general public about these horrific events.
In fact, what was his crime? His surname was Bronstein, the same surname that Leon Trotsky had before changing it. Stalin was actively pursuing and killing anyone who may be sympathetic to Trotsky.
Further information can be found in Matvei Petrovich Bronstein and Soviet Theoretical Physics in the Thirties, by Gennady Gorelik and Victor Frenkel.
Thoughts on a Beach, from the Metamorphosis series, 2011
It was during medical school at the University of Chicago, that I became overtaken by the love of art—I created oil paintings, visited art galleries and museums, and studied the history of art. Over four years, the passion for art grew so strong, that after completing internship, I had to leave medicine entirely, and dedicate myself to art. During internship my one year’s salary was $10,000. I saved every penny and lived like a church mouse, so that I could start my career in art.
During the years that were fully dedicated to art, I had many exhibits and received favorable reviews. I also studied the accomplishments of the Lithuanian painter and composer M. K. Ciurlionis. I made many original discoveries which were published at the time, and eventually were included in my book Ciurlionis: Mintys / Thoughts. My full-time commitment to art lasted three years, at which point I realized that I was not using my talents in neurology. I wanted to help others overcome their illnesses and disabilities. I then started neurology training at the Mayo Clinic and combined my art with my neuroscience interests.
I saved the typewriter ribbons that I had used to write my Ciurlionis manuscripts. In 1987, while working at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, I placed some of the ribbons on Sunnyside beach, on the shore of Lake Ontario. On the typewriter ribbon the letters that I typed can be seen and read–my thoughts, moment to moment, were fully documented and could be reconstructed. A photograph of this outdoor instalation was transformed to create Thoughts on a Beach. The original photograph was:
Mass Execution, from the Metamorphosis series, 2011
While working at the Mayo Clinic, I decided to investigate one particular site of the wars between Native Americans and the US Army. The Sioux Uprising (also known as the Dakota War of 1862, and Little Crow’s War) took place during the last few months of 1862. During these battles, over 1,000 Sioux were captured and imprisoned in Minnesota jails. On December 26, 1862, 38 Sioux men were simultaneously executed. This was and remains the largest mass execution in US history. The gallows that were built to hang all of these men simultaneously, was the largest gallows ever built in US history.
In 1980 it was very difficult to locate the site of this execution. I had to rely on historical documents. There were no road signs to find this location, there was no historical marker. All that I could find was grass growing in the lawn, in front of a farm house, near Mankato, Minnesota. This is the black and white photograph that I took:
This photograph was transformed, metamorphosed, into Mass Execution. The image of the serpent rising from the blood soaked earth was intentional.
On the large side, many astronomers estimate the diameter of our universe is approximately 1028 meters.
On the small side, are the hypothesized strings of string theory. Their size is approximately that of the Planck length, 10-35 meters.
Combining these lengths together, results in 10-7 meters, or 100 nanometers (nm). This length is comparable to many subcellular organelles that provide structure and function to our neurons. Ribosomes, which read messenger RNA and create all the proteins in our bodies, are 20 nm in size. Microtubules, which provide cellular structure and movement, are 25 nm in diameter. Synaptic vesicles, which are the basis of all neuronal communication, are 40 nm in size.
Thus, between the two extremes of size in our universe, midway between the large and the small, are dimensions compatible with basic neuronal structural entities. These subcellular organelles provide the mechanisms for neuronal function, which in turn result in the emergence of our own thoughts, our own consciousness.
Culture / Center / Memory (pigmented ink print on canvas, 5 X 12 feet, 2011)
The underlying transformed photograph in this piece deals with the basic foundation from which our culture, our civilization, and our art—emerge. In this piece the three boulders are located at the geographic center of Europe, just outside of Vilnius, Lithuania. Our western culture has emerged from European foundations.
Quite fittingly, this piece is currently on display as part of To Lithuania with Love exhibit, at the ARKA gallery in Vilnius. This gallery is one of the leading contemporary art galleries, and is operated by the Lithuanian Artists’ Association. This exhibit will travel to several art museums across Lithuania.
The six pieces of the Memory series have emerged from previous works. Drawings of neurons were subtracted from the background color, revealing deeper layers of underlying art works, underlying thoughts and memories. The images were photographic pieces that I had extensively transformed. From neuronal complexity, thoughts, words and philosophy emerge.
My own MRI brain scan images and electroencephalogram (EEG, brain wave) tracings are incorporated. The scans and tracings appear in multiple locations in each art work—very subtly present and difficult to find, but discoverable. These art works have emerged from my own brain’s structural organization, from my own brain’s electrical activity.
In this series image coloration, intensity, and lustre were modified. These changes correspond to the modifications that take place in our own memories as we recall them. Whenever we remember past events, current events modify them, such that subsequently we recall them differently. Our memories continuously change as they are recollected. An analogous process took place in the Memory series.
A notable visual effect is the 3-dimensional canvas surface. When looking at the works at a sharp angle, the neuronal profiles protrude outwardly. The appearance is similar to that of veins on your hand. This 3-dimensional surface gives the pieces a palpable, living, biologic quality. This occurred because the drying process of the EFI VUTEk GS3200, high definition printer.
Four pieces in this series have intrinsic Canadian roots, the red, purple, blue and green pieces: http://www.plioplys.com/memory.php. In each case the underlying photographs were of outdoor installations that I had created in the Canadian high arctic: Great Slave Lake (Northwest Territories), Cornwallis Island, Cambridge Bay on Victoria Island, and Gris Fiord on Ellesmere Island (all three located in Nunavut).
Theological Thoughts from the Neurotheology sequence
The University of Chicago Press has just published a new book entitled: A Field Guide to a New Meta-Field: Bridging the Humanities-Neurosciences Divide, edited by Barbara Maria Stafford. I was honored by Anne Benvenuti’s and Elizabeth Davenport’s request to contribute an image to their chapter in this book, “The New Archaic: a Neurophenomological Approach to Religious Ways of Knowing.” A reproduction of Theological Thoughts appears on page 220.
As with many of my art works, there is underlying Canadian content. The transformed photograph used was that of St. John’s Anglican Church on Humberside Avenue in West Toronto, just a few blocks from where I grew up. When I was nine years old, during summer, a neighborhood friend took me across the grounds of Humberside Collegiate Institute, and showed me the church he and his family attended. I was utterly astounded to learn that the services were conducted differently from what I was accustomed to, and that there were no confessionals, and no confessions! My Roman Catholic, Baltimore Cathechism education indicated that eternal damnation was assured. However, he was a friend of mine, and we spent the summer together quite nicely, with no appearance of any form of damnation. This was a mind-transforming event in my life.
Full-size, archival-quality prints on canvas of this image (5 x 6 feet in size) are on permanent display at:
Pritzker School of Medicine, first floor entrance lobby
Donnelley Biological Sciences Building
University of Chicago
924 E. 57 Street
Chicago, IL 60637 and
Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture
6500 S. Pulaski Rd.
Chicago, IL 60629
Mindscapes was an exhibit of large scale art works on canvas, and site-specific installation pieces. This exhibit took place at the Beverly Art Center in Chicago, from February 11 through March 20, 2011. Four of the large scale art works have remained at the Center as permanent displays.
As part of this exhibit, a site-specific installation piece Thought Fragments was displayed. This sequence consists of 4 wall mounted pieces, each 8 x 9 feet in size. Over 1,000 fragments of thoughts, fragments of my own previous art works, were used. The fragments are very irregular in size and shape, approximately 4 x 5 inches on average. They were made by dry mounting previous art works on canvas, onto matting board, and then cutting them to various sizes.
The colors of Thought Fragments include the primary colors (red, blue and yellow) and the secondary colors (orange, purple and green). Most of the pieces also include fragments of words.
The distribution of the fragments corresponded to cosmic patterns. Edwin Hubble (a University of Chicago alumnus, class of 1910) pioneered the study of galaxies. He defined the four basic types—elliptical, spiral, barred spiral, and irregular. Each of the four Thought Fragments installations corresponds to one of these galactic types. He also discovered that the universe is expanding, and that there was a big bang.
The Thought Fragments series is my first artistic attempt at bridging our own consciousness to that of galactic-scale existence. Perhaps it is not a coincidence that in our own central nervous system, we have 100 billion neurons, that in our Milky Way galaxy there are 100 billion stars, and with Hubble Space Telescope results, there are 100 billion galaxies.
During the opening of the Mindscapes exhibit, people were invited to take pieces of the installation “Piece of My Mind” as a gift. By the end of the evening I become mindless.
You can watch this happen on the YouTube video which you can access through this website:
Constraints / Freedom from the Emergence series
Over the past decade, my art work has concentrated on using transformed photography as a basis for the visual images. In our memories we have an extremely large number of visual images, but there are no file cabinets of photographs in our heads. The images have been totally transformed into neuronal networks. Similarly, I transform the images into exotic and indecipherable forms, in many cases using proprietary techniques. Multiple layers of different images are assembled, modified and blended using photoshop techniques.
In my work, the underlying concepts, ideas are of paramount importance. Visual appearance and attractiveness are important considerations, but they are secondary to the primary purpose of the content. This is a new definition of conceptual art, neo-conceptual, in that the underlying concepts are of central importance, yet the images themselves must be attractive, appealing and compositionally strong. This neo-conceptual art does not deny the image it’s importance.