Sonnets – Illustrated with AI (MidJourney)

Since 2022 I have been writing sonnets. A total of 45 to date. I’ve been experimenting a little bit with using the sonnets, or phrases from the sonnets, as prompts for AI art program, MidJourney.

I’ve taken the results from 4 of these experiments and overlaid the entire sonnet. I’m not completely satisfied with this. For me, so far, making stuff with MidJourney (of the various LLM image generators MJ is the only one I’ve worked with, but I have experimented pretty extensively), is semi-random. I toss in phrases and other parameters, and the bot spits out its many different interpretations. I don’t think it has much capacity for metaphor, simile, or narrative. I guess what I am really experimenting with is how to test what capacity it has for these qualities of poetic language.

I’d like these experiments in illustrating poetry with AI generative art, to lead to a curated use of poetic language in an interactive and immersive theatrical context where the audience can explore the poetic vision and help evolve it through their participation. I’m not being very specific here, but I guess you (or I) could enter the preceding sentence into ChatGPT and ask it to expand on the topic.

IXX.

Behold the elephant bearing many dreams!
He farts profoundly and expands very greatly
Consciousness that floats like incense streams!
Like strings of pearls! Like jewels beheld innately!
Like harem girls spinning tales spoken ornately
Of a certain Sultan they served exclusively,
Who, arriving a little drunk, and only very lately,
Ad-libs an odd soliloquy spoken effusively,
“Death is but a mirage!” he states conclusively.
Tottering, his ivory tower trembles and it cracks
And across shimm’ring sands he stumbles elusively –
Like a drunken elephant covering up his tracks.
The fleeting visions of distant lands so strange to remember,
Like warming your hands by the glow of an incense ember.

XXVI.

Jealous wind sweeping away grieving sand
Revealing her sleight of a severed hand
Clasping the eyeball of his mountain mortal
Where shadow castles loom ungrateful grand.
Clown bordello cum unanimous chortle
Of troglodytes ‘pon the spacetime portal
Encucumbered by mystic contraband
Shameless gender-bender gerrymand.
Gothchick debauchka stylishly putrid –
Creature teacher’s pet beyond reprimand.
Dimestore detective lust pinup lurid
Half-eaten sandwitch word salad stupid.
As for his victims she left them nameless,
For her achievements he was but blameless.

XXX.

Die countless deaths – love’s not mummified!
On the contrary, love is glorified
To persist beyond all earthly bounds.
Love is the essence of life electrified!
Music of the spheres, all celestial sounds,
Hooting of night owls, baying of sad hounds,
All sing the song of death inevitable –
And dance the mortal dance incredible!
Splendor that subverts the rule of reason –
Vainglorious love inestimable!
Every flower has its own season,
And each lover commits some small treason
To just live or justly die for something –
Loving someone, somewhere, somehow, some dumb thing.

XXXIII.

Count each grain of sand, the joys of springtide!
Inner conflicts wrestle as we sit ringside
Reminiscing, wagering, who did stand
And who was blinded and who fell tongue-tied.
Prophets and exiles of that promised land
Where milk, honey –  even heroin – grew bland.
Like ghosts smoking cigars of the good life –
Gimcrack pulp fiction superpower strife –
We wander and wonder and mostly muddle,
Mix things up, mistake your best friend’s wife
For a beluga, or platypus to cuddle.
With strange bedfellows we conspire and huddle
To gravely confound the New World Order
And hail Jupiter from Ganymede’s border.

Pulp and Circumstance

“Pulp and Circumstance” is the title I gave to a set of collages made in the winter of 2017-18. Life’s circumstances had led me to recoil from the outer world and retreat into the haven of collage. I made most of these collages laying in bed using (miracle of technology) a “Wacom Mobile Studio Pro” graphics tablet. I surfed the web for old pulp magazine covers and similar illustrations to use as source material, and worked up one design after another which I posted on my Instagram profile as soon as they were ready.

I’ve always been enamored of the pulp magazines; sci-fi, detective, and otherwise, and otherwise. The sheer fecundity of the outpouring of imagination into these cheaply printed publications is astonishing, and the imagery, with that hunky-dory all-American robustness, has a certain homogeneity which I find useful for the “seamless” style of collage that I favor. What I mean by “seamless” is that the finished collage looks as though it is not a collage at all, but the illustration work of one artist. A successful example of this is “Insanity Claws” a kind of Norman Rockwell-like Xmas satire:

“Insanity Claws”, digital collage, 2017

This image combined the cover of a sleaze paperback novel about a Parisian prostitute with a saccharine vintage Christmas Eve image of an elfin Santa beaming over a couple of small children sleeping innocently in a green easy chair. A lot of careful retouching had to be done to get the girl to fit in the chair. I added the Freddy Krueger style fish-knife gloves, and replaced the children’s book illustrations with kinky porn images. The result is a pretty “seamless” collage that gives the illusion of being the vintage relic of one demented illustrator of yesteryear.

Print of the Month Club – May 2024

Print of the Month for May 2024:  1943 Series Collages

I’m revamping my Patreon Print of the Month Club program with a new series and concept and larger prints on better paper.  These images are part of the ”1943” digital collages.  For the next year, each month Patreon “Print of the Month” subscribers will receive an 8.5 x 11 in. print on Moab Entrada Natural cotton rag paper.  The print will feature two collages with variations of the same elements.  It is $15. a month to subscribe and that includes postage and handling.

You can join here:

https://patreon.com/davidnormal

“1943” – Collage Series

During the Pandemic, my friend and collector, Josh “Doggy” Norman, gave me a stack of old LIFE Magazines all from the year 1943. Of course, in ’43 the world was plunged into the depths of WWII – the Germans surrendered at Stalingrad, The Japanese defeated at Guadalcanal, and, in the Fall of ’43, after the resignation of Mussolini, Italy made a truce with the Allied Forces.
Even as the war seemed to turn in America’s favor, at home, and certainly in the pages of LIFE Magazine, nothing was certain. It is strange to view this era through the looking glass of its advertising because the advertisers, whose stock and trade is illusion, swing fervently between efforts at buoying up an All-American status quo that is faltering*, propagandizing against the enemy, and rallying the citizenry – especially the women whose men were fighting overseas – to patriotism and sacrifice. It is difficult for me not to feel a poignant empathy for this time, the generation of my grandparents, and the period in which my own parents were born. Despite all the many momentous things that have happened since then – atomic power, space travel, political and cultural revolutions, computers and the internet – 1943 is not a year from the distant past. Not only are the cultural values expressed in these images still relevant, but the entire world continues to feel the consequences – good and bad – from this momentous period.
Yet, in making these collages I have not sought to make a statement of any kind. Rather, I just sought to playfully re-combine the imagery of the period into new configurations that evoke the dream of the collective consciousness (or “unconsciousness” – if you will) of America. Nor did I create the images to be static finished pieces, rather the images are what I would call “instances” of imagery as though they were just stills of a film (or perhaps keyframes of an animation). For this reason the work remains “Work in Progress”, or as my hero, machine artist, Jean Tinguely, would put it: “Remains static in motion”.

*Has the American “Status Quo” ever actually existed?

1943 Print of the Month Club Series

The 1943 Collage series is being offered in monthly installments as part of my Patreon Print of the Month Club. If you like these images then please subscribe. Starting now (May 2024), For $13. a month you will receive an image from the 1943 series for the next year. Actually, to be precise you receive one print that features the selected image in two states. For example; May’s “Print of the Month” shows the interrelated collages “Save Me!” and “Bottled Right at the Spot”:

Hellmouth – 3D Sketches

Here are some initial 3D assemblages for the “Hellmouth”.
Hmm . . . So far it doesn’t look so hellish does it? That’s because it ‘s just a start. I made the cubicle gate inspired by the Mayan design, and now I’m adding various models as I experiment with different designs. I think what’s needed is some teeth and an overall face to tie it together.

Virtual Assemblages

This is a collection of “turntable” renders (mostly) of what I would describe as 3D junk sculptures. These models are made from free models recombined into novel forms. Making these models was a technical exercise in using volume modeling with voxels and that technique makes them “solid” for 3D printing. My goal is to print these models and then prepare them to be cast in bronze, or in some cases finished by different means. One way or another my plan is to create a series of real world sculptures based on “Virtual Assemblages”.

Virtual Assemblage, “Trailer Alien”, 3D print test.
“TV Goddess”
“Sphinx”
“Scorpion Gymnast”
“Reptile Temple”
“Sardine Can”
“Jitter Bug”
“Fatman Tongue”
“Carriage”
“Geometric Angel”
“Angelic Evolution”

“Hellmouth” – The Gates of “Becab” the Mayan Earth Monster

I am interested in doing other things besides Cathenge (those of you who know me know that I have spent the past six years mostly on Cathenge).  However, over the past 1.5 years I have taken three trips to Mexico and and have been inspired by the Mayan temples and other Meso-American art that I’ve seen there. Especially, the “Becab Gates” that I saw in the temples at Xpujil made an impression on me. 

It was my second trip to the Yucatan in February of 2024. I rented a car at the Cancun airport and drove to Xpujil, a jungle town at the base of the Yucatan Peninsula not too far from the Guatemalan Border. This is certainly the heartland of the Maya and it’s a long drive from Cancun to get to this remote area, but Mexico is working mightily to change that situation with the installment of the epic Maya Train, a train to start in Palenque, Chiapas and encircle the entire Yucatan Peninsula.

Maya Train Construction – Typical Activity – Station in Progress at Xpujil, Campeche

It so happened that my road trip was right in the midst of this enormous infrastructure project and the road was full of an endless procession of work trucks barreling down the highway (to be passed in the – not for the feint of heart – “let’s-play-chicken” style of the Mexican thoroughfares). The armies of Mexican workers are busy carving a long swath through the Yucatan Jungle – the largest New World jungle outside of the Amazon – to encircle the entire Yucatan peninsula with a modern railway system. The Yucatan is basically a vast flat outcropping of limestone, and so these trucks were filled with white chalk that they all seemed to be hauling somewhere – I know not where, but presumably it’s a buyer’s market for limestone in Mexico now. I hadn’t really thought it through that my effort to see these remote ruins before the Maya Train got to them would bring me directly into the most fervent and busy construction and that it would not be pleasant to be around. By the time I got to Xpujil I was exhausted, but eager to make my rounds of the temples.

Gates of Becab at Hormiguero Ruins near Xpujil, Campeche, Mexico
Gate of Becab at Chicanna Ruins near Xpujil, Campeche, Mexico.

My goal was to visit Calakmul – the largest and most remote Mayan Ruins in Mexico, but I got started by visiting a few of the ruins closest to Xpujil. Despite the clamor of construction all around these ancient ruins were utterly tranquil within. First I visited the ruins of Chicanna and had the entire place completely to myself for hours – there simply was no one else there except the custodian at the gate. Then I visited Becan (an extensive site full of tall pyramids to climb!), and by the time I got back to town I could barely walk (due to plantar fasciitis and was exhausted and knew that I was getting sick. I could not make it out of my hotel room until the mid afternoon the next day when I, somewhat deliriously, drove 25+ km into the jungle to visit the ruins called “Hormiguero“.

At Hormiguero I once again had the luxury of solitary communion with the ancient ruins, and it was here that I was impressed with the gaping visage of the Mayan elemental earth deity, The Earth Monster Becab. In my feverishness I photographed for the second time in two days this enigmatic figure of Becab. The possibilities of archaic ritual drama, of dances and sacrifices, enflame even the most tepid imagination when beholding these weird monuments. But it was more than imagination which overtook me in the remote ruins of Hormiguero, it was an atavistic call from this primordial spirit to my peculiarly sensitive nature, capable of hearing and understanding such chthonic voices in telepathic reverie. I knew then that Becab was displeased with the Maya Train wounding and gouging his limestone dominion immemorial, and it was this audience with a displeased and mostly forgotten and ignored old Mayan god that in fact sickened me.

The illness receded long enough for me to make my way back home, through Tulum, to Cancun, Mexico City and back home to San Francisco. Upon my return I became intensely ill with a high fever, and though it was likely Covid 19 (update: it has been recently diagnosed as a prostate infection). Yet I have known that it was more than a mere physical ailment: It is the Curse of Becab! In ancient times I suppose that the sacrifice of a virgin girl might have resolved everything, but that’s not an option for me. To placate Becab I must make a work of art that is inspired by this God of the Underworld. So I resolved to make a “Hellmouth” inspired by the Mayan Architecture.

Detail of The Mouth of Hell, from the book of Hours of Catherine of Cleves, 1440

Of course a “Hellmouth” is a distinctly Medieval European Christian motif, but I will fuse this idea with the Mayan style, and the spirit of Becab.

In the coming days I will be making some initial 3D visualizations of the “Hellmouth” I wish to make.  This will draw on the basic geometry of the Mayan design, but the decorative embellishments will draw upon more Medieval iconography fused with Pop sensibility.  This eclectic fusion is an example of “Crazyology” and I will overtly tout this project as a work of “Crazyology”. I have it in mind to propose this to one of the Burning Man “regional” festivals that I understand is working with the theme “Underworld”.

3D Printing Lab in West Oakland

Since the end of February, my main priority has been getting the studio in Oakland together.  Getting the 3D printers working reliably has been a major push that my tech, Bill Crashkopf, has helped me with extensively.  The printing room itself didn’t have enough electricity to run all the printers, but Bill finished running (2) 20A circuits this week, so finally (!!) we can begin printing.

Bill Crashkopf finishes wiring electrical for the 7 Creality CR 10 S5 printers installed in my new print lab in West Oakland.

At the moment there is no urgency to print cat parts, and so I’m eager to turn my attention to printing “Virtual Assemblages” based on these models:

https://photos.app.goo.gl/PUSfnPw7DZRbsfj28

As I’ve often said, the big advantage to being in Oakland vs. Stinson Beach is access to other artists/technicians.  The Crucible, for example, is right around the corner from here and once I have a couple of these printed satisfactorily I will bring it to a foundry to see about having these printed in bronze. I’m not aware of anything like the Crucible in West Marin.

Here’s an initial test print of a “Trailer Alien” assemblage:

“Trailer Alien”, WIP – test print of “Virtual Assemblage”

The Trailer Alien is an example of a 3D printed “Virtual Assemblage” (a junk sculpture made from junk 3D models downloaded for free from the web and recombined/remodeled to be 3D printed)