June 2024 – Print of the Month Club

“Sentimental I & II” June 2024 selection for Print of the Month Club

This is the June 2024 offering for Patreon Print of the Month Club. These images are part of the ”1943” digital collages.  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 similar elements.  It is $15. a month to subscribe and that includes postage and handling for the monthly print sent directly to you.

You can join here:

https://patreon.com/davidnormal

If you would like to order a specific past print from the series, please contact me at:

davidnormal (at) gmail.com

About the “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?

Totems of Dystopia

Interactive 3D printed totem poles of dystopic futurism.

Based on my “Virtual Assemblage” technique of 3D junk sculpture, and building on the mechanics and interactivity of my popular Cathenge “Catolith” Cat Statues (cathenge.net), the “Totems of Dystopia”, would be a set of (3) 10′ tall 3D printed totem poles arrayed in a triangle. Within this array is a zone of intricate interactivity facilitated by the use of LiDAR (as deployed successfully in Cathenge) that triggers a collage of sound samples and lighting effects. The goal is to create an atmosphere of beautifully unsettling discord and majestic suspense that is both fascinating and cathartic to the audience.

The images below are quick 3D sketches that are “for example” and are not the finished design. Potentially, they will be 3 individually different totem poles. Also, the color and finish in the render is only provisional – the finished work would be painted and illuminated differently. The specific details of this project are to be determined, but these images, and the brief text give an idea of the projects style and concept.

Miami Art Basel: David Normal’s Futuristic Installations

Documentary and Interview by Julia Schroeder

In December of 2023, I brought artwork to Art Basel Miami for the first time. It did not go unnoticed! Art historian and videomaker, Julia Schroeder, spotted it and approached me about doing a short video about my work. Over the Spring of 2024, we conducted a number of interviews and sifted through project documentation and last Friday, June 21st, the finished video popped up on the web.

It focuses on my adventure of bringing the Kittolith to Miami Art Week and displaying it in The Maze installation at Hotel Faena’s beachfront. Full story here.

Ride ’em Snailboy!!

Lately, in my sparetime I’m working on these “Virtual Assemblages” – preparing these 3D junk sculptures to be 3D printed.

I couldn’t resist doing a new render of this.

Snail Cowboy

Kittoliths Grow Up To Be Catoliths

Refurbished Catoliths with new bases and “KISS” (Kittolith Interactive Sound System) adapted to the Catolith

It’s only natural that cats should have kittens, and plastic cat statues should therefore have their progeny too. The Coven of Catoliths gave birth to a Litter of Kittoliths.

After 5 years of design and production I feel that the Catolith is at last nearing its potential. The newly refurbished Catoliths that were just installed at KALW with their LiDAR based interactivity, battery operation, independent control via Raspberry Pi computer, and lighter more mobile wooden base actually exceed what I imagined for this artwork 5 years ago.

Below is a table showing the progression of techniques from one iteration of Cathenge to the next.

The Vision of Cathenge

From the beginning, the vision of Cathenge and of the Catolith Cat Statue has been exceedingly difficult to realize because it combines lighting effects and interactivity in very specific ways and is dependent on the large format 3D printing to achieve. However, each installation of Cathenge succeeded in communicating this vision in different ways, but never completely to my satisfaction, and that’s why I have continued working on the project.

The goal has been to express the concept of “Holofelinity: Universal Cat Consciousness”. Holofelinity is the magical power of the Ancient Lyran Space Cats to manifest their minds over matter and to transform themselves into any shape. This is expressed in the artwork as “Harmonic Purring” (AKA; “Purrbration of Holofelinity”), an evocation of the capacity of the Space Cats to purr their visions into material form.

Ancient Lyran Space Cat materialized as Bastet idol levitating pyramid using chromatic spectra of the Purrbration of Holofelinity.

The Kittolith

In order to reach this goal, it was instrumental to create a smaller version of the Catolith, the “Kittolith”:

The Kittolith at Miami Art Week

Because the Kittolith presents as a single statue instead of a circle of statues (as in Cathenge) it has been necessary to condense the interactive harmonic purring system into one sculpture. This has been done using LiDAR. People interact with the LiDAR beam extending from the collar of the Kittolith and trigger different frequencies (“Solfeggio Tones”). The infographic below shows how the Kittolith works with the use of Solfeggio sound healing tones:

From Kittolith to Catolith

The “Kittolith Interactive Sound System” (KISS) was adapted for use in the Catolith. The photo gallery below documents our process of creating the New Catolith. Essential to this process was the design and construction of a new wooden base for the Catolith.

CAD drawing of wooden Catolith base

This new, lighter base not only facilitates a wider range of possibilities of exhibitions because of its much reduced weight (compared to the previous concrete bases), but also resolves acoustic issues since the wooden base acts as a ported speaker cabinet for the subwoofer installed in the base. Below is a gallery of photos of the new Catolith and its new base under construction:

Opening Tues. June 11th: The Catoliths at KALW Studio Gallery!!

Group Show featuring:

Exhibition Opening and Live Broadcast Panel discussion with the artists moderated by Ben Trefny:

5 – 7 PM (doors open at 5, discussion at 6)
Tuesday, June 11th
KALW
220 Montgomery St., SF, CA 94104
Admission free – All ages

The exhibition will be up through August 1st 2024.

(Eventbrite link at bottom of page to reserve free tix)

Public broadcasting station, KALW, recently moved their radio station’s studios to the heart of San Francisco’s financial district where they reside in the ground floor lobby of the historic Mills Building located at 220 Montgomery (Montgomery and Bush). The spacious lobby provides a new and exciting arts and events space. KALW executive director, Ben Trefny, is curating a series of art exhibits in the lobby.

The KALW lobby space features large storefront windows looking out on busy Montgomery St. which are a perfect place to perch the Catoliths. Two Catoliths will be placed, one in each large window, on either side of the entrance to the radio station where they will be seen by motorists and pedestrians alike, and, of course, by visitors to the station. These Catoliths will feature their hallmark interactive purring (Purrbration of Holofelinity).

For further info about the Catoliths, Cathenge, and the lore of the Lyran Space Cats visit cathenge.net

Cathenge by David Normal
Infinity Box by Matt Elson
Sculpture by Brenden Darby
Painting by Jesse Pemberton

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.

May 2024 – Print of the Month Club

Print of the Month for May 2024:  1943 Series Collages

This is the May 2024 offering for Patreon Print of the Month Club. These images are part of the ”1943” digital collages.  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 similar elements.  It is $15. a month to subscribe and that includes postage and handling for the monthly print sent directly to you.

You can join here:

https://patreon.com/davidnormal

If you would like to order a specific past print from the series, please contact me at:

davidnormal (at) gmail.com

About the “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?

“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”.