Recently, I have been working with home-brewed CNC-based plotting and milling machines. Initially, the plotter was simply a means to test the progress of the milling machine during the building and design stages, but I recognized it for what it was: an opportunity to address drawing in my work that is consistent with my my current investigations.From this home-brewed drawing machine, I recently produced a series of drawings titled the Audubon Series. This series of drawings, using maker on painted panel, utilizes John James Audubon’s seminal text Birds of America, sampled and remixed, as a point of departure. Similar to Audubon’s own format for the drawings- one for the small songbirds and another for larger birds- there are two series of drawings within my Audubon Series of works, the Birds of Prey and Domestic Camouflage series.
In Richard Rhode’s biography, John James Audubon, he speaks of Audubon’s intention for the illustrations and justification for the killing of the birds used as specimens:
He had more in mind than simply scientific illustration: he meant to make art. Art, an older discipline than science, would substitute its reverberant verisimilitude for the life the bird had lost, revivifying it just as he had fantasized as a child. Restoring life to the inanimate was an emerging theme in the cultural dialogue of the day, a hope projected perhaps from the transforming success of technology; the same decade saw the publication (1818) of Mary Shelley’s ambivalent fantasy Frankenstein, in which electricity is the revivifying medium.
The process of the drawing machine, along with the subject matter of this series of drawings, draws parallels, visually and conceptually, in line with the way Rhode’s describes Audubon’s intention. Just as Audubon was responding to the transformative power of technology amidst his desire to document and categorize birds, I, too, hope these drawings, and the process of their making, question the relationship between the living and the inanimate, and, furthermore, the digital and analog. This work is intended to raise questions of authenticity and ownership, while challenging assumptions about the role of the hand within the making of art, blurring the distinction between hand and machine.