Being in graduate school for fine art, I am constantly asked to identify contemporary artists whose work inspires me, my heroes of current art. Shawn Brixey is a name that always ends up making an appearance on my list. In the piece pictured above, he converted the sound of voices reading poetry into a beam of light. This alone is unremarkable considering a great deal of the electronics we use everyday do this very same task. However, Brixey then shot this light at a vacuum chamber containing small graphite particles. When hit with the light, the graphite particles overcame the force of gravity and began to float in the center of the chamber. At this state, the particles mimicked the physics of celestial bodies, free from Earthly gravity and in a vacuum. Unsurprisingly and yet still magically, the graphite particles took on the familiar forms of galaxies. These tiny graphite galaxies were shaped by a beam of light that was infused with poetry. So in a sense, the miniature galaxies were a physical manifestation of the poetry itself. Tiny shimmering galaxies of poetry that elude to the less literal but equally moving poetry that formed our very own Milky Way Galaxy.
What really strikes me about Brixey's work is his admiration for the science he uses in his work. Many contemporary artists using science aren't saying much about science itself. They just use technology to make interesting pieces without regard of what is being said for or about the science behind them. Some even go as far as to achieve what I consider the bastardization of science (Alba the DayGlow bunny). Brixey was once asked who was his favorite artist. He replied very simply, "Einstein". He then went on to discuss how, if polled, scientists would agree that Einstein's work was art but if one were to ask artists they would of course call it science. This belief that science is art is what Brixey's work seems to boil down to at its core. He often uses literal poetry, science and technology to stimulate the creation of an awe inspiring and naturally beautiful phenomenon. His work serves to remind us that true poetry is rooted in the processes of the universe around us and is not limited to text printed on the page of a book.