The approximately 20 people who attended the July 20th PNWS members and guests meeting at the home studio of PNWS member Craig Dorety saw the light. And then they saw the raw materials and then the tools. They learned how this engineering graduate and artist uses innovative technology to make mesmerizing and thought-provoking kinetic light sculptures that take the art in directions likely to have been imagined by only a few.
As a 2006 graduate of U.C. Davis with a degree in mechanical engineering and previous studies in mathematics and physics and who, along the way, completed a NASA internship in project management and program controls, fine art may seem an unlikely path for this Oakland, Calif., native. But wait; there’s more. A suggestion of artistic inclination emerges in Dorety’s curriculum vitae in the late 1990s when at Cogswell Polytechnical College in the heart of Silicon Valley he was certified in music technology.
In the years since college—Dorety is in his mid-40s now—his work and personal interests have led him up and down California, across America, and across the globe on projects importantly to do with using modern technology, for example, to relight with LED bulbs iconic landmarks such as Madison Square Park in New York City, a somewhat similar project on part of San Francisco’s famed Market Street, and another at San Diego’s airport where 40,000 LEDs were used to illuminate the terminal with moving imagery.
The Engineering Tools Implemented
Amid his professional work, he makes time for extensive personal projects. He writes on his website, “I’ve spent countless hours creating and fabricating a variety of devices including midi controllers, synthesizers, kinetic light sculptures and various visual arts pieces.” Settled in Portland now, Dorety does much of that personal work in his studio which is equipped with a large CNC router with which he fabricates the surfaces he uses in his sculptures. “CNC” is shorthand for “computer numerical control.” This large, computer-controlled table router can perform the functions of several other tools including the panel saw, spindle moulder, and boring machines, among others. The tool can be used with wood, composites, aluminum, plastics, and foams.
Those familiar with the use of any kind of router may be amazed to learn that Dorety can use his big machine to create the detailed cratered surface of moonscapes—Dorety calls them “lunar carvings”.
He writes that he learned this technique when he “hacked” a friend’s CNC router in 2012 in Australia where he attended the Perth International Arts Festival. Dorety writes thoughtfully about his art, what motivates him, and how he works.
Insights From Perth
“The human brain has some built-in limits beyond which it cannot properly interpret visual information. I use this limit to express the workings of the subconscious…. Clean lines, simple shapes, self-similarity on varying scales, and pure, changing color are my palette; information systems and data-sets are my subject matter.”
He says he uses “mathematics and engineering to formulate physical space-time distortions: displaying static images through time while squeezing and folding the images’ space into 3-dimensional layers.” He concludes, “I collapse space and remap it onto the time axis. By redisplaying information in this manner, I give the viewer a glimpse into spacetime as seen through my eyes.”
Go online to www.craigdorety.com to see lots more of what Dorety sees.