At the deepest center of selfhood a man is alone.
— J. Hillis Miller
There is something about our contemporary reality that often feels conflicted. We live in a time and place where we can be almost limitlessly connected to people, places, and ideas, while at the same time, are left feeling like we’re light-years away from the things to which we are connected. The constant in this quandary is what we already had to begin with—ourselves. It can be unsettling to live in such a duality, but it can also be enlightening: as we become more digitally connected, we also become more aware of that innate longing that drives us to connect in the first place.
As is the case with many existential problems, art has been an especially insightful means of exploring this new dichotomy of connection and isolation. It is the intersection of the two that informs the work of the Dumfries-based artist Alexis Gomez. “Digital media is a contemporary conversation,” Gomez reflected. “I think it was inevitable for technology to eventually find its way into my work.” Although Gomez is an interdisciplinary artist working with various media, a common thread that has woven itself throughout his body of work is his integration of both digital and physical processes. This integration lends itself to the examination of where the conceptual and physical intersect—a major theme for Gomez.
Like many artists, Gomez began his artistic career creating physical objects. He devoted much of his time to painting and ceramics in high school. Then, while earning his BFA at the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design, he was introduced to animation software and experienced a profound shift in the way he understood his art and the human experience. “My concepts were immediately challenged as I began to study and add context to my work.” His creative process has evolved to include not only animation, but 3D scanning, 3D printing, and computer numerical control—a process where a machine cuts various sculptural elements piece-by-piece from digital renderings.
“My workflow is a transition from virtual to literal,” Gomez explained. “Both aspects demand different attention. One is more static and meticulous, the other is more physical and substantial.” His sculptures are created through a hybrid process: he first uses various digital technology to formulate an idea, then translates those digital concepts into physical objects. This fresh approach on digital art informs both the physical and conceptual aspects of his work.
One of his most recent sculptural pieces, Being, exemplifies this integrated process. The sculpture began as a 3D scan of his body, and was then revised through several iterations of editing. Once in its final digital form, the constituent pieces were cut and assembled into a purely physical object. For Gomez, this process of creation is just as important as the resulting piece. “I strive to induce an inner and outer body experience. As you walk around the sculpture, the silhouette of the figure dissolves and reveals itself again. I hope to emphasize both the internal and external spaces that we inhabit as human beings.”
Being will be featured this month at the Torpedo Factory Art Center in the Target Gallery’s upcoming exhibition Glitch: An Exploration in Digital Media, a show focused exclusively on digital creations. Juried by Adriel Luis, Curator of Digital and Emerging Media at the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, this show features work from eleven different artists harnessing various types of interactive media and other technology. Leslie Mounaime, director of the Target Gallery, shared her thoughts on the show. “My goal for this exhibition is to show how digital art provides a new platform for artists to connect to their audience in a way that reflects contemporary culture. It was imperative to do an exhibition focused on digital art, as it represents the future of contemporary art. We will see artists exploring the media more and more as so much of daily life becomes intrinsically tied to digital tools.” Like Gomez’s piece, much of the work in Glitch explores the complicated relationship between emerging technologies, human communication, and methods of storytelling.
This exhibition underscores our contemporary crisis: as technology offers increasingly novel methods of staying “connected,” we become more aware of the deep sense of isolation at the center of ourselves. It is from this perspective that digital media becomes uniquely effective in describing the kind of separation it perpetuates. The ever-growing distance between us and what we are connected to ironically illuminates the deepest elements of human existence that we all share, connecting our experiences in a profound, and at times, unexpected way.
An opening reception and juror presentation for Glitch: An Exploration of Digital Media will be held on Thursday, June 9 from 6–8 PM in the Target Gallery at the Torpedo Factory Art Center. The show will be on display through July 9. See more work by Alexis Gomez at alexisgomezart.com.
Photos courtesy of Alexis Gomez