• Works on Paper and Piano

Abstractions – Sketches in Organic Unity

Book Review:

Title: Abstractions – Sketches in Organic Unity
Book Release Date: July 2015.
Dimensions: Large Format Landscape Book and eBook, 28 Plates, 58 Pages.

The concept of the book continues to extend the explorations and findings from the series Flora Nocturne.  Specifically focusing on the abstract, unreal and imagination of form itself.  While organic forms can be beautiful and powerful, the nature and investigation of Abstractions – Sketches in Organic Unity, is purely visual and imaginative.  Simply reverting back to essence of mark making, where line quality, texture, color field, and luminescence can invoke a wide range of emotional triggers and cognitive relationships to space within two-dimensions.  The book is available in both in a tradition hard/soft cover formats and e-book.  Ultimately, only seven out of twenty eight images will be selected for suite of large format chamber prints on high quality 100% cotton textured substrate.

All Rights Reserved © Richard A. Peña 2015

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Digital Panopticon

Arestor looked down at his newly born son with wonder, and with fatherly pride.  As for his new born son was beyond the size of any human baby imaginable.  Arestor wiped all the tears from his son’s crying eyes, all one hundred of them and decreed to all, from here forth, my son will be called Argus Panoptes. Hear me now, he shall be the greatest watchman of all of Argos, and for all ages.

Panoptes comes from Greek mythology and translates to, the all seeing.  Argus Panoptes was a giant of a man born with a hundred eyes, not two.  Panoptes was a great watchman, and observer of all things, as in that some of his eyes would close to sleep while the other eyes would always remain open, awake, watching, observing and always seeing.   He was the watchful brother of his sister, the nymph Io, and the servant of Hera, the wife of Zeus.  In the end, he was a victim of Hermes’s deadly trickery.  To commemorate her faithful watchman, Hera had the hundred eyes of Argus Panoptes preserved forever, in a peacock’s tail.

The English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham in the late 18th century conceived of an architectural design, Panopticon.  The name of the architectural design is in reference to Panoptes of Greek mythology.  The design allows a single watchman to observe occupants of an institution without the occupants being able to tell whether or not they are being watched.  Although it is impossible for a single watchman to observe all the occupants at once, it did establish a effective social behaviorism that all of the occupants acted as they are being watched at all times, in essence, the occupants constantly controlled their behavior within the environment.

The symmetrical notion of the observer and the observed has long been an idea of antiquity but more ever so relevant in the digital age, and modern life.  Almost every human interaction with digital technology require some level of authentication of either one’s surrogate identity or demographic identity, whether it is billing accounts, social media, credit cards or mobile devices, we live in a constant ebb and flow of, “to authenticate” or “to be authorized.”   Welcome to the Digital Panopticon my friends, leave your libertarian credentials behind, now your manila folders of John Q. PUBLIC and Jane Q. PUBLIC are now a binary data set.

The benefits and convenience of the Digital Panopticon are indeed addicting and necessary to participate in the modern digital world but there is a price to be paid, which is the currency of your privacy.  Never mind about being worried about being physically chipped, a soft chip will do and it is mostly under control with watchful eyes.  Your surrogate information with be tracked, and in some cases your demographic identity will be stored in secured databases.

So it should come to no surprise that the mass-media analytics are the most successful purveyor of demographics and market data, first with advent of  newspapers, radio, television, internet and now the digital age.  The old economy was ZIP code demographic analytics but today it includes Nielsen digital-on-line analytics in defining who you are in demographic terms, real time, GPS and worldwide.

Perhaps the most intrusive but legitimate Panoptes of mass-privacy are Facebook, Google, Twitter and the makers of smart devices.  Every aspect of these Panoptes seek, observe, and measure who you are by your online habitual disposition.  Read their privacy and data policies.  Of course there is the other kind of Panoptes to beware of, in that their nature can be illegitimate, cowardly, political and socially nefarious.  With a criminal disposition targeted towards the privacy of individuals to disrupt the integrity to authenticate individuality within the bureaucracy state, enterprises, and institutions.

Sometimes illegitimate and nefarious entities use hundreds of eyes or bots to see and crawl throughout the websphere to target their disruptive end to privacy, and individual freedoms.  Such is the hidden and veiled darkness of the world wide web.  Along with the cover of darkness, Tor ‘onion router’ networks are sometimes used by sophisticated intelligence, state, political, organized crime, and hackers, to avoid electronic traffic fingerprinting, and the transparency of their electronic identity.

It is also necessary for segments of the global populations living under repressive regimes to use Tor networks to conceal their web privacy from electronic surveillance exposing internet content deemed social or politically subversive, and to hide the locations of the hosts, and nodes.  Nonetheless, what is most important to all Panoptes of the world is the future to come.

Population Shifts:  
The world population by 2027 will reach 8 billion. Currently 54% world’s growth is occurring mostly in urban areas.  66% of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2050.  By 2050, the urban population in the developing world will top 5 billion with 1 billion of that will come from Africa, rising from 13% to 20% of the world’s population.

Digital Life:
Nearly 3 billion people are currently online, which is 40% of the world’s population.  80% of Twitter and Facebook activity is happening outside of the U.S.  More than 1.35 billion people log into Facebook each month.  500 million tweets are sent per day.  71% of global consumers own a SmartPhone.  85% of U.S consumers use a mobile device while watching TV.  The world’s largest mobile payment company processes 45 million transaction daily.

Social Mobility:
By 2030 2 billion people will join the middle class.  In Africa and the Middle East the middle class is projected to double and in Asia will rise to 3 billion.  In the next 4 years women will control US $28 trillion in annual consumer spending.

The next phase of digital life will result in instinctive, creative, and destructive processes, such are the fabric of change, as adaptation becomes the ways and means of both natural and disruptive selections.  In a nutshell, digital life or the Digital Panopticon will be catalyst for future social, political, and economic changes to come.

Essentially, the future of both physical and digital communities will be more urban, more digitally connected and synchronous, with a segment of the population growing with middle class affluence.  But see through the digital midway distractions as the growing technological loss of our privacy is like the troublesome bite of the gadfly that we must not ignore.


All Rights Reserved  © Richard A. Peña 2015

Statistical Sources: Nielsen, Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Twitter, UN and Facebook


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The Rite of Spring 1913

The Adoration of the Earth:
Augurs of Spring
Ritual of Abduction
Spring Rounds
Ritual of the Rival Tribes
Procession of the Sage: The Sage
Dance of the Earth

The Sacrifice:
Mystic Circles of the Young Girls
Glorification of the Chosen One
Evocation of the Ancestors
Ritual Action of the Ancestors
Sacrificial Dance

It was cool Parisian evening walk down the Avenue Montaigne to Théâtre des Champs-Élysées that only a Russian like Diaghilev could appreciate.  In 1913, Paris season of Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes company gave birth to truly the modern.  It was a night that the world changed, and never turned back. The Rite of Spring not only changed the Classical worlds of dance and music but it was more than that, it seemed to call out the source of our anthropologic primitive heritage and notions why humans dance along with the inner pulse of our basic communal instincts and rituals.  As like Stravinsky and Nijinsky, channeled the primitive impulses, then translated the code into new time and space signatures for the inhabitants of the modern world.

The conceptualization of the Rite of Spring was a journey that begun in 1908 with Stravinsky setting to music two poems from Sergey Gorodetsky’s collection “Yar”.  Another poem in the anthology that may have influenced Stravinsky, is “Yarila”.  Many of the elements in Yarila were similar to Rite of Spring.  In his 1936 autobiography Stravinsky described the origin of the work in 1910, “I had a fleeting vision that came to me as a complete surprise.  I saw in my imagination a solemn pagan rite with sage elders, seated in a circle, watching a young girl dance herself to death. They were sacrificing her to propitiate the god of Spring.  Such was the theme of the Sacre du Printemps”.  It was when Stravinsky collaborated with Nicholas Roerich, the foremost Russian expert on folk art and ancient rituals in which the ideas for Rite of Spring started to solidify.  Roerich was known as an artist and mystic, provided the set and costume design for the Rite of Spring.

Vaslav Nijinsky was born in Russia to ethnically Polish parents, both were dancers.  In 1900, Nijinsky joined the Imperial Ballet School in which he excelled, and was recognized early on for his dancing abilities.  When Nijinsky joined the Ballets Russes it proved to be a turning point in his career.  The Ballets Russes gave him the opportunity to use all of his creative ability as a dancer, and most important his impact as a choreographer.  His ballets of notable accomplishments were L’après-midi d’un faune (The Afternoon of a Faun), based on Claude Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune (1912), Jeux (1913), Till Eulenspiegel (1916), and Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring, with music by Igor Stravinsky) (1913).

Igor Stravinsky was born in Saint Petersburg, Russia, also of Polish linage. His father was Fyodor Stravinsky, a bass singer at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg.  Stravinsky studied piano and music theory as a young boy but was not considered an exceptional talent.  It was until he met, and studied with Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov later in life as an adult that his talent was developed.   Stravinsky continued lessons with Rimsky-Korsakov until 1908, the year of Rimsky-Korsakov ‘s death.  In 1909, Stravinsky received his first notable commission.  It was at this time Diaghilev was sufficiently impressed by Stravinsky’s work on Fireworks which prompted Diaghilev to commission Stravinsky to perform some orchestrations that led to compose a full-length ballet score, The Firebird (1910) then followed by Petrushka (1911), and The Rite of Spring (1913).  These three ballet scores are perhaps Stravinsky most notable symphonic  works.

Since that faithful evening of May 29th, 1913, Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring now has taken its place as a standard symphonic master piece which never has been rivaled.  As for Nijinsky he leaves us with a legacy of a haunting and brilliant passage of the poetics of form and space, in the art form we call dance. One can only imagine Nijinsky’s creative courage and vision to choreograph Stravinsky’s time signatures where there was no historical references, count or form in ballet. The choreography Nijinsky developed in the Rite of Spring became the foundation of modern dance, and gave birth to choreographers as the likes of Martha Graham to Pina Bausch to Hofesh Shechter.

Hundred and two years later Sergei Diaghilev, Igor Stravinsky, Vaslav Nijinsky, Marie Rambert and Nicholas Roerich are still triumphal in telling the story about of our ancient pagan ancestors and their driven instinctive nature for social rituals; the belief that terrible destructive and creative forces of nature must renew its self in order to create the fabric of change, beauty and adaptation to life itself.  Events such as death we cannot escape or completely comprehend.  What we do know about the past and human mortality, scientifically, human genetic markers can trace our existence and traits thousands of years back in time to haplogroups made up of ancient clans or tribes that gave birth to our ritual heritage.  Such an indelible mark is the Rite of Spring.

All Rights Reserved: Richard A. Peña 2015  (except embedded YouTube Video of Millicent Hodson 1987 reconstruction)


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Connecting 2014 to 2015

Happy New Year 2015 to Family, Friends and Everyone

Flora Nocturne is a self-published book and was released in June 2014. The category is Fine Art Photography and the book dimensions are Large Format Landscape with 92 pages.           

Tags: Flora, Nocturne, Abstractions, Light.

Book Review:
Flora Nocturne is an analysis that compares and contrasts two visual constructs; objective poetic transformation and abstraction. Objective poetic transformation is not a new idea and derives from photographic statements and criticism from the twentieth century. Practitioners from Alfred Stieglitz to Edward Weston to Minor White were pursuant of purity, objective observations and gateways. The construct of abstractions came from painting and influenced not only photography but the art world as a whole in the twentieth century. The theme of this collection explores the tension between representation and abstraction, real and unreal, reality and imagination, leaving the viewers to question, reconcile, and manifest.

Books in Queue:

Abstractions – Sketches in Organic Unity is the next book to be published with a target release of Spring of 2015.  The concept of the working book continues to extend the explorations and findings from Flora Nocturne but specifically focusing on the abstract, unreal and imagination of form itself.  Organic forms can be beautiful but powerful and can invoke a wide range of cognitive triggers and relationships.

Panorama is the working title for a series of fifty photographic images to be self-published and will be released sometime in 2015.  So far nine out of fifty have been completed to date.  Prints also will also be available with an image size of 8 x 20 (20.3 x 50.8 cm).

Mobile Phone Photography; a series of one offs – The Beauty of Transponding

Prints from these portfolios and website are made with high quality archival color inks and German-made archival substrate.  Please feel free to contact me for details.

Again wishing everyone a Happy New Year and all the best in 2015, Auld Lang Syne

Richard A. Peña

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Elements of Innovation

In the thirteenth year of the twentieth century, technological innovations were like buds on a flower ready to bloom.  Ford Motor Company introduced the first large scale moving assembly line, the first successful recipe to make stainless steel came about in 1913, but there was another discovery that was so small, it could not be observed by the human eye but would indeed change our perception to come.  Danish physicist Niels Bohr introduced the Bohr model of atomic structures in 1913.  The science of atomic structures opened up the notion to the imagination that smaller, not bigger, was the gateway to industrial and commercial innovations; perception that complete and efficient systems could involve on a much smaller scale or with a leaner footprint.

Long before there were smaller digital devices like today’s digital cameras or mobile phones, there was the introduction of the Leica camera proto-types in 1913 by Oskar Barnack of Leitz.   Although Leica production models were not realized until 1924, nonetheless, the Leica camera introduction was an innovation that exemplified forward thinking about scale in such a way that it became an advantage that drove change how people captured life and environments.

What are the elements of innovation?  One way to think about innovation is as an outcome of divergent thinking, the same sensibilities found in the creative processes in the visual arts, theater, dance, music, architecture, and literature.  What is observed as elements in life and the arts can be symbiotic with innovation; distillation of scale, form, speed, and abstract random outcomes.

Take Oskar Barnack’s 1913 camera concept for example, and rethink innovation for the twenty first century.  Such a camera innovation would have both macro and telescopic optical capabilities, with separate CCD layers of luminance, red, green and blue, gain amplifier with excellent noise to signal reduction, enhanced encoder, with an overall physical footprint 10x smaller in scale, manifest as a wearable unit.  The remote control, viewfinder and microphone also manifest in a separate but second unified wearable unit, which voice command inputs can execute shooting mode algorithms, and output commands along with language translation capabilities coupled with cultural and GPS mappings.  Such a camera innovation can deliver all captured images and voice data to a removable medium or a secured cloud-based storage or satellite feed at will.  Rendering software allows various output templates such as 2D, 3D, 3D-Printer, time, motion, language translations, and discrete secured metadata.

What was once a static twentieth century camera apparatus becomes a dynamic, and fully integrated global networked remote device allowing cross-cultural communication for business, commerce, education, and information gathering in the twenty first century based on the innovation of scale, form, and speed.  This leaves the last element of innovation of abstract random outcomes to determine value, predictability, adaptation, and of course, the next steps.

All Rights Reserved – Richard A. Peña


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Flora Nocturne – Still Lifes

Flora Nocturne is an analysis that compares and contrasts two visual constructs; Objective Poetic Transformation and Abstraction.  Objective poetic transformation is not a new idea and derives from photographic statements and criticism from the twentieth century.  Practitioners from Alfred Stieglitz to Edward Weston to Minor White were pursuant to purity, objective observations and gateways.  The visual construct of abstractions came from painting and influenced not only photography but the art world as a whole in the twentieth century.  The theme of this collection explores the tension between representation and abstraction, real and unreal, reality and imagination, leaving the viewers to question, reconcile, and manifest.

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Who is enjoying the shadow of whom…

In the year 1889, Oscar Wilde looked out the window of his London flat, as the fog rolled in, pondered about the great discourse of human observations, the iconic values of civilizations; beauty and truth. Taking on the Aristotelian constructs, and changing the dialogue of existing thinking about aesthetics and image making. Firing a shot across the bows, warning all, that the rules are about to change with the assertion, “Life imitates art far more than art imitates life” in his essay, The Decay of Lying.  What was unforeseen in the late eighteen hundreds, and about to unfold in the future were technological changes that would control how subject matter will be imitated, rendered, and trend as social norms.
By 1889, photography was still in its infancy, although, the principles of optics were known as far back as to the fifth century, the camera obscura was derived as an imaging appliance prior to 1839, the year photography was announced to the world.  Yet, photography as a technically advanced imaging process for the age was not recognized as an art form in the late eighteen hundreds and nor it would not be recognized as an art form until the twentieth century.  Nevertheless, the prospects of imaging technology was going to change not only human societies but to enable new industries to control the perception of reality on a mass wholesale level unparalleled to any other age.
The power and propagation of images has never been more prevalent, we are now experiencing the pixelization of the world, whether its Google maps or image capture via mobile camera of information worthy events.  The rapid transformation of picture information now allows our perceptions of the world to be rendered, imitated, and manipulated as historical record, brand or propaganda, all in real time. Most accept the notion that our contemporaneous lives evolve on some level of sophistication and artfulness. As the lines between reality, and personal expression blend and smudge as soft delineations, sometimes with authenticity, sometimes with a sense of truth, and sometimes sublime.
All Rights Reserved – Richard A. Peña
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