JS CV/Resume Download
JS@ Art Registries
I use Instagram as an open studio where I can work out ideas and be inspired and challenged by peers. My newest work can always be seen there, in progress, usually before any of it makes it to this site.
When I was young, my family often travelled between city, suburb and ‘the outdoors’. We were more than just tourists passing through, we were living, growing, playing, working and engaging in each of those spaces. That constellation of different worlds was home to all the delights and doubts that comprise many of my earliest memories. Today, the dynamism, homogeneity and Arcadian ideals associated with those environments are the things that inform my work and prompt my critical engagement with spatiality and human geography. In my research and my artwork I look to these subjects as a means of understanding perspective, position, and temporality.
Many of my recent projects use the delineation of space as raw material for the construction of landscape. I approach the conflicted history of the idea of landscape, its fluctuation between instrument of power and object of inspiration, as friction that can become a source of illumination for questions like: How does framed space reconcile enclosure and exclusion? How do exteriors and interiors communicate? Who narrates and remembers space? What is the relationship between landscape and mobility? – These are questions that have few easy answers and many challenging implications. The complexity that emerges from examining these issues is what moves me to respond to landscape in ways that range from reflection to resistance.
In my work, I use abstraction as a way to expand possibilities for understanding through multiple perspectives. Even today, abstraction can sometimes evoke skepticism because it seems far from everyday appearances. That distance, and it’s difference from convention, is what I take as the principal opportunity of an abstract approach. Abstraction articulates the space between what we feel and what we think, the gap between what we see and what we know. Like any unfamiliar space, abstraction is charged with potential to prompt responses that range from anxiety to insight. As an artist, my goal is to shape the context of that encounter into an opening for meaningful experience and cultural value.
Some notes on the Google Earth project that I started in early 2016:
Google Earth is Google’s digital version of a globe, “It maps the Earth by the superimposition of images obtained from satellite imagery, aerial photography and geographic information system (GIS) onto a 3D globe.” (Wikipedia’s definition). When I recently wanted to get a better sense of where a family member was traveling I used an old version of Google Earth. The outdated software, on my slow laptop, encountered software lags and the result was a screen filled with broken images. This distorted view of the globe prompted me to reflect on the implications of Google’s representation of The World, ultimately leading me to a project of intentionally producing ‘wrong’ results, breaking boundaries and reclaiming space.
Early on in using Google Earth as a medium I took a ‘neutral’ documentary approach, simply selecting, recording and displaying what I found, adhering to a rule of using only unaltered screenshots, no Photoshop or retouching. (under the Digital Media navigation, towards page bottom, those images are the ones named with geographic coordinates and labelled ‘unretouched’). Since then, I’ve also begun using the screenshots as a basis of liberally (re)constructed landscapes that question Google’s hegemony on how we conceive of “the world” while also creating a series of landscape clearings, or entrances to the unknown.
A central questions behind this work is who/what defines our experience of the place, space and landscape that we share? In Silence is a Commons Ivan Illich wrote “People called commons those parts of the environment for which customary law exacted specific forms of community respect. People called commons that part of the environment which lay beyond their own thresholds and outside of their own possessions, to which, however, they had recognized claims of usage, not to produce commodities but to provide . . . subsistence.” In the making of these images, closed territory is cracked open and reclaimed to support cultural production.
As possibly the largest public source of geo-spatial information and imagery, Google Earth provides an influential perspective on the world. It is the Google perspective. And like the technique of perspective that was invented in early 1400’s Europe it has been broadly adopted as one of our most advanced and “realistic” way of understanding the world by seeing, and it is indeed spectacular.
Google Earth intensifies, enriches and complicates fundamental issues that emerge from examining landscape – including the power resident in place and its representation. Google Earth street views combine a high tech world of platonic form (low-polygon geometry) with gestures to the airtight perfection of commercial architectural rendering. It’s an intersection that sometimes leads to a geographic uncanny valley, an already anxious space that’s further amplified in this project where, the strangeness of the images, sometimes vaguely extraterrestrial, can also belie how landscape becomes alien in ways other than appearances. Alien, from the Latin ‘alienus’, is rooted in the meaning of ‘belonging to another’ and, in legal practice, alienation means ‘the transfer of the ownership of property rights’ such as the taking of public parkland for non-park use.
In recent decades practitioners of human and cultural geography and eco-critique have laid to rest old ideas of nature and culture as an either/or proposition and highlighted human agency as key to any discussion of landscape. In his book Landscape and Power, W.J.T. Mitchell traces a history of landscape study that moves from contemplative to interpretive to instrumental – positing landscape as something that can act on us. If Mitchell is correct and landscape can exert agency what does it mean when our key reference for geographic information becomes a totalizing model of all landscape? Google’s mission is “to organize the world’s information” and Google Earth brings geodetic datum, satellite imagery and street photography into a massive convergence to present an experience of landscape and place as omniscient, first-person optical flow. When navigating the Google globe the initial thrill of the God’s-eye view, roaming and seeing remote places, can be tempered by an uneasiness prompted by implications of surveillance. For armchair travelers the sensation of using Google Earth can also be one that shifts from entertainment to containment as it gradually becomes clear that the dynamic but enforced perspectives offer little mobility beyond pre-determined paths of virtual tourism.
The forced failure of Google Earth creates a departure from the tours programmatic content as the default mode of surveying gives way to results that are unpredictable – alien. Breaking the boundaries of the cartographer’s virtual world leads to outcomes that are real discovery, not just re-presented territory. In the context of the Google world the views appear strange because they’re personal views of the landscape, different from the views authored/authorized by Google Earth. ‘Breaking’ Google Earth displaces the tour guide and allows travel into the unfamiliar – an act that is the definition of exploration. The virtual geography of Google’s controlled space opens to the psychogeography of the dérive – the unplanned journey.
2014 Ragdale Residency, Summer Session
Lake Forest, Illinois, USA
International Sculpture Center
Exhibiting artist at ISC annual conference
Textile Arts Center
NY, NY, Invitational show
Ernest Rubenstein Gallery at The Educational Alliance.
NY, NY, Invitational show
Laramie Community College
Cheyenne, WY, Installation proposal at invitation of arts commission.
Ernest Rubenstein Gallery at The Educational Alliance.
NY, NY, Group show
Meany Studio Theatre at University of Washington
Westchester Community College Fine Arts Gallery
Valhalla, NY, Group show
Art in Odd Places (AIOP)
NY, NY, Selected for public installation
Art in Public Places Program
Cheyenne, WY, Finalist for artpark proposal
Published in book “Sticker Shock”.
Burbridge Books, Author: Matthew Kraus, stickershockthebook.com
Washington Square Windows
NY, NY, Solo installation on Washington Square
Esther & John Clay Fine Arts Gallery
Cheyenne, WY, Three person show,
The Bergen Museum of Art & Science
Paramus, NJ, Solo museum show.
NY, NY, National juried exhibition, Jurist: Thelma Golden.
Chuck Levitan Gallery
NY, NY, National juried exhibition, Jurist: Ivan Karp.
Washington Square East Galleries
NY, NY, National juried exhibition.
National Arts Club
NY, NY National juried exhibition
Sydney Frane Gallery
NY, NY Affiliated artist.
Arthur A. Houghton Gallery
NY, NY, Three-person show.
BFA: The Cooper Union School of Art
New York City, New York
© 2016 John Schettino