Eric Standley: I am an artist with a formal background in painting. Somewhere along the way my allegiance to content overthrew my obsession with paint. I did manage to retain my meticulous nature. I am also an Associate Professor of Studio Art at Virginia Tech.
Novedge: Your work is unique. How did you come up with the idea of Laser Cut Windows?
Eric Standley: I was working on a series called AM Wisdom that included laser cutting circle-based patterns into Cheerios boxes. When I was leaving the laser lab one day I stacked a few cut pieces together and was blown away by the layered complexity of the different works. I took out my sketchbook and wrote down a dozen questions that took about 2 years to work through. The dominate question being "Could I be conscious of creating multiple layers that related to one another at the same time?" It's funny, I never considered the work to be windows exactly. I am influenced by Gothic and Islamic geometry found in architectural ornamentation- including windows, but always saw the work as a form of drawing. It's the relationships of the negative spaces between layers that become physical space- an odd transformation from the sum of 2 dimensional drawing to 3 dimensional spaces.
Novedge: Can you talk about your process in creating these incredibly elaborate pieces?
Eric Standley: I sketch a composition first- working out an overall goal. Then I draw each layer in vector-based software. Each layer is cut individually with a CNC Laser. The work is then cleaned of chads, assembled and bound like a flip book. The final stage of my process includes building a mount and frame that holds the work, allowing for a degree of movement that is inherent with paper. The vector drawing process is the most time consuming, taking me months to work through. I draw on a matrix: compositions are constructed across the page and laterally on layers above and below. Generally I work on 3 layers at one time. My max capacity is a lateral consciousness of 7 layers at one time- of which I can do for about an hour. It's taken some practice to do. The closest analogy I can think of is playing chess: to consider 4 or 5 moves ahead and the possible tangents… that's more or less the same facility of my mind- a similar game…
Novedge: What software do you use?
Eric Standley: I use CorelDRAW for my vector work. The program has a fairly sophisticated CAD-like orientation while still being visually responsive. It's important for me to see what I'm doing as I make decisions. I have been meeting the limits of the software recently even though the vectors take up a small amount of memory. I am currently working on an Arch that at layer 20 is over 23,000 nodes/8000 objects. I'm having to produce two separate vector drawings that will be cut on top of each other to make one very complex layer. I cut with a ULS PLS6 laser outfitted with a High Power Density Optic package. The optics changed my work- allowing me to cut a thread of paper .008" wide- about half the thickness of the paper itself.
Novedge: How does teaching inform your art practice and vice versa?
Eric Standley: I believe creativity is best fostered in an environment that encourages process and discovery. This requires risk taking, allows for individuality and permits epiphanies. Such a learning environment is incredible to be a part of. I provide guidance by way of some wisdom, stories and experiences, and in return I come to know each student, work with them and assist in their goals. I am honored to be a part of and witness their artistic progress.
Novedge: Can you tell us a bit about your upcoming projects?
Eric Standley: I've been working with light recently- illuminating from within the work (as seen in Argos). I've also been working outside traditional geometry and leaning toward bilateral symmetry and asymmetry, as found in water- flow dynamics for instance. These are coming through in Arch 4 which is currently in progress. I've also been working with some hand-made papers, rice paper and transparencies. There are certainly more failures than successes with newer questions and goals, but I feel an urgency to produce the work. It wakes me up in the morning and it is the last thing I'm thinking of before I fall asleep. There is still quite a bit to do within this body of work.
Curious to see more of Eric's work? Check it out on his website.