Career Narrative

Caveat: This was originally written for a grant and may read a little braggy & stilted.  Nevertheless, it might be useful to some.

In 1991, as an undergraduate in Austin, Texas, I made a conscious decision to write software to aid in the creation of visual artwork.  It’s hard to recall exactly where this notion came from, but the directive was clear: this is where my work should go.  It wasn’t a popular choice at the time.  This decision directly led me to study at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, known for a small program in Art & Technology.

During my second year in pursuit of an MFA, to help make ends meet, I took a job as a hybrid artist/programmer at Viacom New Media, the videogame arm of media giant Viacom.  For a 25-year-old student with working-class roots, this was a fairly lucrative, upbeat, and seductive environment. The work exposed me to a level of production and professionalism missing in my MFA studies.  My academic environment, though, was valuable in stressing some conceptual rigor and articulation of artistic intent.   It was the beginning of the dot com technology bubble and, for a time, I considered a long-term career in the entertainment industry.

It was most fortunate and meaningful then that, immediately upon completion of my MFA in 1997, my work attracted the attention of several gallerists and I accepted representation in Chicago from Peter Miller Gallery.  There I mounted my first gallery solo show in 1998, reviewed in Art in America and the Chicago Tribune among others.  Still concerned with school debt and other obligations, however, I continued to work in videogames, moving to the venerable Midway Games and furthering an informal apprenticeship in software development for art-making.

During the winter of 2000, the fledgling Creative Capital Foundation funded my project “A Thousand Butterflies” in their inaugural year.  This grant was an important step, enabling me to leave the videogame industry and embrace the challenge of becoming a full-time practicing fine artist.  From that moment on, I did not hold a regular position of any kind until accepting my current academic position in the fall of 2007.  The grant also helped expose my work to curators, critics, and gallerists well beyond my Midwest base.

Through a chance meeting and subsequent follow-up, a well-regarded gallery, The Project, offered me representation in NYC.  Their efforts exposed my work to the Whitney Museum’s curatorial team.  In spring of 2001, three of my works were included in the Whitney’s seminal “Bitstreams” exhibition, a far-reaching investigation into the state of digital art.  The Whitney also acquired a large work for their permanent collection.

Very quickly thereafter, my work appeared in numerous exhibitions, was reviewed internationally by publications such as Artforum, The New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal, and was acquired by several prominent collections.  Highlights from this period include, in 2002, I was awarded an “Art Statements” booth at Art Basel and had a solo show at the University of California, Santa Barbara.  I also received an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in that year.  In 2003, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles commissioned the online work Bootstrap the Blank Slate and the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago mounted a large one-person exhibition.

2004 marked the publication of a small monograph with an essay written by cognitive scientist and Pulitzer Prize winner, Douglas Hofstadter.  As a hero of my youth, his contribution remains a personal thrill and high-water mark.  Another gratifying development from this period was a significant amount of internet-driven mainstream recognition, as my work appeared on the cover of Harper’s magazine as well receiving extensive coverage in the still-young blogosphere.  Exhibitions included a large solo show at the LaSalle School of Art in Singapore and at The Project’s Los Angeles location.

The federal government commissioned a large project for the new US Census Bureau headquarters in 2005.  This project was recently completed and I have been awarded a “phase II” addition to be completed in 2011.  Also in 2005, I gained representation from Ronald Feldman Fine Arts in NYC and the Art Institute of Chicago acquired a large work and included me in a 3-person show.  The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery exhibited my video installation “The Late Night Triad” in 2006 and later acquired the piece for their permanent collection.  This was the first electronic work of any kind to enter their collection.

During the spring of 2007, I was approached by The University of Chicago about a dual appointment in the Department of Visual Arts and the Computation Institute.  I accepted the position of Assistant Professor and began in the fall of 2007.  A large solo exhibition of my work was held at the Columbus Museum of Art in Ohio in 2008 and a DVD documentary was produced concurrent to this exhibition.