Category Archives: visual experiments, my art

Legacy Art Post #4 Why I Am Not Camping Tonight

Why I'm Not Camping Tonight

That this piece jumped out of the generative stream and its title was discovered immediately makes it a fitting post on the cusp of halloween.

My non-mirror symmetry Legacy Art in the old artist’s blog are having their links archived at the Legacy Art Page.

My curation of my current catalogue of finished symmetry pieces is available at

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Legacy Art Post #3 A Green Man


A Green Man 12×12″ Stephen Calhoun 2013

A Green Man (2013)

The journey of Moses with his servant Joshua is a life­journey (it lasted eighty years). They grow old together and lose the life-force, i.e., the fish, which “in wondrous wise took its way to the sea” (setting of the sun). When the two notice their loss, they discover at the place where the source of life is found (where the dead fish revived and sprang into the sea) Khidr wrapped in his mantle,48 sitting on the ground. In another version he was sitting on an island in the midst of the sea, “in the wettest place on earth,” which means that he had just been born from the maternal depths. Where the fish van­ished Khidr, the Verdant One, was born as a “son of the watery deep,” his head veiled, proclaiming divine wisdom, like the Babylonian Oannes-Ea (cf. fig. 18), who was represented in form and daily came out of the sea as a fish to teach the people wisdom. (pp 197-198, C.G.Jung, Symbols of Transformation)

CF 18 p199

CF 18 p199

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Success & the Infinite


(originally published on LinkedIn)

The following question was pitched my way recently: how long does it take you to produce a finished piece of art?

Obviously there can only be a generalized answer to this question. On average. . .

The query motivated me to consider how long different steps take, to break the total time down, even if the exercise ends up a matter of estimating an average or mean time.

But, soon enough, being a systems’ thinker, my reflection wandered toward more vague territories, and then into territories where concepts such as interval, or beginning-and-end, come to be defeated close to the outset.

Back up from the moment of one of your own greatest successes. If someone asked you, ‘how long did it take you to produce this success?’ what would go into your answer?

My own reflection on this question-and, for me, a produced art work is always a moment of great success–wandered soon into intriguing considerations which take into account crucial aspects that tend to break apart mere regard for the time interval mechanical elements required.

I’m going to mention a few aspects. Before I do so, my hope is you’ll do a short exercise and reconsider an example in your own life under the light of the following different lenses.

An aspect of any success clearly is defined by all the learning from experience, and, learning from mistakes. If asked how long something took, do we usually sever from our consideration all most necessary but unplanned prior preparations?

Similarly, how much of a time factor in a great success is all of our formal and informal training?

When I turn to the fact of inspiration, and so turn to the genesis of a great success, and consider its origin and the starting point given long before this success was assured, I cannot help but be impressed by how discrete time is inadequate to the task of measuring inspiration.

My brightest ideas emerged from an unfolding story and its colorful conditions. This becomes doubly impressive if we then regard the nature of inspiration to have been a collaborative effort and see, then, a streaming of stories, and, conditions about conditions, all unfolding through a kind of mysterious coordination until these flex and fulminate together into the emergent a-ha, and, up and out comes the bright idea. Tell me, how long did this take?

I next bring into resolution the aspect of the spontaneously fortuitous contingency, what we of course better know as serendipity, and instantly the inadequacy of even the concept of intervalic time, is defeated. At this point our greatest success is seen to be an aspect of an almost cosmic element of lucky timing, of not only being in the right time and place in the concrete sense, but in the right time and place in the sense of an ecology of timing and various places, and, grooved by precedents both planned and unplanned.

Finally, look at the relational genealogy of a success. This is what is meant by the trope, standing on the shoulders of giants. This element is woven into serendipity too, because if we track a success backward in time to where its eventual subject is founded in the past by our: interest, or obsession, or mission, or capability, it is inevitable that we will see these centering commitments to have themselves a founding story. Very often the creation story in the background of our future devotion starts with the happiest of accidents. Those accidents land us: in the right community, around the right people, bring us to our mentors/teachers/guides, with the supporting partner, living amidst the most terrific, and helpful, neighbors, colleagues.

We also see that we can no more separate out from our current success, any of these required prior successes, and failures, and, any small yet required learning, and any chance yet required encounter or precedent.

So it is a web of relationships comes to the front and center, in our regard of what was required for this small or major success. The genealogical current defies both time itself and timing. It provides the awesome “just so” in the deep background of every success.

Yes, one should count themselves a little bit lucky, or maybe, a lot lucky, to stand at the apex of a great success. You and your great success are at the summit of an iceberg, whereas the hidden, necessary, contingent assembly of elements cannot be temporally measured.

To rephrase a Zen aphorism for my purposes here:

the infinite is in the finite of every success

– – – – – – – – – –

|| Stephen Calhoun’s creative successes are being exhibited in a one man show of his photographic and generative art work, The Grasp of Order, at The Gallery At Gray’s, 10717 Detroit Ave – through September 30. open 9/24 noon-4pm – open during the work week, call 216-226-3300 for hours.


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FB-Stephen-Calhoun-African Alchemy Totem #3-48x72

All of us are watchers–of television, of time clocks, of traffic on the freeway–but few are observers. Everybody is looking, not many are seeing. P.M. Leschak)

The Gallery At Gray’s is located on the west side about 30 minutes from where I live in Cleveland Heights. Over the past five months my one man show, The Grasp of Order, has been installed, I haven’t spent very much time hanging out at the gallery. Yet, I did so on Saturday.

I knew some friends were going to stop in, and, I hoped some complete strangers would also drop in too. Several of this latter type did indeed stop in and the encounters were both gratifying and edifying.

Certainly, I like to talk about my work and creative processes, but I much more enjoy hearing people tell me about their experience with my experiential art work.

My art works, by intention and by design, provide open ended opportunities for experiencing their effect, rather than for deciphering their import. My work doesn’t enjoin any authoritative import at all.

Laura and Gary Dumm are longtime, well known, Cleveland artists; and their collaboration includes being married. I didn’t know them. However, in a rather audacious act of social media hunting and gathering I started to request connections to artists and others–for which Facebook reported to me numerous mutual friends.

As a consequence, the Dumms showed up at the gallery. This affirmed my social media move was worthwhile. What great people, what a pair!

Gary Dumm wrote this later on FB:

Today Laura and I stopped by Grey’s Auction House to view the large digitally enhanced photographic works of Stephen Calhoun. They are, in general, mind-blowing: a symphonic collection of the debris and detritus of nature and civilization restructured by the artist in such a way that these supposedly dead things dance energetically. Simpler designs are mandala-like. Some (like the attached image) appear as Bosch and Bruegel inspired dreams while others vibrate, figures destroying and reforming themselves as in the “Matrix” movies. To me they are pictures of the dancing Wu Li masters, where physics meets mysticism: all is energy, and nothing is ever lost.


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Artist Stephen Calhoun


My new web site features my art, art based in symmetries and surprise. It’s live today!


I’ll be highlighting some of its features over the next few days and on twitter.

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One Sided Dream

Sea dream by Stephen Calhoun

Sea Dream (Stephen Calhoun)

There is so much of theoretical and practical interest in supposing that art, artistry, and the artistic experience, transcend most, if not all, the closely defended normative socio-cultural-philosophical perspectives about WHAT IS ART? that what I would term “platform issues” become hidden away almost from the get-go.

Google’s Deep Dream platform embeds bizarre animalistic features in uploaded images. Because Google rolls out Deep Dream with a lot of cultural force, the new creative platform receives a huge amount of attention.

Meanwhile, Leonardo Solaas’s Dreamlines (2005-2014) and Doodl (2010-2016), neither of which are one-tricksters like Deep Dream, received almost no attention. Except, there is a creative sub-culture concerned with computer-generated and computer-assisted art. It has been around for fifty years. The first computer-generated art dates back to the sixties. This came to be a movement but, such so-called machine art remains a sub-culture as against what is termed New Media. And, oddly, Digital Art has come to be the catch-all term for anything that is unacceptably ‘facile;’ and so it is that an absurd dividing line has been etched.

gate dream

Gate Dream (Stephen Calhoun) 2016

Can Google’s Deep Dream become an art machine?

“Deep Dream was never about the aesthetics for me,” says Akten, a fine artist and PhD candidate at Goldsmiths University in London. Instead he was impressed by the way the machine learning manages to mimic and interact with human visual perception.

“It might look like Deep Dream is generating say, sparrow’s faces in clouds, but what it is actually doing is generating patterned noise, which our brains try to find meaning in.” Akten. “It creates just enough of a sparrow’s head in a cloud, so that our brains find the rest. Visually, our minds and Deep Dream are doing exactly the same thing. It’s such a perfect mirror. I love that conceptual aspect.”

“which our brains try to find meaning in.”
Palm slap! But, our brains aren’t finding, our brains are composing.

law dream

The Law Dream (Stephen Calhoun) 2016

Because Google Deep Dream traffics in its single trick, and the results are almost always grotesque, it isn’t an appealing tool. Where there is zero control, the end product is not one I really want to see! Still, the above piece intrigues me and likely will be my last creative word, or image, using the GDD facility.

Setting aside the usual prejudices of artists who think any manipulation of pixels is, (for lack of a better all-encompassing term,) decadent, the fundamental expansion of facility provided by processing power, whether it is a Photoshop plug-in or a one-trick neural network, or, advanced repainting as is the case with Processing apps, and Python/Java driven search and manipulation, plus all the other “facile” application platforms, at a minimum reveals possibilities which are not otherwise available.

Add to this elements of trial-and-error, serendipity, and under-determination, and new media techniques put a ton of pressure on, for example, the social and hermeneutic theories, theories which are concerned with masterful individual artistic projections of intentionality within social-historical contexts. I have a lot to assert about all of this from the perspective of a creative person leveraging other person’s programming innovation for the sake of producing visual experiences, and, producing art.

Ironically, Google’s Deep Dream is a play-toy when it is compared with software, the brilliant browser interfaces of Leonardo Solaas, Dreamlines, and the Doodl dashboard (2010-2016,) and, a handful of unique iPad apps. I used the Doodl dashboard to help me create most of my generative art work between 2014-2015.  See: Sun Ra In Heaven (2015).


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Chaotic Fringe

Stephen Calhoun, artist, Cleveland Heights Ohio

Musical Fugue State (2016) 24×15

The first piece for which it became clear to me that my preoccupation with turning complex disordered scenes into orderly presentations of overt and covert patterns could echo, in a striking way, the renaissance paintings of the Family Brueghel, was working through cuts of the photograph that became the basis for Paired Observations. This dates from June 2015.

The Battle of Carnival of Lent, Pieter Bruegel the Younger, is a favorite of mine.

The Battle of Carnival and Lent

Hustle and bustle unfolded in the streaming of life. . . Carnival v. Lent! Chaos v. Order!

The Bruegel Collection at
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.

List of Pieter the Older/the Younger paintings:

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Heck of a Trip

heck 48x36" (2016)

Heck 48×36″ (2016)

Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights – interactive tour

Noah Charney’s Salon article, Why Bosch’s Hell feels so real: The answers lie in Freud, Jung and the humble cronut. On the 500th anniversary of the painter’s death, we examine why this specific vision of eternal damnation endures, is too much a jumble to be very sharp, especially given the subject matter, nevertheless, he presents much that is of interest.

As an artist with one foot in the psychedelic/surreal and the other in the phenomenology/psychology of experience, his most personally pertinent point is:

Liminal zones or beings occupy the narrow space between two opposites, a bit of both, wholly neither.

Or beings! For me, there is a lot of pointed, and necessary, wordplay wrapped up in what for Howard was likely an innocent comment.

Be in is the most prominent play. The meeting of being also comes to mind.


What people most remember (so vividly that a toned-down version featured in a children’s book, “Pish Posh Said Hieronymus Bosch”) are his hybrid creatures in which he linked two animals, or an animal and a human: a fish with legs, a dog with an armadillo’s back, a leopard with a rhinoceros horn, a rabbit with porcupine quills. These figures, often peripheral to the main subject of the painting, are what ingrain in the mind: disturbing, haunting, but with a childlike macabre playfulness. They embody the uncanny, which is defined as “strange or mysterious, especially in an unsettling way.” They can make you smile and send a shiver down your spine. These are uncanny, liminal creatures.

Bosch’s universe strikes us that much more deeply because we recognize the otherworldly tableaux that he paints. It is the world of our dreams: part nightmare, part fantasy. Our dreams are, themselves, liminal (our mind is awake and wanders while our body sleeps) and are full of Freud’s unheimlich. Dreams can be fantastic (but feel real) or realistic with interjecting unreal fantasy elements. Thus the dream state, and its contents, are both liminal.

It is crucial to add: “embody the uncanny” is necessarily a two-way operation of consciousness. This ‘twoness’ engages the liminal dichotomy. This instantiates the fourness which reveals a crossing between the poles of the uncanny liminal opposites and the uncanny revelation provided by psyche becoming wed to its depiction outside of its embodied self.

Unfortunately, Charney makes a hash of the projective operations of psyche in his serial deployment of Freud, Jung, Klein, and Lacan, for the sake of psychologizing this, in my terms, fourness. Heck, Bosch existed in his own explicit context, a context prior to psychology yet completely enveloped by Christianity!

Bosch’s originality must be traced back to its own questions of “origins.” Bosch himself thematized creativity on the grisaille exterior (fig. 2) of the Garden of Earthly Delights triptych, where he shows the original creation ex nihilo, as described in Genesis, by the Creator himself. Those scholars, including myself, who see Bosch’s painted demons as an innovative watershed in the history of Netherlandish painting note that they remain his signal inventions, especially connected to his recurring novel visions of the afterlife.

Yet this particular originality of Bosch derives from ultimate origins: God’s Creation and the Garden of Eden. Bosch was motivated by the problem of evil, particularly the origins of evil in the world; therefore, in order to trace his own originality, we must go still farther back in time, even to the moment before the advent of humanity, Adam and then Eve, to examine his frequent fascination with the Fall of the Rebel Angels. For Bosch the problems of humanity began with the origin of evil, and his representations show clearly and consistently that evil already exists in the Garden of Eden, to provide temptation for Adam and Eve. Therefore, to get a proper sense of Bosch’s creative impetus, we must first look directly into the face of Satan, by tracing his own origin: his fall from grace and divine favor in heaven, transforming him from his former angelic identity as Lucifer (or light-bearer.) (2009) Larry Silver, Jheronimus Bosch and the Issue of Origins, Journal of Historians of Netherlandish Art (v1.1)

The Esoteric Bosch – The Garden of Earthly Delights commentaries by Lee van Laer

One of my first series of visual experiments using mirror symmetries subjected Bosch and the Flemish Breughels to remixing.


More recently, came a sort-of, hommage to Bosch.

Bosch In the Orient (2016) 16x16

Bosch In the Orient (2016) 16×16

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Feeling It With Integrity

Practically the theory of effort amounts to nothing. When a child feels that his work is a task, it is only under compulsion that he gives himself to it. At the least let-up of external pressure we find his attention at once directed to what interests him. The child brought up on the basis of the theory of effort simply acquires marvelous skill in appearing to be occupied with an uninteresting subject, while the real heart and core of his energies are otherwise engaged. Indeed, the theory contradicts itself, (it is psychologically impossible to call forth any activity without some interest. ) The theory of effort simply substitutes one interest for another. It substitutes the impure interest of fear of the teacher or hope of future reward for pure interest in the material presented. The type of character induced is that illustrated by Emerson at the beginning of his essay on Compensation, where he holds up the current doctrine of compensation as virtually implying that, if you only sacrifice yourself enough now, you will get to indulge yourself a great deal more in the future ; or, if you are only good now (goodness consisting in attention to what uninteresting,) you will have, at some future time, a great many more pleasing interests — that is, may then be bad. -John Dewey, Interest As Related to Will, 1895

Art and Aesthetics – Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Art As Experience – Having An experience pdf (John Dewey)
Dewey and Everyday Aesthetics – A New Look (Kalle Puolakka)

Second hand observations suggest that some people do walk up to my art and try to figure out what it going on, (as I have described this,) in its folds.

This is by design. The design method is straight-forward. I cut into an original photograph or generative image that pictures a heap of small abstract, or mostly abstract, multivarious details, and, through the simple transformations provided by throwing half the cut out, doubling or quadrupling the remaining part, and then matching the identical edges together, I capture order and set this into the new picture.

What is produced is a vertical, or horizontal, or quadruple, mirror symmetry, and, order. My hope is there come to face a piece a viewer able to experience the piece in integrity.

. . .esthetic experience is experience in its integrity. Had not the term “pure” been so often abused in philosophic literature, had it not been so often employed to suggest that there is something alloyed, impure, in the very nature of experience and to denote something beyond experience, we might say that esthetic experience is pure experience. For it is experience freed from the forces that impede and confuse its development as experience; freed, that is, from factors that subordinate an experience as it is directly had to something beyond itself. -John Dewey, Art As Experience (hat tip to Daniel Green, The Reading Experience)

If I’m standing with you, facing a piece, the possibility of having a pure experience will be fouled up! For me, now by both design and artistic intention, the best outcome for my experiments is a viewer’s dosie-doe, first is the pure experience, then comes the unique capture, or grasp of order.

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Standing Alone

Staring Down the Old Problem (2016)

Staring Down the Old Problem (2016)

A Human Circuit (2015)

A Human Circuit (2015)

While I develop and refine my artistic style based in mirror symmetries, I also (more casually) produce creative works which fall outside the outsider’s symmetry box. I stash these pieces in a folder: [STANDALONE] I produce a handful every year–most reflect happy accidents.

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Double Rolls


artist.stephen.calhoun on Instagram features pieces characterized by their not being in either of my catalogues.


The above Cube-O-Probe reflects the reverse side of the Cube-O-Probe rolled December 31, 2015. The latter probe was used as novel data for a contemplation about How Best to Work With a New Team. The reverse sides given in a single roll are, potentially, no less valuable. However, I don’t use this so-called double roll often because of the challenge posed by too much random data.

I usually get around to the double roll. In this case I waited sixty days. The roll reminds me of a Sufi hot tip: keep it clean.

The Grasp of Order – Stephen Calhoun
recent photographic and generative art

The Gallery at Gray’s Auctioneers
10717 Detroit Ave
Cleveland, Ohio
M-F 10-5p
otherwise open by appointment
216 226-3300

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Remedios Varo

In the previous post I mentioned my being turned, by a serendipitous contact’s suggestion, toward the artistry of Remedios Varo. It was my good fortune to find the two most important books of her work at The Cleveland Public Library.

The Magic of Remedios Varo – Luis-Martin Lozano (2000) – National Museum of Women In the Arts
Remedios Varo: The Mexican Years – Masayo Nonaka (2012) – Editorial RM

Remedios Varo (December 16, 1908 – October 8, 1963) was a Spanish-Mexican surrealist painter. She was born in Anglés Cataluña, Spain in 1908 and died from a heart-attack in Mexico City in 1963. During the Spanish Civil War she fled to Paris where she was largely influenced by the surrealist movement. She met in Barcelona the french surrealist poet Benjamin Péret and became his wife. She was forced into exile from Paris during the Nazi occupation of France and moved to Mexico City at the end of 1941. She initially considered Mexico a temporary haven, but would remain in Latin America for the rest of her life.

In Mexico she met native artists such as Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. However, her strongest ties would be to other exiles and expatriates, and especially her extraordinary friendship with the English painter Leonora Carrington. Her last major relationship would be with Walter Gruen, an Austrian who had endured concentration camps before escaping Europe. Gruen believed fiercely in Varo, and gave her the support that allowed her to fully concentrate on her painting.

After 1949 Varo developed into her mature and remarkable style, which remains beautifully enigmatic and instantly recognizable. She often worked in oil on masonite panels she prepared herself. Although her colors have the blended resonance of the oil medium, her brushwork often involved many fine strokes of paint laid closely together – a technique more reminiscent of egg tempera. She died at the height of her career.

Her work continues to achieve successful retrospectives at major sites in Mexico and the United States. (Wikipedia)

Well worth your time:

REMEDIOS VARO: Round Table Discussion Part 1 – Hosted by Frey Norris Contemporary & Modern, San Francisco from Gallery Wendi Norris on Vimeo.

(My own art is sometimes very surreal, but, my artistic outlook is not intentionally surrealistic. The surrealism sometimes evident in some of my pieces results from the meta-aesthetic given by my creative aspiration, in its aim to provide a praxis for the viewer. This experience is instantiated by a combination of chance visual elements, underdetermination, symmetry, complexity, and, the aspect that most supports ‘surreality,’ occulted patterns/forms/symbols/shapes/faces/masks/beings. However, this occultation is, overwhelmingly, not a matter of my choosing what is to be hidden.)

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Touch Recognition

Stephen Calhoun, artist

Gemini’s Sense of Humor (2016) 38×44″

Around the middle of January I received an email from a stranger. This happens often. The question about such emails is: will it sort into the box labeled Serendipitous Contact, or, Internet Scammer?

This one ends up in the former box. Its author had been urged to visit my art web site by a friend from my Vermont chapter. In her email she wrote: I have not begun to plumb the depths of your site, but I am grateful to learn the word pareidolia. I create art and music that is pareidolic (word?) in process. Previously, I have just called it “clarifying the images”. Thanks for the new vocabulary. When I googled pareidolia, I also learned the word apophenia. Also a great phenomenon.

J.S. hipped me to the artist Remedios Varo. Fantastic!

via Wikiart

via Wikiart

She suggested I might correspond with her friend, Genese. She described her friend: She has a great mind, and the spirit of a wild sprite.

Pareidolia, Seeing Patterns, Making Meaning – Genese Grill

Here are two excerpts from longer, and essential, posts. Ms. Grill doesn’t publish posts often, but when she does, her consciousness lights up her subject matter.

AN APOLOGY FOR MEANING The artist, as the “creative subject” par excellence, re-vivifies stale images and ossified words, dissolving the fixed relations and drawn boundaries around entities and forging new meaningful connections between materiality and imagination, individual particularity and archetypal abstraction.

CORRESPONDENCE AND DIFFERENCE A sense of what is beautiful, evidently, is at least somewhat natural and universal. And the works of art or ritual made with this sense of what is beautiful still resonate with a mysterious significance, even if we today cannot fully understand or believe in the things that were sacred to the people who made them. Translation across time and cultures is needed for a more approximate comprehension of the objects, but something very powerful, something powerfully familiar is present even without a struggle. What we want is to maintain the strangeness, while approaching a comprehension. What we must avoid is to diminish difference in the interest of a complete and total correspondence.

I haven’t taken up L.S.’s suggestion. I will. The outreach recently coming my way through the serendipitous transmission has tipped a bit, and so it will be my own effort which brings it back in balance.

Why? Is the highest artistry given in the penetrating and receptive engagement of intracommunicating being?

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Accidental Artist

Stephen Calhoun, artist

My one man show is hung and ready for the public to ‘have experiences’ at The Gallery at Gray’s, 10717 Detroit Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio. Yes, there will be an opening, and an associated catalog, an online gallery, and, some other initiatives. Fortunately for me, I am greatly benefitted by the enthusiasm of Deba Jean Gray, the gallery owner and the person who saw I was up to something artistically intriguing.

In crucial ways–and besides my being in the sociology of artists’ sense, a naive, and outsider, and untrained, artist–I am an accidental artist. Ms. Gray discovered me when she pulled a generative piece off the wall by the stairway in my step mother’s house in 2014. Later, after she toured my private gallery, she invited me to provide two pieces for an auction in May 2015. Those pieces were in a catalog amidst stellar company, such as Frankenthaler, Calder, and Stella. One of the pieces sold.

(It was only late in 2014 that it became possible for me to imagine that thirty years of private visual experimenting, begun first as a designer, then done as a painter, then starting in 2003, done as photographic/generative image-maker, might find my work engage a public.)

Four months later, I was prepared to show Deba and her associates my growing book. My visual experiments were rapidly evolving to become more ambitious. Also, I was learning in leaps and bounds, while dialing in much more technical control. I was spending all my time doing visual experiments, while trying to guide the most successful experiments up and out of the laboratory!

Nowadays, I work in photography or generative modes which integrate essential elements of serendipity. So, I see myself as an auteur of image-making–who dials in a delicate harmonization of the intentional with the fortuitous. Painstaking technical processes are involved in my, in effect, over-enlarging high resolution photographs, and doing the same with low resolution generative pieces.

My art reflects my life long interest in experiential development and a more recent interest in serendipity and contingency. My visual art is also of a piece with my musical experimentation; and it occurs to me I am bringing forth visual potentials which yield to a kind of visual equivalent of the deep listening developed as a holistic conception of sound experience by one of my main creative influences, composer Pauline Oliveros.

Ironically, 2015 was the year I steered my creative energies toward visual art, and away from music and sound design. Nevertheless, my creative process remains deeply musical.

Diver's Dilemma (2016)

Diver’s Dilemma (2016)

“What do you see hidden in the image?”

Each piece, by design, aims to support the viewer going into its complexity and tiny details to discover patterns, objects, symbols, faces, figures, etc. The artist does not program every discoverable feature. Far from it: the experience of each unique viewer, reveals sightings about which the artist is unaware of.

The pieces are intended to be experiential, and, are driven by my own conjoined experiential and experimental creative process. The primary process is a conduction drawn through phases: (1) capture, (2) cut, (3) create, (4) consummate. The last phase introduces the engaged viewer and realizes the culmination of the experiment in the unique experience of this viewer, this deep see’r.

I’m focused on providing experiences for viewers who freely choose to have an experience. For me, this completes the virtuous circle implicit in my substantiating such opportunities. My own creative purpose consequentially relies on the engaged viewer’s projective capacity. These pieces are primarily about enacting discovery.


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Cube-O-Probe: How to Work With a New Team


Classic four square CoP roll. The so-called heavenly quadrants are above the center, and the hellish quadrants are below.

This is a very clear and direct roll of the Cube-O-Probe, framed by the intention,

Give me crucial hints about working with the new team.

My reflections on it clarified for me the necessity of allowing the wise ones to have their say and impact, trusting their wisdom for the sake of my own development, understanding that the project aims for my own stability–but that it is not yet an obvious possibility–and, my sense that I need to mediate my own inquisitiveness.

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Ugly Beauty, again.

Stephen Calhoun, artist

Dave’s Third Grasp – final version (3)

Per the previous post, here’s the fix for the ugly fleshy protuberance situated in the original photograph.

This piece will end being printed to aluminum and enlarged to 32 x 54 inches; thus will be four-and-a-half feet in height.

My art is posted online at the main gallery, My Naive Art, and, on Symmetry-Hypothesis at Tumblr.

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Ugly Beauty?

Dave Goldthwait helping the artist realize a dark vision in the journey from disorder to pattern.

Dave G. helping the artist realize a dark vision in the journey from disorder to pattern.

The question is. . .



Is this too grotesque?

Dave and I mused together about how the reality of his beat-up thumb and its fleshy coloring stick out amidst the surreal scenery of the photograph. My own sense is that the photograph is powerful, it looks wonderful printed to metallic paper, but, it is very grotesque, and this quality literally sticks out like a sore thumb!

Yet, I can fix this problem and amputate the thumb.



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The Stack of Symmetry

All Hail the Center Pieces (S. Calhoun, 2015, 24x48h")

All Hail the Center Pieces
(S. Calhoun, 2015, 24x48h”)

Over the past few years I have not combined a vertical with a ‘flipped’ horizontal symmetry so as to synthesize the above stack.

Presumably, there is a transcendent function hidden in my (a) intention, or, (2) unconscious urge, because it goes from the two via the processual three to the whole four.

Two, plus two, next four.

odis tamquam fures et homicidas, tamquam specula celesti fulgore micantia mirare cogeris et amare.46
(you hate them as robbers and murderers; you love and worship them as mirrors reflecting a celestial light)
dialog of Ficino

My artistic sensibility admits as much, so, not surprisingly, the visual result is completed by the viewer, and, as well, the dialectical stasis captured in the moment of the viewer’s experience is also ‘half’ in the sensibility of the viewer. I term this: diastasis. The basic formulation could be enumerated, one, two, three, four; so this is most simply: creation, field, experience, engagement. The hidden bridge in the (social) cybernetic sense is the viewer’s abduction, which is the means for the viewer ‘reason-experiencing’ to the best explanation of their experience of the forms hidden in plain sight.

As the creator, I do not code those abductions into the visual field (piece.) Rather, their animation is contingent on the four-fold, as is this ‘adding up’ to: mirrors reflecting a celestial light.

This is, from certain perspectives, a very serious business!



Engagement (transcendent function)

(I would use different terms than Adorno, yet it is self-evident to me that the viewer completes the engaging experience with her own cultural conditioning. Because my aesthetic is intentionally underdetermined as a matter of the constitutive generativity underlying both creative process and artistic product, my aesthetic also greatly underdetermines the programmatic encoding. I like to think this lack of masterful coding sets the piece free from being only a simple message.)

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Friendship: Negative Capability, Unfinished Impositions, Irony

Stephen Calhoun, fine artist, Cleveland Heights, Ohio

The Caller, Stephen Calhoun (2013)

Loss of a person, of a close frriend or of a family member, presents a challenging process which won’t let go as it impels me through its requisite travail.

At the same time, the outward conventions of concern and courtesy basically allow for a restoration of human contact in the collective terms of concern and courtesy, and, sure, in the terms of grief and mourning.

These expressions are helpful, even as the expressed kindnesses and concerns seem to me to reach around the really bare, and profoundly forward-pitched facts. Of course, I would do the same thing, in approaching somebody’s loss, in approaching a ‘death in the family.’ Except, at the same time, I would be always holding back my usual, or my habitual, curiosity.

I would reign in my researcher’s soul.

What is actually going on?

I previously mentioned, or I think I did so, that in the weeks between meeting Ken for the first time and our second meeting, he reported to me that he had read my entire web site and blog. At the time he made this report, I didn’t know really what kind of ‘reader’ was Ken. Still, I was very impressed because he had begun what we came to call, ‘the forensics;’ and I had begun the same process. Furthermore, apparently, we shared this similarity, we both knew more data is better than both a little data, and, the thin positive capability through which a little data and bad guesswork are joined together.

Gone! Okay, what is actually going on with you Stephen? This is the question that can be addressed to me.

I do bring in, and try to warmly receive, the heartfelt substitutions for this non-obvious question. Oh, it was not a non-obvious question to Ken. When my mother passed away in early 2012, he asked me,

“What is going on?”

And, he kept asking. I’ll miss his researcher’s tenacity! If somebody doesn’t ask me this question, he or she is missing the boat. I’m not missing it, I’m in it.

I have put much of the actual goings on ‘with me’ in the aftermath of my loss, ‘out there,’ here, on my blog. (This blog is iteration number three, begun five months after meeting Ken in the fall of 2004.)

To review:

1. Shocked!

6. interlude: what you don’t know, give into
7. interlude: process and reality

Ken would have appreciated why the number of posts is eight. Hey, I’m throwing out clues here!

He and I agreed on a great great deal, although as I have tried to make clear, Ken was entangled by his enthusiasms, whereas I am mostly afraid of my own; (so, I trained myself to be a fallibilist.)

Also, I feel as if I need to be careful. But, it isn’t also true that anybody should feel he or she is to be a second fiddle. Heck, go for it. Life is unpredictable. And, you’re unlikely to figure out in advance when your last breath is steaming down the tracks.

Close relations are my second highest value–and are so for reasons I’m able to express. Ask me. Go for it.

Stephen Calhoun, fine artist, Cleveland Heights, Ohio

The Green Man (Stephen Calhoun

Ken and I spent a lot of time deconstructing what to us–to maybe only us–was the single most bloody problem in the ‘scape of modernity, (that:) the fundamental problem is relational incapacity, not deficits in rationality or critical thinking.

Note, the structure goes from Shock to Negative Capability. It goes from oh no, shit! to soul!

Yes, it was terrific and quite medicinal, perhaps even karmically medicinal, to feel really extremely thoroughly known by Ken, yet, I’ve mapped out the foundation to be: going from the LOVE BASIS to the COMBINATORIAL. Ken and I were sensemakers, this is what we did over many thousands of hours. Why?

What is actually going on?

Why? …such a good question. We never discussed explicitly dialogical recognition (Charles Taylor,) yet when we together took up the cause of the noetic public library we sorted out a deep congruence about the micro problems come to coalesce around the macro problems of–within the pragmatics of praxis in a library–reification, instrumentalism, objectification, dehumanization, and, well, how it is, apparently, easy to rip the fucking heart of a library out of its cavity, and place in this cavity a bunch of 3D printers.

Similarly, most societal problems at the scale of the kind of civics citizens actually can effectively practice, are initiated in the first order by the atrophy of the human ability to actively know one other. Ken and I understood our diagnosis would deconstruct this order of knowing. Then, for the sake of reanimating the civic heart and civic capacity for making sense, we worked over how in a city or in a library how citizens might collaborate on a new, deeper (3rd) order of interpersonal and intrapersonal knowing cum relationship.

In the light of the ideal of authenticity, it would seem that having merely instrumental relationships is to act in a self-stultifying way. The notion that one can pursue one’s fulfilment in this way seems illusory, in somewhat the same way as the idea that one can choose oneself without recognizing a horizon of significance beyond choice. Authenticity a picture of what a better or higher mode of life would be, where better and higher are defined not in terms of what we happen to desire or need, but offer a standard of what we ought to desire. (Charles Taylor)

Ken and I spent zero time slapping each other on the back when we discovered, for example, we both were familiar with Paolo Freire. It was all matter-of-fact because it is who you are, not what you know, and, so, study for the love of the quest. Train first! Deploy, drill down, together stick our hands in the muck.

What is actually going on?

When we turned this around, our critical chops came to meld Ken’s learned Saturnian thrust with my edge-seeking Promethean swing. Ken possessed this aspect, one that was like the boy with a hammer, the boy who would swing his hammer at everything; and, I, an actual complexed puer, possessed a kind of penetrating Apollonian cynicism, and, also I, a Batesonian, was able to stand back a bit. (Well, I didn’t want to get accidentally rapped by the hammer.) Yet, when we got going. . .

we’d cover stuff very very quickly. ‘Marx was not even a horrible psychologist, yet Russell was on the money in noting Marx was a Christian heretic.’ ‘Jung only had an inkling that he had birthed a psychology and its daughters from his lapsed Lutheran brow, and that his psychology’s wider applications were somewhat covertly undermined by this creation story.’ ‘There are short paragraphs in the Tibetan Canon, or the best haiku, which could right now replace and improve every word Ken Wilber has ever scribbled.’

‘cover’ doesn’t mean getting it correct.

Ken, by the way, fulfilled the demands of authentic relationship with many many people. He and I were in a synergistic profoundly complementary relationship, and spent no time gratuitously or otherwise aggrandizing how great was our relationship, except we did once briefly consider some of the contingencies and fortuities and errors which had to slowly collapse, like a holy wave function organizing its effective reality, or ‘reality,’ and do so over two lifetimes, all for the sake of being able to efficiently and cleanly deploy together the practical and/or explosive tools our dialectical instigations, spontaneous poetics, and channeled intuitions, came to evoke and muster.

Did it help our effort that we happened to have both traveled through some of the same ideational and metaphysical lands? See: Interlude #3 tomorrow.

Nevertheless, our learned congruency was like a picture pasted to the jig pieces of a puzzle. With time, and it still is going to take time no matter what, two people working together can piece the puzzle together without having to refer to the ‘parted’ picture on the surface of each piece.

What Ken and I disagreed about: particular ramifications. For example, the ramifications implicitly of this perspective:

Ken, you should just give up trying to trick me.

Ken respected where I could not go. I had occasion to remind him earlier this year that “such respect then leads irrevocably to my Promethean liberation of Astrology and Psycho-astrology,” (and how I came to amputate various fixities from their thin causal relations.)

I had planned to take him (this summer) through The Reduced Bateson Set. (Oh well.) We had begun to recast some of the developmental fixations in learning theorizing and in specific theories, like the theory of my friend, David Kolb. Obviously, to where the action learning of our entwined dialectical picking and drumming would have led to, is about as unknowable as an unknown could be.

I had submitted a Cube-O-Probe, as a visual poem, to House Organ. Ken rarely specified the ways in which our workplay was influencing his numerous other projects. But, he was a boy with a hammer! He took his set #2 of Cubes and fearlessly interpreted their message on behalf of astrologers, poets, and nieces.

Kenneth Warren
One deep congruency we arrived at, we came to right at the beginning. Love basis.

Another lesser, and vital congruency, brought forth one of the essential fundamentals able to support our mindful and creative travels: as it happens, an exquisitely sensitive humane esotericist breaks bread with a mercurial edge-seeking flatlander because the whole cause of inverting assumptions and sometimes having to mulch them is shared and equally served by two radically different sensibilities–except for, as Rumi noted, our “fleshy hearts.”

We traveled and never went anywhere. We made a road trip to the Target in North Olmsted for the sake of a veteran who had just rented a crib in Lakewood but didn’t have a bed.

h/t Lakewood Observer

h/t Lakewood Observer

We made a bunch of trips to Wadsworth in support of our fellow traveler, Daniel and his public library.

“Ken, would you please try to keep at least one hand on the wheel?”


When I had reason to remind Ken that I am, by disposition, a “deep ironicist,” he told me this assertion perplexed him. I told him,

“Come on Ken, you’re the one who titled me, Dr. Puck.”

Then, I explained to him what imperatives are driven by chops, negative capability, good/bad fortune, large collections of devices and heuristics, multitudes of perspectives, plus the ability to rappel down to the “meta,” and, I went on,

“then there are also all those just-in-time intuitions blowing into your scheme like neutrinos stream through the material world, except you and me grab at ’em and we bring the intuition back alive, from wherever was its ‘wild,’ and you stick ’em to your wall, They always seem to stick.”

“Yeah, Ken, your sort of an ironicist too.”

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Interlude #1 Perfume

Stephen Calhoun, fine artist, Cleveland Heights, Ohio

Bardo, A (Stephen Calhoun, 2015)


Forgive & let go
open the head
free the heart

be wary of vengeance
a life for a death

if you can’t
see anyone entire
there’s no one

not even you
aha aha

death is a giving up
risen as having gone
to be

the theatre of art
the spirit of fact

what you don’t know
give into

what the mind thinks

(Vincent Ferrini, The Pleroma, 2008)
Kenneth Warren wrote the Introduction.


A young man had finished his schooling and thus was hanging around the house.

His mother told him, “It is exactly the right moment to figure out what you are going to do with your life.”

The young man nodded his head. He also decided to get out of the house and spend more time in the village and observe what was going on every day there–because he hoped he would discover a clue about what he was to do.

For most of the next month he did exactly this. Over those weeks he found himself gravitating to a healer, a specialist in the ills of the back and spine. He observed people barely able to make it through the front door because their pain was so bad. He observed people returning after their treatment too. He figured these were follow up visits. These people were apparently free of back pain.

One day he announced to his mother,

“I’m going to ask the good back doctor, Dr. Fine, if he will take me on as an apprentice.”

His mother turned to him and nodded.

The young man felt good about his decision. One morning he knocked on the door moments after he had observed Dr. Fine arrive for the day’s consultations and treatments. He asked the doctor if he might need an apprentice. The doctor thought for a long moment and replied:

“Yes, you can join me as a student. All you’ll be required to do is watch closely, and, hold all your questions until I come to feel you have spent enough time watching.”

The young man thought to himself, ‘Simple enough,’ and nodded, and told Dr. Fine,

“Thank you very much!”

Over the next several months, the young man arrived everyday at the same time, put on a white lab coat, and, dutifully watched Dr. Fine work with, and on, his patients. As his time being watchful grew, the young man’s list of questions began to shrink.

Then one day, a middle-aged gentlemen somehow dragged himself into the examination room in a terrible state and in pain so great it was hard to watch. But Dr. Fine took a history, had the man lie down and rest, and then sent him home after asking him to make an appointment for a week later.

The young man was surprised by this case. All the previous worst cases looked the same: Dr. Fine would take a history, do an examination, have the patient lie down and rest for an hour, and then he would give the patient a quarter of a pomegranate. He would direct the patient to eat a tenth of the pomegranate each morning. Finally he would schedule a follow up to take place three weeks after the ten day course.

The young man had been Dr. Fine’s watchful apprentice long enough to see how wonderfully effective the pomegranate cure was for the persons stricken with the most terrible back afflictions.

This case was different. At Dr. Fine’s request, this same patient came back three times, and, each time he was sent away without the curative pomegranate. Finally, on the fourth visit, Dr. Fine gave the man the usual course of pomegranate.

A month later this same patient strode through the door for his follow-up appointment. He declared himself ‘a new man,’ and Dr. Fine nodded his affirmation.

The young man bit his tongue. Still, when Dr. Fine closed up for the day, as both stood on the small front porch, the young man turned to Dr. Fine and put to the good doctor his very first question,

“I have to ask this question, for I am disturbed to observe you give your worst cases the pomegranate medicine on their first visit, yet this patient today was made to wait a month. Why?”

The doctor put his hand on the young man’s shoulder,

“You see, every case is actually different, and is unique in its own way. The patient today presented a very difficult case and, likewise, the treatment recognized this, for where many unique cases are resolved by the pomegranate and healing regimen, in this man’s case, his difficulties could only be resolved by time and pomegranates.

With this, Dr. Fine, nodded, turned in the direction of walk home, and departed for the day.

(Adapted from a cassette recording of a presentation of Idries Shah.)

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