A moment from last week

Blog post entry from my other site: A Cycle Within

“Today is September 21, 2016 and a Wednesday. This day still feels like summer and reminds me of all the months and days preceding this one. The sun is high and the light is bright. As this light is cast through the leaves, my eyes are drawn to the quiet spaces between the layers of varying tones. Green is such a variable color. As my eyes shift between the space outside the porch to the view inside, I am inspired further by the tubes of oil paint near my palette. I know, though, that color from nature can’t be placed on the canvas or really, in a photograph either. As an artist, I decided long ago not to try to replicate the outside world in my work. I am influenced by it and it inspires each piece I make, but I do not aim to re-make what is real or rather, make my perception of it. My view to the woods and the light this time of year spurs me on even as I make a painting full of other hues. Up close, the colors and textures blend and my interpretation of their existence guides my reaction to the next mark I make and eventually, I get almost lost in the process.

Getting lost in the process of painting has been my goal this summer. I’ve had other goals too. The porch is partially screened in and a few windows are covered with plexiglass. This allows for a breeze when needed and plenty of light. Up until this recent spring, our porch was used for storage of odds and ends. And, then, I decided to have goals. These goals were planned to help me with the process of the other big event: trying to conceive possibly through IVF. So, I cleaned up the porch and set it up as a painting studio and also, an indoor garden. We had leftover recycling containers that I deemed perfect for the planting of kale, swiss chard, basil and peppermint. The planting of seeds was clearly symbolic. And, I couldn’t wait to see something grow.

The process of planting is much more detailed than what I decided to do, which is probably contributing to the failure of their growth. However, the process did out weigh the end result, something that is equally important in other goal areas: be in the moment, not over think the end and be aware of anything happening at any time. Perhaps seeing it all as out of my control…similar to the IVF process and basically, life in general (no matter how much we think we do control it, we can only control some things and the rest is up to God/fate..or whatever you believe makes life happen). I did my part in watering the seeds and then, something tiny grew. And, after a few days it became clear that the small growth may be all that would happen. A month later it is obvious they are not living. The excitement of waiting for life has now become an awareness of the end-the possibilities of life and yet, out of my control or planning better, the seeds didn’t grow to their expected outcome. I’m not too concerned, but again find a similarity to my current state: my seeds haven’t turned into what I expected, my remaining eggs might not work and my goals are being revisited in a new way.

Painting has been a huge goal for me in these recent months. I’ve been a working artist for years now and most of my pieces are in the form of photography or video art. My pieces are sequential and connect place and time with ideas of identity and the moments between. My artist books, large prints and smaller photography images excite my ideas and research, and I do feel driven to make my work. The years since being at Alfred for my MFA have consisted of making work but also, dreaming of a time when I could paint again. In undergrad, I considered painting to be equal to photography in how I made work. However, even though that art program encouraged working across mediums, eventually, I had to focus on one and I chose photography simply because I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it after college (I didn’t realize that I could build my own darkroom, which I did after graduation). So, painting got put aside and it took me almost ten years to get back into it. Part of the delay came from fear. Actually, most of the delay came from fear.

The summer before my fifth year of college, my dad and I turned a barn in our backyard into a studio. We built canvases and I spent every day for three months working on painting. I was in love with the rush of losing myself in the moment. After studying abstract expressionism in art history, I was eager to be like Jackson Pollock as he became more and more lost in the process of painting; concerned more with the moment rather than the end result. The natural high that came from painting reminded me of meditation or deep prayer. I never felt the need or interest to add to it artificially. Why would I change what happened so naturally with this kind of experience? I didn’t judge the ones who needed something else, but I was content with working in my own mind and finding a way to respond to the canvas. That fear of not working was actually more about the fear of losing myself in the process. I wondered if I would become lost in the process.  How would I make work that also needed to be talked about in an educated way? Painting was emotional and I felt connected to every mark I made. When I chose photography to focus on for senior thesis, I chose an easier route. And, after college, I continued with photography as I knew how to talk about it and how to make it without losing myself in the process.

Returning to painting happened near my thirtieth birthday. I had been making work and showing it but I felt something way missing. I knew that my urge to paint had been stifled long enough and finally, I let it out. I turned my second bedroom in my apartment into a painting studio. I was low in funds so I worked with the cheapest materials: plywood and house paint. I bought only black and white paint to work with. I let myself go and returned to the moment. These paintings contributed to a video art installation that finally led the way into graduate school at Alfred two years later.

I continued to paint when possible as I focused my research in time based media at Alfred. And, when I moved to eastern Washington for my first full-time teaching position at the university, all my canvases were set up in the new studio in the basement of my house. I had very large canvases to work on and when able, I would spend hours working on them. However, it was increasingly difficult to paint as I was balancing teaching with making my primary work: video and prints. Painting was an opportunity to express myself in the moment and do so again a month later. I painted repeatedly on those five canvases. A few of them are once again in my studio, waiting to be used again.

Only now, I feel as though my goals have been met for this summer. I have painted and lost myself in the process. The seeds were planted and barely grew.  I do not want fear to control my goals. I didn’t plant the seeds very well and if I want them to grow next season, I will do it differently. The canvases and the paints and brushes are finally connecting with my release of control of every mark. I’m finally letting the moment be my guide.”

Rhythm & Reflection

Figure Ground Rhythm is a concept I’ve developed in my research of making time-based interdisciplinary artwork. And, now has also become the title and concept of this website/blog. My work has previously been on a somewhat typical artist website, a place to view the pieces and information about my research. I’ve decided recently to change the old format into something more interactive. Writing has always been a part of my work, either in poetic form as a preface to an artist book or in research form in my MFA written thesis. My goal with this website/blog is to write about my work and also include excerpts from my thesis which I may respond to as each entry evolves. I hope to reach a wider audience in the writing and art community as well as social media outlets for shared ideas and thoughts on contemporary discourse in art, education and community.

What is this concept of Figure Ground Rhythm? I developed this idea from both my art practice and my interest in the research that led to my written thesis. I graduated from NYSCC at Alfred University with a MFA in Electronic Integrated Arts in 2010. The thesis research involved making my work and also, writing about how the work evolved and my particular interests in subjects that contributed to my overall concept. The written thesis is in the form of a self published artist book and resides at Scholes Library at Alfred University in Alfred, NY. Until recently, it also existed as a PDF document on my previous website. And, now, the writing will live here in the form of posts, entries of selections from various chapters.

A Thesis of Figure Ground Rhythm, Jamie Hahn, copyright 2010.


being mesmerized by a spatial density between atmospherics and figure ground relationships within a landscape.

in search of orientation, an awareness of presence in time, in history. a place of familiarity, a kinship within a figurative environment…

a meditative space. a reflection on time, light and modulating surfaces.

being saturated by an atmospheric rhythmic shift in perception and sense of expectation…

Chapter 1: section 1

“Lightly, almost in a fine mist, the snow falls. The falling is multi-directional. Like a wave or a strong current, the mass of flakes shift from left to right, up and down, diagonal, forwards and backwards masking clarity. Through the blinds, the perspective from here portrays a view almost like static television noise. The pine tree shape is fuzzy, the suspected distance or depth of view is altered. A focused eye can see branches swaying through the rapid haze of snow falling. The static eases, the tree is clarified. A constant flurry of movement reignites, and the dotted air obscures vision once again.

Outside in the flurry of falling snow, time feels different. Accumulation of snow takes time. Flake by flake the sea of white rises and covers the previous scape of ground. Standing within this hazy, damp atmosphere, accumulated time meets the moment, and an overall point of view meets focused attention from the whole scene to the one tiny flake that just landed on the tip of your nose. Catching a flake and inspecting its uniqueness suddenly draws intensive focus to how the multitude of them could possibly create a mask of white to every other shape, contour, contrasting texture, light or movement within view.

Shifting focused study from the tiny flake to the grand view of swirling masses is almost dizzying. Standing there with this kind of focus on the tiny amongst the many of similar form, motion and time move differently. Whatever the background, as hazy or masked as it may appear to be, is mostly still. Standing too, feels still. Passage of the moment slows with an intensity of watching single flakes travel through the atmosphere and make their landing. Patience is required to watch the entire journey as the flake nestles into its new home and gently blends into a new surface becoming less dimensional, less affected by movement.

As the flurrying diminishes, new focus is allowed to rest on the still forms. Trees, grasses, plants and the shape of the surrounding land can now be seen clearly. The dusting of white may alter their previous shape, but overall, these forms have returned to recognizable states of being. Before moving away, attention may be given to some movement of less intrigue. This is the movement of what appears to be still. This is the form that appears to be constant, reliable, known, definable as such and such. And, yet, with focus, it moves, and shifts dimensionally. The brush, the grasses, the leaves, the tree branches, the water in the pond, the clouds in the sky. Eventually movement within the standing position becomes clear and a realization occurs: motion is an ever present constant. Movement seems to engage intimately with time.”

The next post will continue with section 2 of Chapter 1.