This is the eleventh in a series of interviews with artists participating in the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition. The third OBPC exhibition opened on March 23, 2013, and will run through February 23, 2014. It features the works of forty-eight artists in many forms of media.
Bo Gehring, who participated in our interviews last autumn, was named first prize winner of the third Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition.
Still from Jessica Wickham by Bo Gehring / HD video (5:05 minutes), 2010 / Collection of the artist
Q: What is your name, where are you from, where do you live now?
A: Bo Gehring, Beacon, New York
Q: What medium(s) do you work with?
Most of my projects are computer-related (I have a long background in 3-D animation and design) and sometimes involve programs that I write in C language to, for example, transform music into 3-D surfaces or drive an artistic process with stochastic data.
Q: Tell us about your technique/creative process.
A: It varies. But as an example, I have a really big milling machine that I originally acquired to make casting patterns for the front of a building at 40 Bond Street in Lower Manhattan. Although I’m not especially musical, I do love music and am deeply affected by it emotionally. When the 40 Bond Street project was done, I had the idea to use the milling machine to create a body of carved and painted foam surfaces derived from music.
Did that for a couple of years—what to do next? One day I was looking at that wonderful tool sitting idle and realized it would make a precision camera platform like no other. The idea of close-up motion portraits came right to mind. And so why not try to capture some of the emotion when someone hears favorite music? Bought a video camera. Now, three years later, I have a growing body of work around this concept, which never would have occurred without a lot of happenstance.
What is your background (education, career, etc.) and how does it contribute to your art?
I had a good start in college but became disenchanted with engineering and dropped out to become an artist. In spite of believing I would never willingly do anything like engineering again, events quickly conspired to put me into very high-tech computer pursuits for the next thirty-five years. I was an early computer animator and also earned two patents developing three-dimensional sound.
This background informs every art project I do; in fact I think of each of my artworks as a direct outgrowth, or flowering if you like, of the skills I learned during all those years in technology.
Q: How did you learn about the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition?
A: From an artist friend, Mariella Bisson.
Q: Tell us about the piece you submitted to the competition.
A: At lunch in a deli I ran into Jessica Wickham, a precision woodworker in Beacon, also on lunch break and in her shop clothes. Would she like to do a portrait right after lunch? Okay. I happened to have a CD of Arvo Pärt’s “Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten,” her favorite and coincidentally one of mine, too.
On first viewing, the portrait was obviously something special. The way Jessica makes eye contact and then slides back into the music was extraordinary. And I really liked the Crocs shoes and work clothes. That is why I submitted this particular portrait. I’ve seen it a hundred times and still tear up when it plays.
Q: Tell us about your larger body of work.
A: I don’t have any special desire to build a huge body of work, although that seems to be happening anyway. It’s important to me that each effort covers new ground: I’m basically an inventor, and I like work that exercises the things I know how to do at full bandwidth.
So far, in addition to these videos I’ve worked in just about every discipline involving metal and computers, computer-machined foam and industrial felt, and computer animation. Moving into video and maybe eventually 3-D sound is a logical extension.
Q: What are you currently working on?
A: I built a portable rig, which is as good as the huge milling machine for taking portraits, and hope to use that to collect portraits in the field like the early portrait photographers.
Q: Has your work changed over time?
A: Yes. I seem to move from discipline to discipline with no predictable trajectory. Actually I live for the variety.
Q: Tell us about a seminal experience you’ve had has an artist.
A: Loving music and realizing I could use it to make time-based art.
Q: Who is your favorite artist?
Q: If you could work with any artist (past or present) who would it be?
Q: What is your favorite artwork?
A: Don’t know how to answer. So many. But I do love the whimsy and non-mechanicalness of Calder’s moving sculptures.
Q: What inspires you?
A: I’m an optimistic sap at heart so . . . anything. But family and friends in particular.
Jessica Wickham by Bo Gehring / HD video (5:05 minutes), 2010 / Collection of the artist