EK Interview: Casey Cripe


Casey Cripe makes art that describes and challenges the boundaries of the world around us. From the atomic level to the galactic, he methodically describes the world and how it is ordered and functions. His work illustrates the universe, ornate and beautiful, in both finite and infinite dimensions. Check out his interview:

How does where you live influence your work? How does it shape you?
Well, in countless ways, to be sure, but I am what I am, doing what I am doing, here, now, because the San Francisco Bay Area has long been, and still is: a nexus of art & innovation, a major center of the grand Information Organization Project that now involves the entire globe, a fount of Consciousness Culture and Techno-Utopianism, and a stronghold of socio-ecological awareness. These all certainly have their imprint on my work, and of course, my person as well, because I am of this place. I was born and raised here & have lived most of my life here.


What does science mean to you? What importance does it have in your life?
Science is the mythos of our time, it’s our “candle in the dark”.


Why are you an artist?
I won’t pretend to know why. It was already there when the “I” that is me began to achieve self-awareness, and for as long as I can remember there has always been a “good, true, & beautiful” feeling pulling me towards. . .something. I’ve always felt touched by destiny, and whenever I stray from that feeling, or don’t continue moving towards it, my being begins to dis-integrate. Perhaps it’s cliché, but it’s deep & genuine: I have to be an artist. Not only for myself, but for others as well, the whole Human Project. It’s why I’m alive on this planet, at this historical moment.

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How are those two related?
Science is categorized as a “left-brain” activity, Art is categorized as a “right-brain” activity. Science is a way of knowing, Art is a way doing. Science is an attempt at objective understanding, Art is an attempt at subjective understanding. Science is quantitative, Art is qualitative. All binary systems are false dichotomies. All binary systems are integrated wholes. Both Science and Art are tools Life has evolved to
accelerate its Learning.

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How do they combine in your own life?
An “Artist-Scientist” is a Jungian archetype. They are a builder, an inventor, a seeker, a dreamer, and a thinker. They represent the power of the mind, infinite creativity, childlike wonder at the world, boundless curiosity, the finding of solutions in unexpected ways, and intuitive improvisation.

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Do you think there is, or will be, any major mode of human expression besides Art & Science?
I’m not sure, but if so, without over-straining my brain by attempting to reach beyond all known categories of thought, I’ll softly suggest two possible scenarios : (1) a further divergence, where ever-more unimaginable modes of human (or post-human) expression sprout from the evolving noosphere, or, (2) a convergence, where all modes of human expression are subsumed in a kind of consilience, either by capital-S Science, by capital-A Art, or by whatever neologism comes into being when there is no longer a distinction between the two.

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How much work goes into each of your pieces from a research perspective?
For about 15 years now I’ve been steadily building a massive personal reference library of books and images of all subjects from a variety of sources, and for the last 5 years I’ve been systematically scanning diagrams and illustrations from reference books housed in the Main Branch of the San Francisco Public Library.

I’d estimate about 33% of my time goes into research– in some ways it’s a whole performance-art project of it’s own.

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Is there a specific process you have, or ritual, for your work?
Apart from the research process, the building & preparation of each surface is very much like a ritual, a focusing of attention & intention. Every surface is built using the same method and materials, and before any imagery is added to each blank surface, a border is drawn around the edge, and a center point is located & bisected by a vertical and horizontal axis. As I do all this I’m aware I’m enacting a cosmogony, sacralizing space, & founding a new model world. My work is a ritual, and know it, and that’s why I do it.

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Which is your favorite piece, and why?
Oh, well, the truth is I haven’t one really, but I will say this: when I notice myself developing a least favorite, I then devote all my time & energy in an attempt to transform it into my most favorite. Working this way has proven especially effective, and makes “favorites” difficult to discern.


Where do you go next?
I sincerely intend for this body of work to be my “one-and-forever magnum opus”. As much as I am able, all my creative output during my all-too-brief lifetime will fit into this grand narrative I’m illustrating. The idea, all along and going forward, is that the work is exhibited all together and arranged in deliberate sequence, so each piece leads to the next, and like panels in a comic-strip, a narrative unfolds. That narrative is a journey along the spatial and temporal scales, illustrating Human Destiny in the Cosmos.

The first time I exhibited, it was just a handful of pieces– but they were the most important ones, the key nodes of the narrative. As time has gone on, I’ve continued to develop those original pieces while also creating new ones, filling in gaps in the narrative structure to flush out certain details. The individual pieces are always growing, I am always making new pieces to add to the sequence, and I always maintain a running list of pieces I will someday add to the sequence. The narrative will continue to expand, but if necessary it can also contract, or break into sub-sections (e.g., an exhibit of only space themed works, or human-themed works, etc.). The structure of the sequence as a whole is designed to adapt and change to suit exhibition space and the availability of pieces. Also, so far the work has been exhibited only in a very linear fashion, one piece after another, strung along on a horizontal axis, but currently I’m developing smaller, satellite pieces so the body of work can be arranged with a more dendritic or rhizomatic structure.


I should add that I use the word “narrative” instead of “story” because I make the distinction that a narrative is open-ended, and a story has a definitive ending. Exhibited as intended, the narrative illustrated by my artworks is a continuous loop –the snake eats its own tail—and within that loop each piece is connected to every other piece.

Do you believe in chakras? What do you think of unproved, or improvable theories of energy systems? What is your belief system and how does it inform your art?
All ideas, symbols, philosophies, conceptual structures, though natural expressions of life, do not, as they so often claim, embrace or explain life. We think and communicate using symbolic language, a codified system of metaphors, but the map is not the territory. However extensive and nuanced our attempts to encapsulate subjective experience and objective reality with language, the is-ness of what we’re after will always evade our grasp. “Chakra”, and “Chi”, and “God” are all metaphors, symbols pointing in the direction of something, but should not to be mistaken for the something itself.


I’m quite fond of remarking that “I don’t believe in belief”, though if I’m honest with myself I can see clear enough that I do in fact have a great many beliefs. As we all do, of course, because the Human Condition seems to require it. But perhaps the grown-up thing to do is to unveil ourselves, bring our beliefs out into the open and expose them to the reality of our situation: we are historical beings, biological creatures, children of an
unimaginable universe. Our ideologies, our dogmas, our –isms, when exposed to the light of that truth, are seen for what they are: insignificant, illusory, obsolete. But then what should we align ourselves with? What remains? What endures? What is eternal? Well, if I align myself with any system at all, it’s that of the pattern/process of the Universe itself, which as I see it, is Learning with a capital-L.


I think that is the grand narrative of this Cosmic Drama, that the metaphorical “God” is playing a game of hide-and-seek, that it forgot itself and set in motion an evolving Universe so to find itself again through its unfolding. The increasing complexity that we observe, and are a part & process of, is “God” learning what it can become, remembering what it is.

Do you think art created by Artificial Intelligence would be art? Would credit go to the programmer that coded the AI? If your answer is no, why not? Is the works of animals Art?
Well, by definition “Art” is a human activity, and I suppose so is what we call “intelligence”. So, again the limits of language trap us—in fact, I’ll suggest that “artificial intelligence” is a bad metaphor. Cognition is not computation. Computation is not cognition.


Did song come before fire?
I don’t know, I wasn’t there.