Art Talk with Nathan Selikoff

by Jennifer Hoesing

Nathan Selikoff

I first met Nathan Selikoff when he participated in a Creative Capital Professional Development Program (PDP) workshop for artists hosted by Citizens for Florida Arts, Inc. with support from the Division of Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts. His work blurs the lines between art, math and computers and explores their junctions. Nathan is participating in a second Creative Capital PDP in Tallahassee this weekend, and in advance of that experience, I asked him a few questions via email about his work.

DCA: Your work experiments with the overlap between art, math and computer programming. What have you discovered about the intersections between these disciplines?

Untiled Faces at Process & Influence. Image courtesy and used by permission of Nathan Selikoff.

Nathan: This is where all the interesting things happen! Many people think art and math are somehow incompatible, or have nothing to do with each other. While they do represent different ways of thinking, I see beauty in both and many connections between them. Furthermore, I believe both are, in their own ways, seeking to uncover beauty and truth.
I have always been drawn to the polymath or “renaissance man” – another way of saying this is that I am most satisfied when both the left and right sides of my brain are engaged. Leonardo da Vinci is the classic example of a polymath, but there are many, many others that inspire me and let me know I’m in good company as I explore the blending of art, math, science, nature, algorithms, and computers. Just a few examples from the past would include Dürer, Escher, Hofstadter, and Laposky. More recent examples include Mandelbrot, Moscovich, Pickover, the Algorists, Scott Snibbe, Jared Tarbell, Marius Watz, Casey Reas, Ben Fry… the list goes on.
DCA: Speaking of intersections, you’ve collaborated with composers in Orlando, Miami and Brooklyn. What was it like seeing your art set to music? Has that experienced further altered the way you consider your work?

Full Dimensions rehearsal, a collaboration with Keith Lay, Marc Pinsky, Full Sail University, the Orlando Philharmonic, and Maestro Dirk Meyer. Image courtesy and used by permission of Nathan Selikoff.

Nathan: My recent projects with composers have been really enjoyable and eye-opening, on many levels. Collaborating with musicians is fun, exciting and challenging, and has introduced me to a new source of inspiration and way of working. I listen to a piece of music and just close my eyes and let my imagination go. I think about how the piece makes me feel and the images and shapes it brings to mind, and work to interpret it visually to bring about that same emotion in the visual realm.
Music and sound are always experienced temporally, so in many ways they are more akin to mediums such as video, animation, and performance. I have spent a lot of time working with static images in the past (my fine art prints), and it has been great to get back to the moving image and the element of time, which engages people in a completely different way.
I also want to mention that I find the community of musicians to be very open, welcoming, and supportive of one another. They experience the same kinds of struggles and triumphs that visual artists do, and I believe we have a lot to learn from one another and from collaboration.
DCA: Your website features some stunning images of your work as a part of interior design. How were you inspired to feature your work in interior design settings?

Image from Nathan Selikoff online store. Image courtesy and used by permission of Nathan Selikoff.

Nathan: Most of those images are either staged or simulated with some Photoshop magic, and I created them specifically to target high-end, high-tech, modern and contemporary interior design settings as a market for my fine art. This is based on my research and on conversations with my supporters and collectors. I think these types of spaces would look fantastic with my artwork hanging in them :)
DCA: You’ve been a part exhibitions in all kinds of spaces, from the most traditional gallery settings to up and coming collaborative work spaces and even an exhibition at the Joint Mathematics Meetings. What has been your takeaway from being a part of a diverse collection of cultural venues?

Untitled Faces. Image courtesy and used by permission of Nathan Selikoff.

Nathan: Confusion! Just kidding – kind of. As an emerging artist, I have taken opportunities as they come and tried to cast a wide net and see what I catch. Most of these exhibitions have been wonderful experiences. However, I am getting to a point where I need to tighten my focus and pursue the opportunities that will best contribute to the sustainability of my career (financially and otherwise).
DCA: This weekend you will be participating in a Creative Capital Professional Development Workshop. How did attendance at your first Creative Capital workshop help you advance your career? What are you looking forward to in the weekend ahead?
As I have alluded to in the previous two answers, one of my questions at the workshop this weekend will be how to narrow my focus and choose those opportunities and relationships that will be fruitful to my career. I have committed myself to a long-term, sustainable career as an artist, and I need help getting there!
Creative Capital’s Professional Development Workshops have already been instrumental in my development as a fine artist. Specifically, since the previous workshop I attended two years ago, I have been in my first one- and two-person exhibitions; opened up some new sources of income with lectures, performances, and online sales; and perhaps most significantly, left a full-time job to return to freelancing and focusing on my art career. Some of the highlights from the previous workshop were learning and practicing negotiating skills, diving into an analysis of how I actually spend my time, and understanding how to use social media in the context of my art career. I was a Facebook hold-out for a long time, but decided to jump in for the purpose of marketing myself and my artwork, and it has been a good decision.
Being an artist can be a lonely and solitary pursuit at times. Besides providing practical information, I find workshops like this essential for connecting more deeply with other artists who share my journey.
DCA: The Division of Cultural Affairs believes in the motto “Culture Builds Florida.” What do you think when you hear that phrase? Why do you believe arts and culture are important to our state?
When I hear “Culture Builds Florida” it makes me proud. I am so glad that there are organizations like the Division of Cultural Affairs and people like you who understand the importance of the arts and culture to the overall health and strength of our society – emotional, social, spiritual, intellectual, and economic. Arts and culture help us see ourselves as we were, as we are, and as we could be.