In December I had the opportunity to attend several of the Miami Art Fairs. This was an amazing experience that allowed me the opportunity to see an amazing array of work from around the world that are created using some of the most unusual processes.
When I first came upon David Knuth’s work at the Untitled show in Miami I was drawn to the simplicity of the images. They appeared to be large areas of gradating color fields that met at a sort of horizon line. They seemed to fall somewhere between a landscape and abstraction. To me they had a simple beauty to them.
Upon closer inspection, Knuth appeared to have used a pointillism technique to create these large paintings which seemed rather labor intensive considering the scale of the work and the size of the small dots that composed it. As I was examining his paintings I overheard the gallery curator explaining to a potential customer how Knuth created the works – with a little help. As it turns out, Knuth enlists the help of hundreds of thousands of house flies! Knuth feeds the flies a concoction of sugar water and watercolor paint. The flies are contained to particular areas on the painting where they then regurgitate the paint onto the surface of the painting creating these tiny dots of color. The mark is called a flyspeck. The paintings are comprised of millions of little dots created by the flies all over the surface of the canvas. Although the artist does controls what colors the flies use, and what area they have access too, he also leaves quite a bit to chance when depending on his many assistants.
The lesson I learned was to inquire! Although you may think you have an idea how something is made, you may very well be completely shocked to find out how misinformed you really were. When I ran into a friend later and told her about Knuth’s work she didn’t believe me until she spoke to the gallerist herself. I don’t know that I would ever use flyspecks in my work – at least not on purpose, but it was a very interesting lesson about the techniques and processes artists use.