Digital and analog technologies are seemingly at odds, with the digital on the verge of subsuming and overtaking the analog. The work of artist Kristine Schomaker, however, attempts in strikingly direct fashion to bridge the increasingly complex space between these two poles while acknowledging a deep-seated fascination with both. Schomaker uses digital graphics and animations to make objects, images, and avatars. These works stand as individual artworks, but also coalesce to form a network.
One part of this network is her abstract paintings. Each incorporates colors and shapes mixed with what appear to be bubbles or ripples. At first glance the paintings read as impossibly clean and flat. With a more detailed look, small sculptural elements appear on and emerge from the surfaces—ripples, bubbles, drips, layers, and transparencies—lending these initially flat paintings an engaging visual texture and complexity. These small details highlight a deep sense of perspective in her paintings, as the abstract imagery and patterns recede into a deeply layered background and simultaneously pop toward the eye in the foreground. The paintings also serve as compositional palettes for mannequin-like sculptures when the designs take on three dimensions in Schomaker’s sculptural work.
Another aspect of this network is a series of slickly painted sculptures. These colorful mannequins enact specific scenes and motions that Schomaker choreographs through digital programming and computer animation. The mannequins, interestingly, are named for real individuals, which lends them an identifiable humanness—unusual for traditional mass-produced mannequins—and the viewer can imagine potential personality and behavioral traits for each. These forms also take on another role in Schomaker’s network when they become models for digital avatars used in the game Second Life.
Schomaker’s work keeps one guessing as to which part of this network of paintings, sculptures, and avatars led to which other part, and why. This is due in part to the flatness of the paintings, which lends them a moldable quality, and the slickness of the mannequin sculptures; both are presented like printed graphics that are used in advertising or video-game rendering.
Performance is also an important component of her work, and the artist notes that it often relates “to exploring notions of online identity and the hybridization of digital media with the physical world.” Her avatars are created first as sculptures and then become digital individuals with distinct identities that Schomaker has designed and enacted. However, the digital avatars are a kind of performance in which the identities or individuals perform actions; they become simulations of performers—of the artist and the other real people they are modeled after—enacting their own performance simply by existing.
The works are all connected through their obvious visual and aesthetic relationships, yet they diverge in notable ways. All are arresting but harbor similarities not easily overlooked. At the heart of all of Schomaker’s work is an exploration of and fascination with identity as a universal human puzzle, one that leads each of us to places we never imagined it would or even could.
Kristine Schomaker is a new media and performance artist, painter, and art historian living and working at the Brewery artist complex in Los Angeles, CA. She received her BA in Art History and her MA in Studio Art from California State University at Northridge. Kristine has taught art history at Antelope Valley College and Pasadena City College, has formed an artist collective in Los Angeles, has organized and curated numerous art exhibitions, and is a member of the Los Angeles Art Association, Southern California Women’s Caucus for Art, College Art Association, and Siggraph.