For Good Measure, by Ensemble for These Times (E4TT)
Episode 57: Corinne Whitaker
Looking for a way to listen to diverse creators and to support equity in the arts? Tune in weekly to For Good Measure!
In this week’s episode, we talk to Corinne Whitaker about about her journey as a visual/multidisciplinary artist and her path in digital art, her artwork in E4TT's "Film Noir Project" and her image that was used for the cover of soprano Nanette McGuinness' first CD of music by women composers, "Fabulous Femmes." If you enjoyed today’s conversation and want to know more about Corinne Whitaker, check her out here: www.giraffe.com .
This podcast is made possible in part by a grant from the California Arts Council and generous donors, like you. Want to support For Good Measure and E4TT? Make a tax-deductible donation or sign up for our newsletter, and subscribe to the podcast!
Intro music: “Trifolium” by Gabriela Ortiz, performed by E4TT (Ilana Blumberg, violin; Abigail Monroe, cello; Margaret Halbig, piano), as part of “Below the Surface: Music by Women Composers,” January 29, 2022
Outro music: “Lake Turkana” by Marcus Norris, performed by E4TT (Margaret Halbig, piano), as part of “Alchemy,” October 15, 2021
Transcription courtesy of Otter.ai.
Producer, Host, and E4TT co-founder: Nanette McGuinness
Audio Engineer: Stephanie M. Neumann
Podcast Cover Art: Brennan Stokes
Interns: Roziht Edwards and Merve Tokar
[INTRO MUSIC] Welcome to For Good Measure, an interview series celebrating diverse composers and other creative artists sponsored by grant from the California Arts Council. I'm Nanette McGuinness, artistic executive director of Ensemble For These Times. In this week's episode, we're joined by Corinne Whitaker, who we spoke to in August 2020. [INTRO MUSIC ENDS]. Thank you so much for joining us today. Many of our listeners are unfamiliar with the world of digital art. Can you briefly tell us about yourself and your journey as an artist?Corinne Whitaker:
Digital Art got its beginning in the 1970s when NASA brought back black and white photos from the moon. This was the first time earthlings realized that we were a mere speck in a greater universe. The radical implications of this discovery cannot be minimized. Until then, we thought that we were the center of the cosmos. In our pre digital view, humanity was the focal point of knowledge and experience, everything began with us. Instead, the greater universe barely knew we existed. In 1994, Carl Sagan made an important video called the pale blue dot, reflecting where we stood in the cosmic view of things. NASA posted those early photographs on the inside of a giant sphere, so that their engineers could walk into it, and experience firsthand how our understanding had suddenly shifted. Renaissance perspective, which had dominated visual thinking for centuries, suddenly had a new companion. And artists had a new path to knowledge. Some of us realized that a new vocabulary was needed to reflect this radical change, a new iconography of vision. That has been my focus in my obsession, for over 42 years. Additionally, scientists at JPL Jet Propulsion Laboratory colored those images, which raised questions for me about what is color? Does it look different in space from here on Earth? Do scientists see color differently from artists? That exhibit held at Caltech in Pasadena strongly affected me?Nanette McGuinness:
How did you come up with the name of your website, The Digital Giraffe.Corinne Whitaker:
In 1994, I opened a gallery in Carmel, California, showing my digital paintings and sculpture. I needed a catchy name, and the digital giraffe is what came to mind. I can tell you in hindsight, why that makes sense. Giraffes are peace loving, vegetarian, stand taller and see farther than other creatures and have a huge heart. At the time, it was an instinctual choice. It became my professional identity from then on. It was also a working experiment. I was creating art. As I was exhibiting it, I thought it might be problematic to do both in front of the public. Instead, it was tremendously fulfilling. visitors from all over the world came to talk and see children immediately understood and carefully explained to their parents what was happening inNanette McGuinness:
Your website currently features a art. presentation about what it feels like living in a global pandemic, which is a fabulous, meaningful artistic response. Could you tell us a little bit about your process for this? How do you determine the image you will post each day? Has it changed for you since you began this initiative now that your three and a half months and over 120 images in?Corinne Whitaker:
Roughly four months ago, I realized that we were inundated with data restrictions, technical info about COVID-19. But no one seemed to acknowledge how it felt to live through this. We are not comfortable as a society, expressing difficult emotions. Even though the digital draf has been a monthly easing for some 26 years. I decided to exhibit a new image every day, based on how we as humans felt as we lived through this pandemic. I mistakenly thought it would last a couple of weeks. Instead, we are now into four plus months. It turned out to be a huge undertaking. Basically, I had to review over 40 years errors of image making. I did not change any of the images, nor did I change the names they were originally given. They had to be accessed, selected, resized, recorded, archived, uploaded daily, made available after the single day that they were shown. What amazes me is the narrative quality of much of this work. It is as though an artist's sensibility was in touch with a potential event of huge impact, even before I was aware of it,Nanette McGuinness:
What are you finding most artistically fulfilling in these times?Corinne Whitaker:
I feel blessed to be living at this moment in time. We are a species in transformation. As we move from carbon based to other than living forms are being grown on inert substrates, surgeons and scientists are transplanting parts from other animals into our bodies. Artificial Intelligence is radically altering how we see ourselves and each other. We are on a historical journey. Without knowing where or how it will end. I have sometimes called us the new Ender thoughts, and other times the quaza eyes. Even researchers at the forefront of experimentation, admit to qualms about where all of this is leading. As a species, we are the great innovators, we are also hugely disruptive. We seem to be addicted to violence, to warfare, to unimaginable hatred. What other species has put its own kind into evidence like those at Dachau.Nanette McGuinness:
As a multidisciplinary artist, how does your work in each medium inform the others?Corinne Whitaker:
I have often been asked if the images used in my books are illustrations, in the usual sense, no, they do not refer specifically to any line or page. On the other hand, their location in the book is carefully chosen. And they all like the artwork itself, reflect the heart and mind of a particular artist at this time, in this place. Together they form a picture of who I am, and what I am thinking and feeling. All art is autobiographical in some sense, we may not always have the key to decipher it. If the work is compelling. It may in fact take years to understand fully. It helps to remember that photography as a fine art took 150 years to be accepted. I should add that I have always been passionately curious about tomorrow in the unknown. Where will it take us? What mysteries will we uncover? I can remember going through the birth canal with great anticipation. What's going on out there in the big world and excitement? Let me out of here. Don't restrain me. This is the spirit that fills my life. To this day. I love experimenting with new materials and new processes. This is why I began some three years ago, composing music using AI, artificial intelligence. It is what has prompted me over the years to try new materials like mirrors and brass for digital painting. It is why my newest body of work starts with a raw selfie, projects it into artificial intelligence alters it digitally just to see where it will go. I have often been asked how long I will continue using the computer to create. I answer as long as the magic continues. And the magic never stops.Nanette McGuinness:
Ensemble for These Times was honored to use some of your fascinating images for our "Film Noir Project" and the cover of my first CD,"Fabulous Femmes," also features your art. What's it like collaborating with your own daughter on artistic projects?Corinne Whitaker:
Collaborating with my daughter has been a joy now is highly professional, engrossed in the world of art are open to new endeavors, constantly evolving and learning. It is a pleasure working with her and watching her grow.Nanette McGuinness:
[OUTRO MUSIC] Thank you for listening to For Good Measure, and a special thank you to our guest, Corinne Whitaker for joining us today. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe to our podcast by clicking on the subscribe button and support us by sharing it with your friends, posting about it on social media and leaving us a rating and a review. To learn more about E4TT, our concert season online and in the Bay Area, or to make a tax deductible donation, please visit us at www.E4TT.org. This podcast is made possible in part by a grant from the California Arts Council and generous donors like you. "For Good Measure" is produced by Nanette McGuinness and Ensemble for These Times, and designed by Brennan Stokes. With special thanks to audio engineer extraordinaire Stephanie Neumann. Remember to keep supporting equity in the arts and tune in next week "for good measure." [OUTRO MUSIC ENDS]