Edge of Today: Todd Baxter, Brian Cooper, Daniel Dove & Siobhan McClure

Brian Cooper

I love learning ideas about human behavior and the nature of reality. It’s a pleasure that feels surprisingly similar to what I get from art and music. They help me to, as the psychologist Paul Bloom says in his book How Pleasure Works, “make some type of contact with an underlying reality beyond what we perceive.” My drawings and paintings are an expression of this convergence of art and ideas.

This relationship has been greatly accelerated by my access to online media like blogs, podcasts, lectures and documentaries. I constantly listen to them while working in my studio. It was inevitable that they would somehow enter into my work. Here is a description of some of my projects.


I have made a series of small paintings of books. Each painting is the exact size and thickness of a series of popular physics books I found at my local bookstore. I copied the design of the covers and then elaborated on them with my own designs inspired by the subjects in the books. For example,

I repainted the cover of Michio Kaku’s “Physics of the Future” while subjectively abstracting the architecture and adding illusionistic trompe l’oeil drilled holes in the surface of the painting. 


I also have made several paintings of tattered pieces of painted wood. They allude to a desire to make and build and construct within a world that is constantly breaking down and falling apart. It brings together ideas about entropy with the inner drives within the mind. 


At the moment, I am working on a series of round charcoal drawings about several topics. One is inspired by the documentary “The Century of Self” by Adam Curtis. It talks about the history of advertising and its relationship with psychology and the development of consumer culture. The drawings depict uncontrollable worm-like monsters with huge mouths eating, fighting , and fornicating. 


Another is inspired by the research of the neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran and his ideas about art. He proposes art is deliberate hyperbole. We like art because it exaggerates its subject. We are bored with exact representations. We want it to be larger than life. This is due to how the brain is wired. 


In other drawings misty clouds of light allude to a lecture by writer Guy Claxton called “On Being Touched and Moved: why spirituality is really about the body”.  Here is a short description: 

“The ‘felt’ experience of spirituality is described in surprisingly common terms by those who undergo it. Though accounts are clad in all kinds of cultural tropes, its essence appears to lie in a spontaneous, and usually fleeting, transformation of bodily awareness; people describe a dissolution of separateness and loss of agitation, and report feeling suffused with energy, brightness and open-hearted concern.” 


There are a total of 12 different topics in this series of drawings that make a total of 26 round charcoal drawings.  They will be collected in a catalog. Also, I have written and recorded 12 experimental rock songs that accompany the drawings. The album will be released with the catalog of drawings.


Daniel Dove

My paintings depict fictional, once-grand environments and objects that have fallen into disrepair.  Whether originally built for purposes of entertainment, social organization, or manifesting a utopian dream, these places are now marked and degraded by natural elements and human intervention.  In this respect, they have lost both their function and transcendence, becoming disorganized and emphatically material; ideal subjects (in my view) to be rendered in the murky, viscous material of paint.  Painting’s history is also evoked via compositions influenced by Modernist reductive geometry. As such, my work represents artifacts from both the built environment and the history of period style.  By combining the depictive and the reflexive, I hope to walk the edge between painterly self-consciousness and collective anxieties about a culture in decline.

Todd baxter

Project Astoria is an ongoing photography project depicting the inhabitants of a failed and forgot- ten 1970s-era utopian space colony. The narrative images portray scenes and portraits of (mostly) teenagers in idyllic pastoral settings featuring aging modernist architecture. Landscapes, animals, and architectural elements are shot separately on location and composed together digitally. The vi- sion for the final scene is then sketched out on top of the background composition. With that scene in mind, talent is cast, wardrobe designed, era-specific props hunted down, and set structures built. These elements are photographed against a simple light-gray background on a set lit to match the background environment.

Once the elements have been photographed and digitally woven together, colors, tones, textures, and light are finessed until I achieve a singular unified presence with the images. The style is occasionally described as painterly, and I think that’s because the creative choices I make throughoutplanning, shooting, and composition are informed by my training as a painter.

The visual subject matter and narrative underpinnings of Project Astoria were inspired by both growing up in the 1970s and my father’s and grandfather’s work as engineers for the US Space Program. As a kid, I was taken by the notion that we were on the precipice of a brave new world. But as a teenager in the 1980s and 1990s, I saw that promised utopian future neglected and eventually abandoned. So teenagers, existing in that strange space between childhood and adulthood, naive idealism and ultimate realism, seem the perfect residents to occupy a world of failed utopia.

After years of the opposite, I’ve become a strong believer in the need to apply a gentleness, a compassion to ourselves, particularly in the face of challenge. And I apply this same lack of cynicism to the themes I explore. As a whole, the series is a non-ironic, non-judgmental depiction of bothattempt and failure. Project Astoria revels in the sincere modernist attempt at a collective utopian idealism but also lovingly embraces its inevitable failure. The sweet sadness of the images is a kind of eulogy to these efforts and outcomes. The images are not hopeful, but neither are they hopeless. Instead, there is a quality of nostalgia and quietude, and an implied lack of urgency, both for the series’ subjects and for its audience.

Siobhan Mcclure

I am a storyteller. For the past ten years I have created visual narratives that speak of the destruction of the natural world and the dislocation of its remaining inhabitants, children and domestic animals. The genesis of these tales is my own childhood, one filled with transience and disruption as my family moved back and forth across the Atlantic and back and forth across the USA. Home was a concept not a structure. We shed houses and friends as if they were clothes, sealing our pared down possessions in cardboard boxes anticipating another beginning in another place. And when the wake of relocation brought waves of foam, flotsam, and pearls, I sorted through them alone, an outsider in strange lands. It was an unsettling childhood yet filled with wonder and beauty. It seeps into my present life bubbling up to the surface in my art as I search for meaning in the debris of the future, a world of environmental degradation and forced migration, a world steeped in the garbage of rampant consumerism formed from the union of insatiable desires and economic desperation. My work does not illustrate a written narrative nor is it intended to be didactic although I hope it fosters contemplation, an appreciation of mystery and a desire to take action in aid of others and the planet.