October 2017 - March 3, 2018
First Particles, Elementary Particles
My new series Particles is an investigation into the interactions of subatomic particles inside an accelerator. It follows on my series of paintings of the machinery of the Large Hadron Collider, which were most recently exhibited at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. In these latest pieces, I am attempting to depict the super-small world of high energy collisions, filled with virtual particles, quantum loops, and hadronic jets. Virtual particles are the void making itself manifest – spontaneous arising, incipient decay.
The paintings are executed in acrylic paint on transparent mylar, and feature splashes and splatters from a very dynamic application of the paint with large house-painter’s brushes. I work on both sides of the surface. There are subtle pencil and ink marks which I use to suggest the three-dimensionality of the swirling particle traces.
I am at the beginning stages of developing a formal vocabulary for these pieces, in which different parts of the theory of subatomic particles correspond to specific formal elements of the paintings. I have been reengaging with the theory of the Standard Model, and studying the technical results from colliders like the LHC. In this exploration, I am aided by my original undergraduate degree as a physicist. Although a complete understanding of these theories requires a long journey of graduate study, I am still inspired to try to visualize particles in a new way.
Some of the new Particle paintings depict particle interactions that can be described with simple Feynman diagrams, such as beta decay, Compton scattering, the photoelectric effect, and Bremsstrahlung. Other paintings suggest much more complex processes that might arise in the extremely high-energy collisions of an accelerator like the LHC, where the huge energies of the collider particles can allow the creation of many virtual particles, which then spawn jets of subsequent particles as they decay to more ordinary matter. Also included in the show are two very early paintings from the Large Hadron Collider series in which the particle collisions were still seen in the foreground, rather than receding into the background.