When asked about their profession, many folks can produce a business card that neatly sums up what they do. Brookfield’s Craig Goldwyn is not one of those people.
The artist, writer, lecturer, teacher, dog trainer, web developer, chef has lived in the community for 14 years. But while many of his neighbors go to the same office and do the same job day after day, year after year, routine is a hardly a word in Goldwyn’s vocabulary.
“I hate having two days the same,” he said. “A lot of things interest me.”
Goldwyn has been exhibiting his art since in the early 1970s and his work has been in demand by collectors for some time. While he has shifted media, tools and themes over the years, one constant in Goldwyn’s art has been a willingness to use technology in the creation of the work.
While a student at the University of Florida in the 1960s, Goldwyn studied under noted photographer Jerry Uelsmann. Soon after, Goldwyn moved on to The School of the Art Institute in Chicago where he became the first graduate student anywhere to study in the field of generative systems, art that incorporated computer imaging and other technologies.
These days, much of Goldwyn’s work can be classified as photopainting. He uses a computer to combine different photographed images and then paints those images with an electronic brush.
Through the years, traditionalists have claimed that Goldwyn and others using technology were not really making art. But that argument is foolish, said this Brookfield Renaissance man.
“In the ’60s, a lot of people argued that photography was not art and that you couldn’t make art with technology,” Goldwyn said. “But the first painter who tied pig’s hair onto a stick to make a brush was using technology.
“Photography has now received recognition as art, but now people say you can’t make art with a computer and Photoshop tools. But it’s the same argument about art with a computer as it is about music with an electric instrument. Is the stuff coming out of a synthesizer music? Of course it is.”
Goldwyn said some artists are simply concerned with depicting beauty, but others, like himself, are out to provoke thought and elicit an emotional response. He is not, he said, an artist who “talks to himself,” whose work reflects simply what is going on in his life and with his “emotions and traumas.”
He hit on a universal theme four years ago with his work “Homage to Heroes,” a tribute to the firefighters who rushed into the twin towers on Sept. 11, 2001. The picture, which includes images of a fireman, a dog, a man breathing fire and an airplane with a blade attached to the front, was published in several newspapers, and Goldwyn donated money from the sale of prints to a firefighters’ charity.
Another recent work of note is titled “The Dandelion Slayer.” The piece has an image of an elderly gentleman holding a rifle and sitting in front of a barn with the words “God Bless America” painted on it. Large dandelions sprout from the grass.
Goldwyn said the piece is “very much about life in suburbia and life in Brookfield,” and he relayed a real-life story about neighbors who once gave him a not-so-subtle hint to improve his own lawn care.
While the picture looks as if it could be a single photograph, colorfully painted with a few flowers added for effect, it is actually a combination of multiple images from different times and places. The man with the gun was photographed in Kentucky 30 years ago while the barn was photographed during a trip to Maine last year. Goldwyn said he snaps photographs wherever he goes, stores them on his computer and then combines certain images when inspiration strikes.
“It’s really the same thing a painter would do,” he said. “Except he collects visual images in his head and combines them in his paintings.”
Using his writing background, Goldwyn creates another component to works such as “Dandelion Slayer,” writing a backstory”Goldwyn calls them “pictories””in which his characters are given names and certain themes are further explained. The “Slayer” story includes a main character named Willard, angry neighbors and a message about the effect lawn chemicals have on the environment.
Those who purchase prints of Goldwyn’s work, receive a copy of the backstory. He continues to experiment with ways to display the story next to pieces that hang in museums and galleries. Over the years, Goldwyn’s work has been displayed in places like the George Eastman House, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago and The University of Castilla-LaMancha in Spain.
Goldwyn actually set out to become a writer and majored in journalism at the University of Florida. For a time he turned his interest in fine wine (developed during a job at a wine shop) and his flair for the written word into regular gigs as a food and wine critic for both the Chicago Tribune and The Washington Post.
He has also been a wine taster, started other wine-related publications and lectured on the topic, several times to an audience at the famed Cornell University School of Hotel Administration.
When the Internet age dawned, Goldwyn founded the Food & Drink Network on AOL, which he ran for nine years. He continues to get work as a Web page builder. Also, in an interesting fusion of two of his interests, Goldwyn once taught art history and concepts to students at the Culinary Institute in Chicago.
“Somebody once said, ‘you eat first with your eyes,’ and culinary arts is an art,” he said.
These days, Goldwyn continues to sell freelance articles, often about food and wine and related topics. He is currently working on a book about smoking ribs.
“I was looking for a good book about how to cook ribs and I couldn’t find it,” he said.
Plans are in the works for a book about another topic close to his heart”dogs. He and wife Mary Lou, who is a microbiologist, help to train guide dogs for the blind. He sees the book project centering around dogs that actually work for a living, for example, guide dogs and bomb-sniffing dogs.
While Goldwyn’s experiences are varied, an overriding theme seems to be his longtime fascination with the five senses, and a quest to utilize all of them.
“I’ve always had a great interest in the senses,” he said. “All that we know about ourselves and the world around us is based on what we learn through our five senses. We are like televisions with only five channels.
“While most of us are well-educated when it comes to sight and sound, we are never taught how to use our other three channels, smell, taste and touch. So, most of us go through life watching only MTV and ESPN. We miss so much! To get the most out of life we must use all our senses. If we go through life using only two channels we are handicapped.”
Add philosopher to Goldwyn’s job description.
Those interested in viewing Craig Goldwyn’s art can visit his home page at craiggoldwyn.com