Discover the Winning Masterpiece
Andrew Lincoln Nelson
Artist Locale: Arizona, USA
Subject Matter: Astrobiological Landscapes
Medium: Graphite Pencil
About this Piece: “Phytoborg 3″ (Graphite on Bristol board, 18″ by 24”) is part of a series of drawings (“Surreal Evolution / Living Machines”) that depict astrobiological landscapes. A “Phytoborg” is a vegetative life form that fuses machine and living plant-like elements. These vegetative machine-plants might be post-technology life or exo-biological forms of life. The spheroid “tree” in “Phytoborg 3” is organic in appearance, but is covered by square shapes that suggest a machine or non-biological origin. The surrounding ground in the drawing is covered by spongy fungus-like mounds that continue toward the horizon. These might represent some alien mono-culture landscape, but the mounds have slightly different morphologies.
This drawing is one of the most space-filling and corporeal early drawings in the Surreal Evolution series of graphite drawings. Subsequent drawings in this series use semi-realistic arid landscapes as backgrounds to provide scale and context to the machine plant-creatures. Phytoborg 3, however, has a background of fungus-like mounds that stretch back to the horizon. This could be an exoplanet or maybe a strange future Earth.
Artist Statement: My work includes detailed graphite pencil drawings of landscapes containing machine creatures, plant-animal hybrids and other conglomerations that might be found in the distant future or on other worlds. Many of the landscapes are drawn from southwestern deserts, waterscapes, and mountains, but others reflect a less Earthly aspect. These drawings focus on post-technology ecosystems containing self-sustaining technological artifacts. What would feral technology do if it were left to its own devices to spawn and reproduce long after its biological creators had passed away, maybe millions of years in the future here on Earth or perhaps on some alien world with unclassifiable fusions of biology and machine?
These drawings give speculative visual answers to the question above. Are there commonalities among all possible forms of complex life? Art through the ages has explored the unique nature of human experience. But is our uniqueness really our most important aspect? Maybe what makes us alive is more important than what makes us human. When we look at a natural object with a complex structure we often feel some kind of affinity or fascination even if we don’t know exactly what we are looking at. For instance, a close-up image of a bone fragment or of a complex fungus is mesmerizing, somehow compelling to the eye. These drawings depict objects or things that are un-named and unknown to the viewer, but the underlying structures are familiar in a complex organic way.
Andrew Lincoln Nelson is a US artist working in Arizona. His art includes detailed drawings of creature-like machines and strange plants in barren or alien landscapes. This artwork explores biology-technology fusion, time and distance scaling and the relationship between patterns at the micro and macro level. Conceptually the subjects of these drawings tend toward the surrealistic. In contrast, the execution is realistic and contains elements of photo-realism landscape rendering. Born and raised in Wyoming, Nelson drew, built and sculpted machines and strange creatures throughout childhood. During his teen years he studied painting and print making but continued to focus on drawing. He attended the Evergreen State College in Washington and studied art, artificial intelligence and philosophy. Later, he received a degree in engineering from North Carolina State University and entered into an academic career, publishing research in robotics, artificial intelligence and cell biology.
His later academic work was devoted to evolutionary computing applications for autonomous robots and artificial life. This research and academic writing has served as a prominent conceptual drive for his artwork. For the last 15 years, Nelson has focused on drawings of unearthly machines and hybrid machine-plant-animal creatures (“Phytoborgs, Surreal Machines and Osteoborgs”), with work being exhibited in both scientific and fine-art venues. His drawings are done entirely by hand using traditional drawing techniques with graphite pencil and drafting eraser. Although his earlier research was computationally intensive, he now uses only hand calculations, slide rules from the mid-20th century, and projection and camera-obscura-like techniques from the Renaissance era. He also occasionally constructs simple drafting tools and creature-element models and uses many objects taken from nature for surface and texture references.