”The Culture is the result of taking The Animals, my primal view of society, and moving it through time to a more evolved, refined, empathetic view of the human condition. Separated by about 36 years or so.~ Daeu Angert on her painting, The Culture
The Culture. Daeu Angert. I Paint ideas Collection. 2020. Oil on canvas. 48″ x 30″ (122 cm x 76 cm)
How it started
I was inspired by many different things coming together to make The Culture painting. I pulled on many threads, but they came together in the end.
One, in particular, made my brain connect the dots and go, Yes, I should make that. That was a conversation with a dear friend Janine Pearlstein, a workplace culture expert. I had the pleasure to interview Janine a couple of years ago for the game-changer series about her brilliant work — and it is brilliant — and she had some things to say in that interview that just sent the sparks of inspiration flying.
But it didn’t start there. It started decades and decades before. In ancient times, in 1985, when I did my very first oil painting. That painting was called The Animals, and it was my, how shall I say this, a preteen commentary on people in society. The whole premise was that people are animals, no better and no worse than any other creature on this planet, essentially driven by biology, most often in survival mode.
And that painting – The Animals – was composed of human figures in different poses, very stylized and abstract, which is all I do. And it was very much in your face; the composition was pushed forward to the surface of the canvas. Each figure was recognizable, simple flat shape, and there was no interaction between those figures. Each person was in for themselves, trying to survive. It was dark and moody and dangerous and felt intimidating. Lots of texture. The best word I have to describe it is that it was primal.
Long story short, I made it when I was 12. And then I went to college, I came back, visiting my parents and my painting was gone. Come to find out that my mom had painted over it. My mom is a very talented artist herself. Super creative. She is genuinely your multi-hyphenate. She plays music, makes art, designs clothes…She did a navigational system for missiles, among other things. And does all kinds of crazy things. We do come from a very artistic family, both art and music. I understand the need to create when that urge comes up. I don’t paint because I want to; I paint because I need to, so I totally get it. I’m not mad at my mom at all for doing that. However, I did ask her about it at some point. And she was like: “Who? Me? What? No! Never! I would never! It took her about 25 years to come clean and admit to what she did. But it’s all good. There’s a lot more creativity where they came from. So it’s no problem at all.
So after that “incident,” years and years and years later, I was thinking about The Animals and whether or not I should remake it. Unfortunately, there were a few other paintings of mine that I made years ago that were destroyed one way or another, at some point, never to be seen again. The same question came up for them as well. There was one that I talked about on my podcast; the episode is called Stepping Into The Future. But I was struggling with that question: Should I remake those destroyed paintings? And how? And if I did, how would I do it? Because honestly, I can’t do the same piece twice because the energy is spent. Gone. Done. That was the struggle.
That’s the first thread. So put a pin in that one; we’ll come back for it later.
Daeu talks about the inspiration and meaning of The Culture painting on the I Paint Ideas™ Podcast. Listen here in full or wherever you get your podcasts.
Putting Art One The Continuum
My concept for putting art on the Continuum was the second thread that helped bring The Culture to life. Placing art on the Continuum is a process that takes original art as inspiration to create more art by moving the original across dimensions, like space, time, and modality, basically transforming the original into more art. And the purpose for that is to have the continuation of creativity, so I never have to be afraid of running out of juice creatively. I also discussed it in more detail on my podcast – The Trends Episode.
The idea of the continuation of creativity is a through-line for my work. Because the purpose of putting art on Continuum is not only to create more art but also to tell a fuller, richer story about the original subject or the idea of the original painting. It lends itself beautifully to my work because I paint ideas and have an account to go with each one. Art storytelling.
This painting I want to share with you today, the culture, is an excellent example of putting art on the Continuum. And you’ll see why a little later.
So those two threads were swirling in my mind, putting art on the Continuum and remaking the destroyed paintings.
The Spark Of Inspiration
It just so happened that I interviewed my friend Jeanine, who, as I said, is a workplace culture expert. She helps organizations improve their results by improving their cultures. In that interview, we talked about her work. We talked about culture and different aspects of culture, then I asked her, What is it like when the culture is working? What is that like? And this is what Janine had to say made me go, hmm, I should paint this!
“It is true magic. It's like synchronicity starts to happen. And it's as if the universe starts bringing all kinds of benefits over and over again. But the truth is, it's because people are operating together in such an enmeshed way that they don't have to think through - oh, what somebody's going to think about the way I handle this or I'm worried about what other people think of me. They feel psychologically safe, to make mistakes and to grow. And it creates a ripple effect not just in the organization, but in the families of individuals, in their relationships, in their ability to invite greater happiness into their lives. It really is.”Jenean PerelsteinBusiness Anthropologist
So when I heard that, the light bulb went on in my head. And I thought to myself, that’s how I’m going to address The Animals and turn it into The Culture.
So the culture is the result of taking The Animals, my primal view of society, and moving it through time to a more evolved, refined, empathetic view of the human condition. Separated by about, give or take, 26 years or so.
The Creative Process
After the interview with Janine, I contemplated how to approach making the culture. What it would look like? What it would feel like?
It ended up as an oil on canvas. 48 inches by 30 inches. As a call back to The Animals, it is also a composition of people, but also very different. The Animals painting was in your face, and the images of people were bold, intimidating, and flat. The culture is much more subtle and nuanced. It’s still a composition of human figures, but they’re interconnected. It’s almost like finding oneness between humanity.
In fact, the composition comes from looking at the frequency of the Tibetan singing bowl I have. The Tibetan singing bowl is essentially an inverted bell. It’s used in meditation; I have a tiny one keyed into the Buddhist compassion prayer.
This opens another thread — Why was I looking at the frequency of the Tibetan singing bowl? Good question. Glad you asked.
I was looking at the frequency of the sound because that was a piece in another collection I was making called the DaeuArt Notes collection. DaeuArt Notes collection is about turning sound into visual art. I’d record a sound, mechanical, voice recording, music, nature sounds, babies laughing, anything, and transform them into visual art.
So I recorded myself playing the singing bowl, and then I looked at the sound wave, its frequency, and its heatmap. Then abstracted it without changing the frequency and see what showed up visually. I am always surprised in a good way because the intention behind the sound seems embedded in the recording. The first one I did for my daughter, I Love You, Beautiful, revealed the face of a young girl. There were loads of hearts in a love note. And a mean look in a recording saying Leave Me Alone.
So, that’s what I was doing. I was looking at the sound of the Tibetan singing bowl when I saw this image of people coming together, standing in a circle, maybe around a fire, collaborating, being together, etc. That’s what I pictured in my mind. And I thought that was an excellent composition for the culture; it was very fitting. The arrangement was rounded and pushed further away, so you could see more of the scene and what was happening. It was not threatening The Animals’ way; it was more inviting.
The next bit was how I wanted to depict those figures… here comes another thread, of course. The inspiration for painting those figures in terms of lines, shapes, and textures came from a lecture by Dr. Bruce Lipton…speaking on the Biology of Belief. His work, of course, is in stem cell research and epigenetics. In his address, he was specifically talking about organ transplants, the instances where the transplanted organ is accepted or rejected, and how our bodies know the difference. And he spoke about cells having receptors and how they’re coded to each person. And he used the word “broadcast,” and I stuck to that word like there is a broadcast that those receptors are receiving to let us know it’s us. So the cells are not rejected.
In my crazy imagination — I imagined this sort of radio wave coming down to each person, making them who they are, representing the unique nature of each of us.
The study drawing for The Culture by Daeu Angert
I used that as a jumping-off point to formulate the shape and texture of each person in the composition. There are eight figures — where The Animal painting was focused on the physical body, the culture also incorporates the spiritual side.
Next came the color scheme: the animals were dark, ominous, and scary, and the culture was primarily light with splashes of bright colors. When I say light, I mean the light spectrum and feeling of lightness. The animals showed the survival mode of each individual. The culture is more in a creative mode, a collaborative model.
Too much symbolism and not enough time. My paintings have a lot of symbolism in them; everything means something. There’s a reason for everything that I put in. A lot of times, there are things that you can’t even see in the background because it’s essential to set that stage, even if you can’t observe it. It’s vital for the story, you know.
But wait, there is more!
Going back to the interview with Janine — she actually said something else at the end of the discussion that sent even more sparks of inspiration flying. I mentioned how people used personalities to understand their organizations during the interview. And then Janine circled back to that at the end of the interview with fascinating insight…
“I just want to say something about the personalities. A lot of work is being done gratefully in organizations, figuring out where you lie within the personality structure and how you can get along best. But my work takes it deeper onto the level of your beliefs. Personality is aligned with attitudes and often it can change based on external environments. I want to take that work deeper and look more at your essential self, doing the alignment there. It creates much more synergy and value for people.”Jenean PerelsteinBusiness Anthropologist
I wonder if you picked up exactly what sparked my inspiration? Two words — wanna guess? — ok, I’ll tell you — essential self! When I heard that, I was like – I will definitely paint that.
Interestingly, I thought it was imperative to include this idea of breaking down the culture to essential self and aligning there to create a positive culture. That’s brilliant! But then I was like, how do I paint the essential self? How do I do that?
The good part is that I already did it when I painted The Culture. So I just needed to put it on the Continuum and transform it again, but this time, break it down visually into building blocks that make up a culture — essential self particles! I ended up taking a photo of each of the heads of the figures and playing with them digitally to create a series now called The Essential Self Particles. Particles in the title, of course, is a callback to physics because physics also influences a lot of my art.
Each particle is unique and special, made out of the same colors, textures, and lines; however, they’re all different, just like us. There is one that is very small and dense, and clenched. And then there’s another one that is open, inviting and all different shapes.
Essential Self Particles. Digital Art. Daeu Angert.
Then I wondered, what if I do an alignment now. What if I physically aligned the particles all on top of each other? With transparency, so you can see through the stack? What would that create? Would that give me another version of The Culture? What would that look like?
To my great surprise (again!), I saw a story coming together, each piece contributing a part of the story. This amalgamation produced, at least in my crazy mind, a lovely idyllic scene with a parent and a child in front of their house with a river passing by.
I see things in my paintings and tell a story about them. Sometimes what I see is intentional, and sometimes it’s not. But I’m always curious what others’ experiences are with my art. Let me know?
The Story. Digital Art. Daeu Angert.
It’s worth repeating that The Culture is an excellent example of putting art on the Continuum. From the initial idea that people are animals, to taking a spoken word in an interview and turning it into visual art pulling from all these different directions…then taking that, breaking it apart into a digital series, then taking the digital series and synthesizing it yet again into another piece. It keeps going. While it’s telling the story of the culture. It’s incorporating the bits from Janine’s work, which, again, is Brilliant with capital B.
Creativity never ends. It only takes a word, a phrase, a sound, a conversation, or in my case, your mom painting over your artwork to keep it up. To keep it going.