My practice connects painting’s history to our current visual culture, which is shaped by algorithms, artificial intelligence (AI), and blurred boundaries between real and virtual. I use image-generating machine learning models (StyleGAN) trained on Dutch and Flemish still life paintings to create newly invented images, which I print at large scale. Using stencils to protect parts of the printed images, I paint onto them. These masks create hard edges where paint meets reproduction.
The machine learning models generate forms reminiscent of still life, but distorted and unexpected. It was, in fact, a viral mutation that created many of the tulips depicted – a virus which today growers must use AI to eradicate. Like AI itself the images are seductive, but the initial beauty of the paintings is a ruse. Reproduction and painterly abstraction are indistinguishable in some places; the paintings unfold to reveal their mutations.
These blurred boundaries describe both the production and the product of my work–even my own gendered position is unstable, since my paintings contrast flower subjects, historically suitable material for women artists, and interventions into the fields of gestural abstraction and digital media, which are both historically coded masculine.
Tulips depicted in paintings, like digital imagery (NFTs) have been subject to use as currency, and are particularly ripe for economic manipulation. By recalling flower paintings, I elicit their role as emblems of value speculation, futures trading, and Dutch colonialist trade and power. In turn, my work explores the way that painterly “transgression” and invention are often complicit in the expansion of speculative capitalism. Like the invisible hand of the market, AI in our lives is largely invisible. By collaborating with AI, I investigate how these neural networks shape our decisions by predicting and replicating needs and desires.
Painting has yet to fully grapple with its digital counterpart. Though painterly idiom has undoubtedly adopted the language of graphical image-making (drop shadows, digital brushes) these “gestures” replicate in paint what is done on screen. There remain uninvestigated, if overlapping, image-making techniques native to both painting and machine. My current works collaborate with artificial intelligence to create machine-generated still-life images into which I paint. I am equally concerned with technology and painting, the dialogue I have built between abstraction and the genre of still life painting, and the questions of painterly skill and decision-making that are elicited by using machine intelligence.
Tiffany Calvert’s paintings incorporate diverse technologies, including fresco, 3D modeling, and data manipulation. John Yau, in his Hyperallergic profile, compares their “improvisational riffs and fractured views” to de Kooning. Calvert’s work has been exhibited at the Lawrimore Project (Seattle, WA), E.TAY Gallery (NY), the Speed Museum (Louisville, KY), the Susquehanna Art Museum (PA), and Cadogan Contemporary (London, UK), among others. Residencies include the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, I-Park, and ArtOmi International Arts Center where she received a Geraldine R. Dodge Fellowship. Calvert has received grants from the Great Meadows Foundation and the Pollock-Krasner Foundation. She is Associate Professor of Art and Graduate Director at the Hite Art Institute, University of Louisville, and a member of Tiger Strikes Asteroid curatorial collective.