Artist Statement

Thoughts on the JWST series

An important question that should be asked of me is, why spend a month drawing an image in charcoal and pastel instead of just leaving it as a straight photograph. One thing I have come to enjoy about this process is the idea, and the technique, of using a very imprecise medium, like soft charcoal, to render the image of one of the most advanced and precise objects ever devised and constructed by mankind, the JWST. Charcoal is also one of the most primitive and ancient tools for drawing, and I’m using it to describe another tool for science, that will be shot a million miles into space to help unlock some of the mysteries of our galaxy and the universe. It’s an interesting juxtaposition.  

I also appreciate how drawing with charcoal mimics the tonality of photography better than pencil, pen or paint. I love the gradient tones that charcoal can produce. I trained as a photographer and spent a portion of my life practicing the craft. I have been seduced by the rich tonality that B&W photography can achieved. But, by directly drawing the image with charcoal and pastel, instead of printing the image, I find more artistic freedom, as well as a great deal more labor, and sometimes tedium. I have become the printer, in a way.

An idea that has been simmering in my mind is the concept of the mundane contained within, or juxtaposed with, the exquisite. Many of the recent drawings I have done, with the James Webb Telescope as its subject, describes an object of incredible precision, made with exotic materials, on the very cutting edge of what is possible to build. The main visual element of the telescope is the 21 foot wide gold plated primary mirror, who's purpose is to collect and focus light from the edge of the visible universe and all point in-between. To describe a mirror in a drawing, one needs to describe what it reflects. Instead of showing what it will, or might reflect, as in its intended purpose, I am showing the mirror reflecting the mundane environment in which it is being built, as well as elements of the telescope itself. This sets up a dichotomy in the drawing showing the instrument in its mundane environment, contrasted against the exquisite engineering and potential knowledge it will eventually will help us gain. In a way, the drawing is trying to show, in an abstract sense, where we are here on earth, and hopefully when the telescope is functional, where we might be in the galaxy and the universe.

Considering Industrial Infrastructure 2015

My artwork explores the aesthetic experience of the ignored industrial landscape, presenting, through an artist’s eye, the structures that are all around us, but which we do not always really see.  I want to challenge viewers to shift their assumptions about the landscape -- to recognize, appreciate and find pleasure in the inherent aesthetic importance of industrial systems.  But I also want my work to spur consideration of how we rely on this infrastructure, and yet largely take it for granted.

My images of water towers, refineries, power plants, factories are not designed to send any predetermined message, about consumerism, conservation, or the marvels of industrial and engineered achievement -- but rather to encourage our community to squarely face, and contemplate, what we often ignore.

Change, Paradox and Abstraction 2015

My recent work focuses on transformation and flux.  The work examines changes of state and perception -- turning raw material into energy, shifting our view of industrial structures from blight to beauty, and back again.  Metamorphosing photographic images -- from positive to negative, realist to abstract, architectural to geometric, digital ink to charcoal – helps reveal the paradoxes of the our relationship to the man-made landscape. The images transcend documentary photography, since I abstract and transpose the subjects to evoke the experience of particular places --- infrastructure in full working operation, and unused assets that have aged and weathered with time.

Some of the pieces probe the dynamics of iconic “industrial sentinels” that dominate their settings, but are also dependent on, and affected by, the environment itself – a story of mutual interaction and the interplay of architecture, nature, and economics. In the charcoal works, the act of translating the manipulated photographic images into drawings simplifies the composition, and abstracts it further -- interpretation and choice bent on bringing out what is hiding before our eyes.

--Timothy Makepeace

Timothy Makepeace personal Bio
Timothy has been a resident Washington DC artist for all of his adult life.  He considers himself a photographer with a sculptor’s eye and a sculptor with a photographer’s eye.  Besides being an accomplished artist he has experience in architecture and in construction, which has helped shape his vision.
He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Cornell University, studied sculpture at the Corcoran School of Art and studied photography at the Smithsonian Institution.  
His exhibition list include shows at The Octagon Museum, McLean Project for the Arts, Signal 66, Gallery 10, Washington Photography Center, Art Museum of the Americas, Strathmore Hall Arts Center, The Corcoran Museum, 410 GoodBuddy, DC Arts Center, NASA Goddard Flight Center, to name a few.
His recent artistic focus has been on what he calls “Industrial Sentinels” which stems from his long-time interest in large industrial infrastructure. The work aims to highlight the visual impact of industrial structures on our landscape, and the interplay of architecture and nature.