Bill Armstrong  

To create these pieces, Bill Armstrong arranges scraps of paper and then focuses his camera on infinity, resulting in glowing spheres of pure color. Normally reserved for scenes of great distances and detail, this simple camera setting transforms the known, flotsam and jetsam of everyday life into the metaphysical. These pieces are related aesthetically and conceptually to Armstrong's larger "Mandala" series, with his creative act mirroring Tibetan designs made in sand. Constructed in a small New York City apartment, Armstrong becomes a conjuror summoning forth what appear to be half-formed dreams, retinal afterimages, or even tunnels to other worlds.

Similar to color field paintings, the matte, seemingly stained surface draws a viewer in, creating a push-pull effect that suggests a simultaneous absence and presence. The idea of infinity has long been associated with the sublime and the spiritual—"you look into the void and the void looks into you" if an oft quoted Romantic epigram. A native of the Boston area, Armstrong studied art history at Boston University and now teaches at the International Center of Photography. His work is exhibited widely and included in numerous permanent collections, including the Addison Gallery of American Art and Harvard University's Fogg Art Museum.

Bill Armstrong, Untitled, #423 from the Infinity Series, 2002, C-print, 20 x 20 inches, Courtesy of the artist

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Artist Statement

"Blue Spheres" is a portfolio of photographs from the ongoing "Infinity Series," which explores the mystical possibilities of the color blue. It operates within a long tradition in the arts of working exclusively in blue ranging from early cyanotypes to Yves Klein's Blue paintings. Blue has long been associated with spirituality: Wassily Kandinsky, in fact, believed blue to be the most spiritual color. The circle, or sphere, has also been loaded with symbolic meaning since ancient times, and in most cultures, the circle has universal or cosmic implications.

The "Blue Spheres" are collages photographed with the camera's focusing ring set at infinity. Extreme defocusing allows me to dematerialize the real and transform it into something ephemeral, creating the illusion of a mystical emanation. The "Blue Spheres" change as one gazes into them, sometimes pulsating as if alive.

Through restriction of palette, reduction of form and repetition of subject, I hope to distill my images to a transcendent minimalism. Whether seen as celestial visions, imaginary objects or microscopic details, the Spheres are meant to be meditative pieces that provide a glimpse into another world—a radiant world beyond our focus, beyond our ken.

Copyright © 2002, Photographic Resource Center, Inc.