There was a time when artist Nathan Taves worked in an office surrounded by blueprints, land surveys and aerial photographs. He studied the details of our city and combined drawing, drafting and tedious accuracy to create books of maps that planners, firefighters and other city officials use to navigate and analyze the chunk of land that we call Fort Wayne. Taves spent years immersed in charts of neighborhoods and networks of roads that tie our community together. During that time his mind played with concepts connected to space and gravity, quantum physics and string theory.
Upon viewing his paintings, the influence of this background is obvious. One can almost see the gears turning inside of his head as the rules of space and perspective are questioned and experimented with.
“I am interested in manipulating space having taken my cues from physics and what it says about gravity, relativity and quantum world weirdness,” says Taves when asked about his influences. This man is a thinker who is fascinated by the laws and theories of our physical world. The rigorous, almost painful thinking required for a human brain to comprehend the abstract laws of space and gravity energizes Taves.
“I am not a scientist and I do not understand the math behind scientific formulas. I do struggle to understand the books written by scientists about these topics for laymen like me,” he says. This humble explanation is brought with an enthusiastic tone, his voice energetic, like a scientist on the verge of discovery.
Taves approaches his work with childlike inquiry and thinks of himself as playing with ideas to see what churns out. He has given himself permission to let go of the horizon line so he can look at space in a different way. This artist spends a great deal of time thinking and sketching to establish a framework for each new design. When he finally sets his brush to paint, he doesn’t follow the road map laid out by his sketch; rather, he looks for insight and inspiration as he moves through the painting process, or, as he puts it, “I’m looking for a way to configure space that can surprise and challenge me.”
Taves works with oil paint on hardboard. The materials are both durable and responsive and allow for repeated manipulation. He uses brushes along with napkins, paper towels and Q-tips to apply, wipe away and layer the paint.
The process is tedious. yet he says, “I don’t want the viewer to see the labor involved in getting the painting from the beginning to the point of letting it go. I want the image to seem like a fresh spring plant that just grew that way.
Taves is quick to say he is not an illustrator. He does not create visual diagrams of scientific theory.
“These are poetic interpretations,” he says. “I am using concepts. I am asking questions. What if? I’m not making a statement. I’m asking, what if space can be bent? What would it be like to be in a world where we could see the bends of space?”
While all these thoughts may be as difficult to follow as a movie about time travel, Taves manages to create work that viewers connect with. His palate is consistently cool and calming, dominated by pale blues and greens. At first glance, his pieces appear completely abstract, but given a few seconds of focus, trees become clearly visible, and soon after that clouds and possibly a road, sunset or tiny house can be identified.
“Entering a tree is inserting an anchor within the piece. It gives the viewer something to reference,” said Taves. It seems the familiarity helps people connect with his work. Many collectors who have lived with his paintings say they still get a lot from looking at them, even after years of ownership.
Tave’s paintings easily capture the inquisitive viewer, then reel the mind in as the eye travels around the canvas, connecting with these familiar anchors. The interaction with one of his paintings is similar to a typical approach to thinking about the scientific concepts that his paintings address. Concepts like string theory take a great deal of time to think about, to wrap one’s mind around; often a lifetime of contemplation. Tave’s work is the same. Give it time and thought, let your eyes dive into the paint and you will start to understand. The mind begins to branch out, riding along with Tave’s thought process, up and over hills and between fragmented trees. His work transforms a swirling storm of confusion into a manageable, peaceful world that invites us to wonder and dream.
Taves paints parts of our world that are unseen.
“I am interested in the world we don’t see, but it is still very much a part of our world.” His inspirations include germs, internal organs, gravity, time, string theory and nanoparticles.
His current work is the result of an evolution of his own experiences and artistic experiments. During his sculpture period Taves created representations of internal organs. While the ugliness of innards failed to connect with a broad audience, the study led him to a series of white clay pieces. Void of color, the shapes he created allowed Taves to focus on space and volume.
“So much sculpture is still framed by planes,” he explains. “The ‘Love’ sculpture is simply an extended font. I really wanted to think about space and the white sculptures did that.” One particular sculpture, “Curved World,” was the bridge that changed the course of his work. Taves painted an abstracted landscape upon the white sculpture, and that turned out to be the breakthrough that led him back to the 2D world of canvas and hardboard. Ironically, Taves feels he can most effectively capture ideas of space and perpetual movement on a flat, stationary surface.
While the scientific realm fascinates Taves, he has little interest in responding artistically to society and culture. He is bored by the inflated vocabulary that so many artists use to validate and describe their work, and he feels art is a visual language that shouldn’t have to be explained with lengthy statements. Taves paints for his own fulfillment and doesn’t use self-promotion to push his way into the art world. His life is private, and he keeps images of himself out of the public eye. He chooses to look within and pushes away the constant, superficial distractions that surround us.
“I am not out to reinvent the definition of art or painting,” he explains. “I’m not interested in investigating political or social issues, using imagery from pop culture or the internet age. In the last hundred years scientists have revolutionized our perception of space, time, matter and the size of our universe … In the last hundred years artists have spent a great deal of time thinking philosophically about art, and now we can’t seem to get past all the self-reflection and mind-numbing art-speak. It is like staying in therapy too long.
“My prejudice is simple,” he continues. “I would be very interested if more artists, using what we know from science and physics, would create images and objects that speak to all that fascinating information and all of the rich and inspiring theories. It would be a new type of poetic and theoretical realism that goes far beyond human retinal images.”
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Art on Broadway — Tours of 5 downtown venues featuring art from Alexandra Hall, Julie Wall, Peter Lupkin, Daniel Dienelt, Knotodday, Kay Gregg, Terry Ratliff and St. Monci, 5 p.m. Saturday, March 25, Broadway Street, Fort Wayne, free, 417-5925
Beer, Bourbon, Bacon Festival — Unlimited beer sampling from national and regional craft breweries, fine bourbon sampling and bacon inspired treats, 6-9 p.m. Saturday, March 25 (5-9 p.m. VIP), Marquis and Three Rivers Ballrooms, Hotel Fort Wayne, Fort Wayne, $35-$75, 484-0411
An Evening with Author Tom Frank — Author of What’s the Matter with Kansas talks about his new book; hors d’oeuvres, lecture and book signing included in admission, 6 p.m. Saturday, March 25, CS3 Hideaway, Fort Wayne, $15 plus donation, 602-1008
Puttin’ on the Ritz —Active 20-30 club fundraiser with live music from Chris Worth and Company, gourmet edibles, wine and beer, live and silent auctions; black tie optional, 7 p.m. Saturday, March 25, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, Fort Wayne, $50-$90, 450-2844
Shipshewana on the Road — Food, craft and primitives show and sale, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, March 25 and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, March 26, Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, Fort Wayne, $4, 483-1111
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Big Dick and the Penetrators — Classic rock at Navy Club, Ship 245, New Haven, 7-11 p.m., no cover, 493-4044
Brat Pack — Rat Pack/variety at Nick's Martini & Wine Bar, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., no cover, 482-6425
Cougar Hunter — 80s glam rock at Vinnie's Bar, Decatur, 10 p.m.-2 a.m., $5, 729-2225
Ellsworth Sharp — Neofolk at Friendly Fox, Fort Wayne, 6:30-8:30 p.m., no cover, 745-3369
FBC Band w/Sheba — Variety/Music and Memories benefit at C2G Music Hall, Fort Wayne , 8 p.m., $7-$15, 426-6434
Fireball Matinee — Rock at Hideaway Lounge, Bluffton, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 824-0455
Fleshwounds — Rock at Hamilton House, Hamilton, 9 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 488-3344
Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra — Funk at Dupont Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 9:30 p.m., cover, 483-1311
Fu5ion — Variety at Mitchell's Sports Bar & Neighborhood Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m.-2 a.m., $3, (260) 387-5063
The Illegals — Rock at O'Sullivan's Italian Irish Pub, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 422-5896
Joe Stabelli — Jazz at Don Hall's Gas House, Fort Wayne, 5:45-9 p.m., no cover, 426-3411
John Curran & Renegade — Country at Alley Sports Bar, Pro Bowl West, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 483-4421
Johnny Freakin' Xcitor — Country rock at Beamer's Sports Grill, Fort Wayne, 9:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m., no cover, 625-1002
Kat Bowser — Variety at Don Hall's Guesthouse, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 489-2524
The Orange Opera w/Mickyle James — Rock at Brass Rail, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., $5, 267-5303
Prime Suspects — Variety at American Legion Post 499, Fort Wayne, 8-11 p.m., no cover, 483-1368
Quincy and the Q-Tet feat. Phil Potts — Rock/variety at Downtown Eatery & Spirits, Warsaw, 10 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, (574) 267-6000
Second Nature — Pop at Crazy Pinz, Fort Wayne, 8-11 p.m., no cover, 490-2695
Shannon Persinger Quartet — Jazz/variety at Club Soda, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 426-3442
Todd Harrold & Nick Bobay Duo — R&B/blues/variety at American Legion Post 148, Fort Wayne, 7 p.m., no cover, 423-4751
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Ambitious Blondes Karaoke — Variety at Office Tavern, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 478-5827
Beat Karaoke & DJ — Variety at American Legion Post 296, Fort Wayne, 8 p.m. , no cover, 456-2988
Bucca Karaoke w/Bucca — Variety at Tower Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 436-6310
Classic City Karaoke w/Bryan Lee — Karaoke at Corner Pocket Tavern, Fremont, 10 p.m., no cover, 495-9255
Classic City Karaoke w/Tobin — Karaoke at Toad's Tavern, Monroeville, 10 p.m., no cover, 623-6226
DJ Shawn — Karaoke/variety at Club Paradise, Angola, 10 p.m., no cover, 833-7082
Fort Wayne Karaoke — Karaoke at Latch String Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10:30 p.m., no cover, 483-5526
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/Brian — Variety at AJ's Bar and Grill, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., , 434-1980
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/Josh — Variety at Arena Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 557-1563
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/TJ — Variety at Chevvy's, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 436-4748
House DJ — Variety at Early Bird's Ultra Lounge, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., cover, 483-1979
House DJ — Variety at Flashback on the Landing, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., cover, 422-5292
Karaoke — Variety at Crooner's Karaoke Bar, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m.-3 a.m., no cover, 486-1979
Live DJ — Variety at Wrigley Field Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 485-1038
Shooting Star Prod. w/Barbie — Variety at Uncle Lou's Steel Mill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 436-5787
Shooting Star Prod. w/Stu — Variety at Pike's Pub, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 478-6200
Sidecar Gary's Karaoke & DJ — Karaoke at Kville Pub, Kendallville, 9 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 348-1677
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The Children’s Hour — Lillian Hellman’s seminal drama about bigotry perpetuated against the LGBT community and how easily a lie can spread, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 25, First Presbyterian Theater, Fort Wayne, $12-$20, 426-7421 ext. 121
Getting Sara Married — Comedy about an unmarried lawyer in need of a husband (according to her aunt), 7 p.m. dinner, 8 p.m. curtain, Saturday, March 25, Arena Dinner Theatre, Fort Wayne, $40 (includes dinner & show), 424-5622
One Foot in the Gravy — Howard Kingkade’s comedy and winner of Fort Wayne Civic Theatre’s Northeast Indiana Playwright Festival, 8 p.m. Saturday, March 25; 2 p.m. Sunday, March 26, Arts United Center, Fort Wayne, $10-$20, 422-4226
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22nd Annual Valentine’s Invitational — Works from local and national artists, Tuesday-Saturday and by appointment thru March 31, Castle Gallery Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 426-6568
2017 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards — Award-winning works from northern Indiana and northwest Ohio middle and high school students, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 9, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Afros: A Celebration of African Hair by Michael July — Contemporary photography exhibit by Brooklyn author/photographer, daily thru April 14, D’Agostino Art Gallery, Indiana Tech, Fort Wayne, 399-8626
An Artful Spring — Works by Gwen Gutwein, Patricia Weiss, Austin Cartwright and more, Tuesday-Saturday thru March 31, Crestwoods Frame Shop & Gallery, Roanoke, 672-2080
Decatur Sculpture Tour — 31 original sculptures and 15 permanent exhibits on display, walking tour maps available, thru April 1, Decatur, free, 724-2605
Echolilia — Works from Timothy Archibald and his autistic son, Eli, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Entropy — Daniel Swartz solo exhibition explores relationship between death and mourning through combinations of mythology, mathematics, multi-dimensional physics and pop culture, Monday-Saturday thru April 1, Jennifer Ford Art, Fort Wayne, 740-1309
Diane Allen Groenert — Exhibition of local artist’s Downtown Series and new works, Monday-Saturday thru June 24, West Central Microcreamery & Cafe, Fort Wayne, 415-9293
Expressions of Existence — An exhibition of works by artists through history, including Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Francisco Goya and others whose works have been influenced by disabilities, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Fort Wayne Artist Guild Exhibitions — Works by Alice Siefert at Aldersgate United Methodist Church, Jennifer Caudel at Allen County Retinal Surgeons, Anita Trick, Citizens Square (2nd and 3rd floors), Darlene Selzer Miller at The Einhaus Group for Women’s Health, Patricia Weiss at Heritage of Fort Wayne, Emily Jane Butler at Ophthalmology Consultants (Southwest), Linda Binek at Ophthalmology Consultants (North), Carolyn Stachera at Rehabilitation Hospital of Fort Wayne, John Kelty at ResCare Inc. Adult Day Service, Wiletta Blevins at Town House Retirement, Karen Bixler at Visiting Nurse Hospice and Barb Yoder and Karen Harvey at Will Jewelers, thru April 30, fortwayneartistguild.org.
Fort Wayne Photographers Club — Exhibition featuring local photographers, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 30, Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, Fort Wayne, $3-$5 (2 and under, free), 427-6440
Garden Party — Garden-themed works in a variety of mediums from over 30 local artists, Monday-Saturday thru March 31, Orchard Gallery of Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 436-0927
Generations: A View of Who Was Who — Works by Romare Bearden, Kara Walker, Alma Thomas, Jacob Lawrence and other African-American artists, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 9, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Glass: A Medium in Art and Automobiles — Dale Chihuly blown glass and fiberglass auto, daily thru Sept. 8, Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum, Auburn, $7.50-$12.50, 925-1444
A Mary Poppins Garden Party — Child-oriented garden exhibit, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 1, Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, Fort Wayne, $3-$5 (2 and under, free), 427-6440
Moments in Time: Reflecting on the Human Spirit — Elizabeth Opalenik photographs from her recent Amish series A Journey Home and her Reflecting on the Edge exhibition, daily thru March 26, Visual Arts Gallery, IPFW, Fort Wayne, 481-6709
Outdoor Sculpture Invitational — Fifteen outdoor sculptures from regional artists, daily thru April 30, School of Creative Arts campus, University of Saint Francis North Campus, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
RAW. Untamed. Unashamed. Visions of Freedom. — Abstract romanticist works in acrylics and epoxy from Kristy Jahn, Fridays and Saturday-Thursday by appointment thru March 25, The Gallery at Pranayoga, Fort Wayne, 423-9642
Sharon — An exhibition of Leon Borensztein photographs chronicling the struggles he faced raising his severely disabled daughter, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Wabash County Schools Exhibition — Works by high school art students, daily thru April 16, Clark Gallery, Honeywell Center, Wabash, 563-1102