Biography

Christian Schiess is a San Francisco Bay area artist originally from New Mexico. His education spans several disciplines and institutions that include a B.A. from Univ. of New Mexico-Albuquerque, in Anthropology; a B.F.A. in Visual Arts from the Univ. of San Francisco, S.F., CA, and an M.F.A. in Sculpture from Mills College, Oakland, CA. 


Additionally he completed a Fulbright post-graduate Fellowship at the Royal College of Art in London, UK, and is the author of the book “The Light Artist Anthology.” His awards include two grants from the Pollock- Krasner Foundation New York, NY, an NEA/AFI Grant Washington, DC, and three NEA/Western States Regional Media Arts Fellowships, Denver, CO.

His list of artist-in-residencies including two at the San Francisco Exploratorium, S.F., CA; a Bristol Exploratory residency during his UK Fulbright Fellowship, Bristol, UK; and a New York State Council on the Arts Residency in Binghamton, NY.


In addition he has been selected twice as a visiting guest artist in Sculpture at the Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, VT. His work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally. Currently he is a Dept. Head and faculty member at The Crucible in Oakland, which is the largest non-profit industrial/sculpture art education facility in the United States.

Artist Statement

My art frequently involves the use of luminous and kinetic materials to create sculpture, assemblages,  and site specific installations.  Woven throughout my work I have developed a concern with technology. Technology and sophisticated tool use are traits unique to our species and early in our evolution the illumination provided by fire gave humans a competitive edge that has continued to evolve.   Much of my art symbolically represents technology with radiant light.  Luminous, radiant light  as opposed to reflected light proves to be a very adaptable material.  It can be made to  behave like a substance with the characteristics of mass,  volume, color, texture, and  under certain sequencing techniques  can appear to  be kinetic.   In all  its various  forms radiant light epitomizes technology  and exists as a vital  part of our daily lives and an irreplaceable component of our culture.   Historically  technology at its best has a  beneficial,  benign, and unifying function  that  adapts the world to  human advantage.  Technology becomes unifying  when it  is  made available to all and  transcends gender, class, and nationality.   Unfortunately,  there exists a double edged aspect to technology  that  fuels  fear about  our excessive  association and dependence on it.    In recent years the influence  of  technology has become an  overwhelming global force  that now  compromises the flora, fauna, weather, and geology of our planet.   The interface between technology  and  nature has become more complex with an increasing rapidity that now advances humanity beyond being just  a product of evolution and toward becoming an agent of evolution.     Much of my art explores these issues and the careful  path forward  that  humanity must take in the  use of technology  before the  unbridled momentum of  technology breaks from our reins.
 

  My early works established three distinct series.  They included the "Fire/Air Series”  that consisted of  encapsulated luminous structures which were inflated, translucent, colored vinyl shapes that  were installed  suspended from ceilings by thin wire and appeared to  float against the force of  gravity.  Their light weight construction made them kinetic to touch and ambient air  circulation.  The interactive,  luminous air  sculptures in this series represented  nature and technology in a harmonious and playful relationship.  The “Fire/Water Series”   involved submerged or partially submerged,  electrified, luminous sculptures installed  in natural aquatic settings such as lakes, ponds,  streams, snow and ice  creating competitive associations between water, electricity, nature and technology. Finally the  “Ignus ex Machine Series”   entailed the  the construction of luminous suits worn by artists carrying light wands that enabled them to  draw  and compose 3-dimensional volumes of kinetic  light.  Inspired by the pioneering motion studies of Edward Muybridge, the luminous motion of the artists arms, legs and torso created imagery  documented in several  formats including film and video.   The images create a  “human vs machine”  tension that results  from  motion that  appears mechanical and machine like as viewers  attempt to  glimpse  the hidden human forms generating the motion.
   

 More recent directions in my work include the: “Cyber Arboretum Series  - Prosthetic Repairs to an Injured Environment;”   “The Cyber Flower Series;” “Studies in Bioremediation;”  and the “Flora Paraplegia Series.” In the “Cyber Arboretum Series  - Prosthetic Repairs to an Injured Environment,”   the   materials  used have a clinical, prosthetic appearance and incorporate multicolored radiant light, glass, machined stainless steel, aluminum, plexiglas, paint and laminate.   The damaged environment in the work is represented by pieces of distressed natural wood from trees unique to a specific  location.  In this series the technology that  causes  injury and damage to the environment  paradoxically becomes necessary for its repair and recovery.    Another direction, “ The Cyber Flower Series,”   is an attempt to  challenge and reproduce  the  vibrant colors  and diversity  of  floral patterns found in nature with the technology of  electronics, motors, and  radiant light.  By utilizing the high speed mechanical rotation of multicolored luminous shapes  a variety of patterns  are created during the rotation.  The patterns  have the appearance of flowers and can be either programmed  to cycle a variety of  “flower” displays over time or can be made  viewer interactive with separate motor speed and luminous  pattern controls. This series acknowledges the technological effort required to  compete with nature and the  beauty of flowers, but ultimately pays tribute to what nature does best.
        In the series   “Studies in Bioremediation”  the materials used are similar to the  “Cyber Arboretum Series,” but technology is no longer used to simply make prosthetic repairs to nature’s injuries. In acute situations technology  is needed to  attempt  the restoration of a destroyed environment.    Unfortunately, such extreme efforts can result in an environmental  transformation rather than its reestablishment and  culminate in the loss of an environment that may never recover.  The  work in this series represents remediation that transfigures nature with  sparse , austere consequences. In the “Flora Paraplegia Series” the materials used also include wheels. In desperate environmental situations technology is needed to attempt a physical relocation of a species. At this level of involvement the interface of technology and the environment is no longer a partnership. Humanity has traversed from the Holocene to the Anthropocene epoch by leaving its mark in the geological strata with radioactive material, plastic and concrete. 

Resumé

  

Christian Schiess


Education:

Royal College of Art, London, UK, Fulbright Fellowship postgrad. 1990-91  

Mills College, Oakland, California, Sculpture M.F.A.-1979

University of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, B.F.A.-1977  

University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM, Anthropology B.A.-1970 


Honors and Awards: 

2018 Pollock - Krasner Foundation Grant, 863 Park Avenue, New York, NY

2009 Guest Curator, The Bedford Gallery, Lesher Center for the Arts, 

Walnut Creek, California 

2008 Pollock - Krasner Foundation Grant, 863 Park Avenue, New York, NY

2006 Vermont Studio Center Visiting Artist, Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, VT

2005 Guest Curator, Thacher Gallery, University of San Francisco, S.F., CA

2004 Vermont Studio Center Visiting Artist, Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, VT

2003 Guest Curator, Louie Gallery, Ohlone College, Fremont, CA

1994 National Endowment for the Arts-Western States Media Arts

 Fellowship, Portland, Oregon

1992-90 Fulbright Arts Fellowship, Royal College of Art, London, U.K.

and The Exploratory, Bristol, U.K.

1990 New Horizon’s Award: Innovation in Contemporary Arts, Science and Technology; Leonardo/ISAST, Berkeley, CA

Guest Artist and Instructor at the IS ‘90 International Sculpture Center, Washington, D.C.

1989 Guest Lecturer, Visiting Artist Series, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ

Sun Gallery Civic Art Center, guest curator/artist, Hayward, CA

1988 Selected as a USA participant, “Images Du Futur,” La Site Museum,

Montreal, Canada

1987 “Artists Space Grant,” West Broadway, New York, NY 

1987-86 Artist-in-Residence, New York State Council on the Arts Fellowship, Roberson Center for the Arts & Sciences, Binghamton, NY

1984  National Endowment for the Arts-Western States Media Arts Fellowship, Boulder, CO

SECA Film as Art Award, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art,  S.F., CA

1984-83 Artist-in-residence, The Exploratorium/San Francisco Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco, CA

1983  The Theta Award in Sculpture, Foothills Museum, Boulder, CO

Tech Shop-83, Instructor/artist, International Sculpture Center, San Jose

State University, San Jose, CA

 Theta Award and prize, Foothills Museum, Boulder, CO

1982  National Endowment for the Arts -Western States Media Arts Fellowship, Boulder, CO

12 International Sculpture Conference, guest panelist and instructor,

Oakland, CA

1981  National Endowment for the Arts-American Film Institute

Fellowship Grant, Washington, D.C.

Artist-in-residence, The Exploratorium/San Francisco Palace of Fine Arts, San FranciscoCA 

Society for the Encouragement of Contemporary Art, semi-finalist,

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA

 The Pioneer Fund, Exploratorium, San Francisco, CA

1979-7   California Graduate Fellowship Commission, two year full tuition     grant award; Sacramento, CA and Mills College, Oakland, CA 

1977 Trefethan Award Grant, Mills College, Oakland, CA


Collections and Commissions:

2014 “Pin Bowl -2,” Pacific Pinball Museum, Alameda, CA

2013  "The Galton Board Project," Pacific Pinball Museum, Alameda, CA

2012 "Visible Pinball Machine-Freedom Project,” Pacific Pinball Museum,

Alameda, CA 

2011 "The Visible Pinball Surf Champ Machine,”Pacific Pinball Museum,

  Alameda, CA

2010 "Pin Bowl Project," Pacific Pinball Museum, Alameda, CA

2008  “Cyber-Lumen Series-Sweden,” Thomas Tits Museum, Sodertalje,Sweden

2005  “Strato-Flora from the Cyber Flower Series,” Phaeno Museum, Wolfsburg, Germany

2002  “Cyber-Lumen Series-Mexico,” Trompo Magico Museum, Guadalajara, Mexico

2001   “Cyber -Lumen Series Alabama,” Sci-Quest Museum, Huntsville,     Alabama 

2000  “Turbo-Flora Series- Beijing,” Beijing Oriental Plaza, Beijing, China

1999  “Cyber-Lumen Series-Spain,” Ciudad de las Artes, Valencia, Spain 

1998  “Cyber-Lumen Series-Osaka,” Osaka Children’s Museum, Osaka, Japan 

1996  “Tiachung Cyber-Lumen from the Cyber Flower Series,”National Museum of Natural Science, Taichung, Taiwan

1995  “Cyber-Lumen II from the Cyber Flower Series” The Western Virginia Science Museum, Roanoke, Virginia

1994  “Phoenix-Lumen,” The Arizona Museum of Science and Technology, Phoenix, Arizona 

1993  “Biosphere: Lumen-Illusion,” Biosphere Center, Oracle, Arizona

1991 “Cyber-Lumen I from the Cyber Flower Series,” The Exploratory Museum, Bristol, England

1990 “Flora Borealis,” World Financial Center, Battery Park, New York, NY 1988  “Lux Rota II,” Scitrek Museum, Atlanta, Georgia

1987 “Fire from the Machine,” The Center of Science and Industry 

Museum, Columbus, Ohio

1986 “Ignus Ex Machina,” Roberson Center for the Arts and Sciences, Binghamton, New York

1985 “Lux Rota,” IBM Gallery for the Arts and Sciences, New York, NY

1984 “Lumen-Illusion,” The Exploratorium Museum, San Francisco, California

1982-81 “Kinetic Light,” The Exploratorium Museum, San Francisco,    California 


Solo Exhibitions:

2003 Louie Art Galley, Ohlone College, Fremont, CA

1989 Center for Neon Art Museum, Scottsdale, AZ

1988 Victor Fischer Gallery, San Francisco, CA

1987 Roerich Museum, New York, NY

1986 Roberson Center for the Arts and Sciences, Binghamton, NY

1985 Victor Fischer Gallery, Oakland, CA

1984 New Langton Arts, San Francisco, CA

1981 Foster Goldstrum Fine Art Gallery


Note: Several commissions were solo public dedications with 

receptions and are listed under the "Collections and Commissions"  heading


Selected Group Exhibitions:

2017 “Art and Science of the Pinball,” Chabot Space & Science Museum

Oakland, CA  

2016 “Luminauts,” public screening Main Civic Center San Francisco Library, 

San Francisco, CA

2015   “Ausgeflippt,” Phaeno Museum, Wolfsburg, Germany

2014 "From Tools to Table," The Crucible Gallery, Oakland, CA   

2013  "The Galton Board Project," Pacific Pinball Museum, Alameda, CA

2012  "50 Years of American Studio Glass," The Crucible, Oakland, CA

2011  "Looking Back, Then into the Future," Expressions Gallery, Berkeley, CA  

2010  “Future/Tense,” Autobody Fine Art, Alameda, CA

  “Think Green 2,” Expressions Gallery, Berkeley, California

2009  “Illuminated Sculpture,” guest curator/artist, The Bedford Gallery, Lesher Center for the Arts, Walnut Creek, CA

2008  “Industrial Art,” Expressions Gallery, Berkeley, California

“Robotica: Machines in Motion,” Rhythmix Cultural Works, Alameda, CA

2007 “Luminaries and Visionaries,” Kinetica Museum, London, England, U.K.  

“Abundance of Color and Light,” Expressions Gallery, Berkeley, California

2006 “Spring Exhibition,” The Crucible, Oakland, CA

2005 “Carpe Lumen,” guest curator/ artist, The Thacher Gallery, University of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 

“Intersections:Art/Science/Mathematics,” Roland Gibson Art Gallery, State University of New York, Potsdam, NY

2004 “Illuminated Sculpture from the Crucible,” guest curator/ artist, Louie Art Gallery, Ohlone College, Fremont, CA

“Evolving Light,” The Museum of Neon Art, Los Angles, CA

2003 Solo Exhibition,“Cyber Arboretum Series,” Louie Art Gallery,

 Ohlone College, Fremont, CA  

2002 “Crucible Faculty Exhibition,” The Crucible Gallery, Berkeley, CA

2001 “Luminous Beginnings,” The Museum of Neon Art, Los Angeles, CA 

2000 “Neon: Current,” Reed Whipple Gallery, Las Vegas, Neveda     (catalog)

1999 “Northern Lights,” The Museum of Neon Art, Los Angeles, CA

1996 “International Neon Glass Art Society Exhibition,” Arnheim Gallery

Massachusetts College of Art, Boston, Mass.

1995 “Cyber Lumen and Turbo-Flora II,” The Western Virginia Science    Center, Roanoke, VA

1994 “The Light Artist Anthology,” Exploratorium Museum/SF Palace of    Fine Arts, S.F., CA 

1993 “Eclectic Electric,” Center for Contemporary Art, Miami, Florida  (catalog)

 “Biosphere: Lumen-Illusion,” Biosphere Center,  Oracle, AZ

1992 “Arslab-Metodi ed Emozioni,” Citta Di Torino Museum, Turin, Italy

“Art from the Exploratorium,” Canary Wharf Exhibition, London, U.K.

1991 “Les Artists et la Lumiere,” Centre National Art de Technologie Museum, Reims, France (catalog)

“Illumination Celebration,” Zenith Gallery, Washington, D.C.

“Multi Mediale 2,” Zentrum fur Kunst und Medientechnologie, Karlsruhe, Germany (catalog)

1990 “Contemporary Neon,” The Nevada Museum of Art, Reno, Nevada

“Technorama Exhibition,” Technorama der schweiz, Winterthur, Switzerland

1989 Solo Exhibition,“Fire and Air,” Center for Neon Art Museum,   Scottsdale, AZ 

“Light and Illuminated Sculpture,” guest curator/artist, The Sun Gallery, Hayward, California

1988 Solo Exhibition, “New Works,” Victor Fischer Gallery, San Francisco, California

“Images Du Futur ‘88,” Le Site Museum, Montreal, Canada  (catalog)

1987 “Neon: New Artistic Expressions,” The Bruce Museum, Greenwich,

Connecticut (catalog)

Solo Exhibition,“New York Fire/Water Series,” The Roerich Museum, New York, NY

1986 “Seeing the Light,” the IBM Gallery of Science and Art, New York City, NY    

Solo Exhibition,“Kinetic Luminism,” , Roberson Center for the Arts and Sciences, Binghamton, New York 

1985 “New Neon,” Trans America Center Gallery, Los Angeles, California

Solo Exhibition, “Fire/Air Series,” Victor Fischer Gallery, San

Francisco, CA   

1985 “Americans in Glass,” traveling exhibition, Stedlijk Museum,

Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Museum Bellerive, Zurich,

Switzerland; Kunstmuseum, Dusseldorf, Germany; Kestner-Museum,

Hanover, Germany; Kjarvalsstadir Museum, Reykjavik,Iceland (catalog)

“Illumination: The Quality of Light,” Nexus Gallery, Philadelphia, PA (catalog)

“Going Public: Sculpture from Studio to Site,” Civic Art Gallery, Walnut Creek, California

1984 “Electronics New Art,” Scottsdale Center for the Arts, Scottsdale, Arizona

“Lumen-Illusion,” Artist-in-Residence, the Exploratorium, San Francisco, CA  

“Luminauts,” SECA Film as Art Award Presentation, San Francisco

 Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA  

Solo Exhibition,“Ignus ex Machina,” New Langton Arts, San  

Francisco, CA

1983 “International Directions in Glass Art,” traveling 

 exhibition, Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery, Hobart & National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia

(catalog)

4th Texas Sculpture Symposium Exhibition,” Matrix Gallery,

Austin, Texas   

1982 “Inside/Outside,” Visual Arts Center of Alaska , Anchorage, Alaska

1981 Solo Exhibition, “Introductions,” Foster Goldstrum Fine Art Gallery, 

San Francisco, California

“Contemporary Glass Australia, Canada, USA and Japan,” traveling exhibition

National Museum of Art, Tokyo and National Museum of Art, Kyoto,   

Japan (book and catalog)

1981 “Neo-Luminism,” Bill Kane and Christian Schiess, Redding Museum and Art Center, Redding, CA

1980  Working with Glass/A Survey of Bay Area Artists, Triton Museum, 

Santa Clara, CA 

“Current Trends in Glass,” Walnut Creek Civic Arts Center, Walnut 

Creek, CA (catalog)

1980 “Light-Part One,” Richmond Art Center, Richmond, CA

1979 “Graduate MFA Exhibition,” Mills College Art Museum, Oakland,    California

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Christian Schiess