Here students and teachers can explore the STEM concepts and skills found in the artists work. The STEM Concept tool provides a basic definition of a key concept in Science, Math or Engineering and suggests possible ways it has been applied or illustrated in each artist's work. It also includes artist tips and views on STEM for a personal perspective on the STEM + Art connections.

William Wilson, Pamela Brown, Joy Farley,
Dylan McLaughlin and Jamie Smith
What is your name and where are you from? Tell us a little bit about yourself.

My name is Wiliam Wilson and I am from at least a couple places, Tuba City, AZ and San Francisco, CA

William (Will) Wilson is a Diné photographer who spent his formative years living in the Navajo Nation.  Born in San Francisco in 1969, Wilson’s complex and nuanced oeuvre fully-developed while studying photography at The University of New Mexico (MFA, writing a dissertation on the photography of Milton S. Snow), as well as during his undergraduate studies at Oberlin College.  In 2007, Wilson won the Native American Fine Art Fellowship from the Eiteljorg Museum and in 2010 was awarded a prestigious grant from the Joan Mitchell Foundation.  Wilson is also an educator and has held visiting professorships at the Institute of American Indian Arts, Oberlin College, and the University of Arizona.  Recently, Wilson managed The National Vision Project, a Ford Foundation funded initiative at the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts in Santa Fe, NM.  He is also part of the Scientists Artists Research Collaboration (SARC).

Are you a digital native or digital immigrant?

Short answer: Digital Immigrant
Long answer.....I feel like the digital has colonized my practice and now my project is to figure out how to utilize these tools in creative and innovative ways.

Through collaboration, I want to indigenize the digital exchange.  I want to generate new forms of authority and autonomy, not assimilation, as the basis for a re-imagined vision of who we are as Native people as we employ these new tools to enhance older processes that prefigure the digital, such as customary Diné textile production....

What is the purpose behind your ISEA2012 piece and what inspired you?

The eyeDazzler Project is a trans-customary collaborative expression that brings together innovation, traditional Diné design, 76,050 4mm glass beads, over 1000 hours of artistic labor, and a portal to another dimension.

In part our inspiration was the desire to demonstrate that indigenous design has always been innovative. In this work we are bringing together customary design with new materials and technologies in order to tell a beautiful story about the making of something that is new and ancient in the same moment.  

Another inspiration came from weaving and the amazing textile tradition of Navajo people. 4 of the 5 lead artists grew up around Diné weaving and understand the extent to which this art making practice ties a people to the land from which they come.

It was also apparent to all of us that some of the first computational devices -- which gave rise to today’s computers--were punched card controlled textile looms utilized throughout the 19th century….

Finally, the work is about bringing together a group of creative people to imagine and create a beautiful piece of artwork that tells the story of a collaborative effort.  The work required a lot of time working together and in that space stories emerged between the collaborators that ultimately informed the finished work.  It was very much like the exchange that occurs in a quilting bee or knitting circle.

What do you hope an audience takes away from this piece? 

I hope that an audience understands the project as having its roots in traditional Diné design and then begins to wonder about the unusual materials employed to create the work.  Once they are drawn in by the unusual nature of the materials the QR Codes should become apparent and hopefully will instigate a further investigation of the work through interactive technology.  Once this happens the story of the work unfolds through the rich narrative of the work told in video and sound on the web.

How is your medium or technique unique? How have you integrated, adapted or recombined STEM components to create something innovative?

We have drawn on customary indigenous design and through the use of new materials and technologies created a trans-customary work that challenges the rigid division between the traditional and the modern. By using existing technologies, such as the Mirrix loom (a commercially available stand up loom whose design is based on the Navajo loom), the square glass bead—our pixel, QR Codes, and web-based digital video we created an innovative “trans-customary” Diné textile.  The production of the textile also utilized a software designed by Will Wilson and Josh Sarantitis and written by Greg Barton called TilePile, which is an open source software that enabled Will and Josh to create a million pixel glass mural in Tucson, AZ.

What would you suggest as a STEM activity or resource for a student that would like to explore the type of work that you do?

I would suggest researching a pattern or design based traditional artform and then think about making a similar work that incorporated a QR code, in the form of and integrated pattern or design.  Have this QR code link to the students blog, or webpage where they create a short video, audio, or poetic work that lends insight into their process of investigation of the traditional art form.

Can you share your methods for brainstorming and how you get your ideas?

I’m an image driven creative person, so looking at images is very important to me, I think the web is an amazing resource and sites like where communities develop ideas and share example of interesting work is essential.  I also love the physical process of roaming through he pages of books and journals so the library is an important site.  Finally, a good run or walk is always a great way to brainstorm and then focus my ideas in a way that links to my physical self.  I think that including your physical body in the brainstorming process is critical, especially if you are working with objects in space as part of your artistic outcome.

Once you had your idea how did you approach the phase of designing and planning for its realization?

I’m trained as a photographer so I began by taking pictures of one of my grandmother’s textiles, I converted this image into different shapes and sizes and then printed it out.  These print outs became the canvases for my initial designs and I scanned the work back into digital form for more manipulation, then I incorporated qr codes and began to research the constrcution of beading looms, when I stumbled upon the Mirrix loom and it all started to come together in my head.  At this point I began to identify funding sources and began to shoot a demo video.

Did you build a model or prototype for this piece? if so, how did you decide what to make it out of and can you describe the process?

Again I am trained as a photographer so a photographic prototype was a natural choice.  I also have the privilege of owning a large format printer so I could process and print out my prototype in real size.

Did this piece require doing research and if so can you share why it is important and how you go about it? Is there any advice you can offer about this phase?

I think research is very important and can lead to exciting new directions in work.  I think having a good amount of time is important.  Its also important to be able to balance the hard work of really understanding your project with the intellectual wandering and discovery that occurs when you begin to realize the incrediblly interconnected nature of a works possible meanings.  Artists often speak of the real artwork happening in the process of creating a work, the same principle holds true for research.

How did you test and evaluate your design? For example, did it work the first time or were there many versions before the final one? Do you have standard ways of testing your work?

The biggest unknown with the eyeDazzler project was whether the square glass beads could be woven in a uniform enough manner for them to work as a QR code.  Initial tests failed and it wasn’t until we found the right loom and figured out that we had to “cull” the beads to get the most uniform square “pixels” that it actually worked.  With regards to the overall workflow of the textile production we had a suggestion log that collaborators regularly updated and we collectively implemented these suggesting to make the production side of things more and more efficient.

The test and evaluate phase is where we confront our limitations and “failures”. Often we prefer not to talk about them because we are encouraged to only talk about our successes. What can you share with students about the process of “success and failure” that emerges in the test and evaluation phase?

I think I addressed this in the last 2 answers.
I would add that it was very useful to have a collaborative group of problem solvers.

What criteria did you use to evaluate your piece, or your work in general?

I think that we wanted to make something that was beautiful in order to honor an important customary artmaking practice.  We also wanted to put our own spin on the textile to make it original in a way that linked the customary with new materials and technologies.  In the collaborative process of creating the work we really learned from one another and shared stories and labor in a way that influenced the final outcome of the work.

What do you get from sharing your work with others? This question addresses the greater question of why we create art in the first place? What is its role in society? Why is it important for us to create and share art?

This work in particular tells the important story of a living culture that is constantly incorporating the new into its traditional practices.  The work is a testament to our resistance and innovation.  The work was also produced as a public art commission so its not only the story of tradition and innovation but part of New Mexico’s cultural patrimony. We are writing our story, from our perspective, into the fabric of what it means to be New Mexican in the 21st century.

Is there anything else about your creative process that you would like to share? Perhaps we missed an important part of your creative process.

II think that its important to note that this is an extension of a process developed during the fabrication of a large-scale, community-designed and fabricated public art piece in Tucson, AZ.  See:

Do you come from a STEM background or an Arts background? What is the STEM skill or concept that inspired or formed this piece, or your work in general?

We are from an arts background.
Digital storytelling is one aspect of STEM that we relied upon.
Software design that facilitated the organization of a large amount of pixels was another STEM skill utilized.
We are also very much invested in the notion that between the atom and the bit lies craft and that through craft the STEM aspects of our project found beautiful and meaningful integration.

What was your experience with STEM in middle and high school and what would you change if you could?

Certainly, my art practice has been greatly enhanced by the tools that STEM skills provide.  This is how I think about STEM skills, more tools in the toolbox that facilitate the artmaking process. I would add that STEM can be greatly enhanced by incorporating the Arts thus creating a STEAM skillset.

How has your creative work influenced your use of technology and/or how has technology changed how you work or the pieces you make?

In either case I see tech as new tools and try to find a balance between their use and the investment in time and often money necessary to develop a practicable use for them.  Often, I choose not to use new tech because making things by hand is so much more physically and spiritually satisfying.

Can you share any differences and/or similarities between artistic and scientific creativity that you may have personally explored by uniquely merging the two in your work? Or you may choose to share the more general question of what the arts and sciences have in common, or differ?

I think both science and the arts are manifestations of a creative and yearning mind.  The disciplinary boundaries between art and science have only recently been made so rigid because of the degree of specialization that has arisen during the last century. I believe that with the rise of social/collaborative platforms such as the internet and the exponentially developing ease at which user interfaces are becoming intuitive that these boundaries will once again become porous.

How do you think artists can benefit from science / scientists? and/or visa versa, how do you think scientists/science can benefit from artistic creativity?

I think that a good pairing is essential.  I also believe that mutual respect has to the foundation for collaboration.  Given this environment I think that creative minds investigating similar problems from different dynamic perspectives can only lead to new and insightful ways of understanding phenomenon.

How has your creative work influenced your use of technology and/or how has technology changed how you work or the pieces you make?

Well the first thing I did with technology and art was use Photoshop to make an image of me and my dead brother back together again. We grew up one year apart and he died when I was 19. I Photoshoped us together about 20 years later. This capacity of digital to unite, runs through much of what I do. It turns out there are many logical reasons why digital media or electronics can unite diversity. But I also have an emotional reason.

Do you think the arts are as important as science? If so why, if not why not?

I think people should choose the kind of creative exploration that is right for them.  If they are more inclined to pursue a science education and career then by all means they should work hard to learn all their is to know in their field.  I don’t think that this has to mean that arts are not explored as an essential part of developing a creative mind.
In my response you could exchange the words science and art.  I don’t think they should be considered mutually exclusive.