Marginalia

In this ongoing series of large-scale Epson inkjet prints I begin with books and manuscripts on subjects having to do with the history of art, astronomy, physics, religion and other subjects, and make high-resolution scans of selected title and text pages then add text and/or commentary to the scanned images in reference to the style of marginalia, drawn from my own writings and those of certain individuals in history. Among the series, a scanned manuscript page for composer Charles Ives'(1874-1954) The Unanswered Question, written in his own hand, is superimposed with different writings: by Nobel Physicist Richard Feynman(1918-1988) and poet Walt Whitman(1819-1892).

Stephen Nowlin








Left print + detail:
Marginalia (Richard Feynman/Charles Ives#2), 2021; Epson inkjet limited edition, 47x38in.
Text excerpt: Richard Feynman, Quote from BBC interview, 1981. Scan of manuscript score: Charles Ives, The Unanswered Question, ca. 1930-35.

Right print:
Marginalia (Walt Whitman/Charles Ives), 2021; Epson inkjet limited edition, 47x38in.
Text excerpt: Walt Whitman, When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer, 1867. Scan of manuscript score: Charles Ives, The Unanswered Question, ca. 1930-35.





Marginalia (Standing on Earth Gazing Skyward), 2021; Epson inkjet limited edition, 28x31 inches.
Text excerpt: Stephen Nowlin, SKY exhibition essay, 2020; Scan of engraving: Johannes Hevelius, (1611-1687), from Selenographia, 1647.














Marginalia: Nature is space . . ., 2022
Image: scan of title page, John Smeaton F.R.S.,
"Experimental Enquiry Concerning the Natural Powers of Wind and Water . . .," 1794.
Superimposed with text from an essay by Stephen Nowlin, 2017.
Inkjet archival print, 49.5 x 32.5 inches(framed).






Marginalia text:
NATURE is space from here to over there, the airy in-between through which we pass to arrive at something. It's wandering from the bedroom to find coffee and the morning paper, it's the train station commute to the other end of the line, it's pushing open the door. It's anywhere and everywhere we go, fly, swim, dance, crawl and fall — and what we evade, sit on, step over. We avoid walls and the edges of cliffs. We're skilled experts, dancers in a maze performing the choreography of getting around. We learn to know truth and our trust rises to a belief — no matter what else we may say we believe in, our actions pledge allegiance to our true belief, which is Nature. We worship our corner of it in unceremonious practice every time we start the car, board a jet, ride an elevator, or escape falling down the stairs. By gravity we're stuck to the surface of an orbiting spherical satellite of a hydrogen-fusion star floating in a space vacuum, just as sure as we pour milk on our cereal. Nature is space, our cradle. Our mystery, our evolution, our only heaven.





This Land

The series title references the Woody Guthrie song This Land is Your Land, written in 1940 as a critical response to Irving Berlin's God Bless America. Guthrie's song romanced about the American landscape while also protesting its privatization and the treatment of Dust Bowl and Depression era refugees. As a tribute to Guthrie's song, in my This Land series I puzzle over the flawed concept of divine blessing and the provinciality of an Earth-bound conception of ‘land,' as well as a reconsideration of what 'our land' means in a solar system full of new worlds. For me, the series is a meditation on how science re-scales our perspectives by disrupting fixed assumptions concerning our place in the universe, what is ours, and how we fit in.

Stephen Nowlin


This Land, (Rosetta/Bierstadt), 2022
Limited edition inkjet print; 20x30 inches

Left: Rosetta Spacecraft, Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, 2016 (300 million miles from Earth).
Right: Albert Bierstadt, Mirror Lake, Yosemite Valley,(b/w detail), 1864; oil on canvas.

Rosetta: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA.
Bierstadt: Santa Barbara Museum of Art painting collection.














This Land, (Lands 3 & 4), 2016/2022
Wall projection, dimensions variable





click to watch


Left: EARTH, Isle of Jura, Scotland, Great Britain, UK; Photo: Jurainfo.com.
Right: MARS, Spirit Rover at Home Plate Plateau; Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell University.











This Land, (series 2, #1), 2016
Overlapping still images, limited edition inkjet print; 20x34 inches








Above, top image:
EARTH, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona; Courtesy National Park Service

Above, bottom image:
MARS, Rocknest, Point Lake Area; Courtesy Curiosity Rover, NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Framed, 20x34inches:











This Land, (series 2, #5), 2016
Juxtaposed images, limited edition inkjet print; 48x8 inches








Above, top image:
EARTH, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona; Courtesy National Park Service

Above, bottom image:
MARS, Rocknest, Point Lake Area; Courtesy Curiosity Rover, NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS











This Land, (Series 2, #4), 2017
Juxtaposed images, limited edition inkjet print; 21x20 inches








Above, left image:
EARTH, North Col of Mount Everest, Tibet; Image source: Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center

Above, right image:
MARS, Gale Crater Layers in a Northeast Section of Mound, HIRISE Camera, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter; Image source: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona











This Land, (Series 2, #3), 2017
Juxtaposed images, limited edition inkjet print; 50x40 inches








Above, left image:
EARTH, Slopes of Kilimanjaro Volcano, Tanzania, Africa; Image source: Google Earth; DigitalGlobe; CNES/Atrium

Above, right image:
MARS, Very Bright and Sun-Facing Gully Deposits in Hale Crater; HIRISE Camera, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter; Image source: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Framed, 50x40 inches:











This Land, (Series 3, #1), 2018
Juxtaposed images, limited edition inkjet print; 22x22 inches








Above, left image:
EARTH, Anza-Borrego Desert, California; Image source: Google Earth/Digital Globe

Above, middle image:
Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, somewhere in space; Image source: Rosetta Spacecraft Navigation Camera

Above, right image:
MARS, Gullies in a crater within Newton Crater; Image source: Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

Framed, 50x35 inches:









NNON, 1970


NNON was conceived, programmed, and generated by Stephen Nowlin in software developed at the Booth Computing Center, California Institute of Technology, 1970. Filming technology was provided by filmmaker and computer graphics pioneer John Whitney.

I filmed NNON at the old Booth Computing Center at Caltech, 1970, in the middle of the night which were the only hours I could schedule computer time. I started the camera-computer interface at about 11pm and then periodically slept in my VW bus while it filmed, and it's possible a janitor might have opened a door to the room where the camera was running and affected the exposure in certain places. Computer graphics were experimental in 1970 and nobody got to do them except at places like Caltech where there were big machines. At the time I was employed at Caltech's Astro-Electronics lab, drafting computer circuits for the Mount Wilson and Palomar observatories, and involved in a Caltech EAT (Experiments in Art & Technology) program inviting artists to work with scientists.

In NNON, each individaul line segment was programmed to rotate 180 degrees counter-clockwise around its own center at 1 degree per second, so it took 3 minutes for the final frame to end up looking the same as the first. In between, what it looked like was left up to the math. I called it NNON becuase it was really about being non-subjective, about squeezing subjectivity out of the aesthetics and surrendering personal choices to the rules of geometry -- which I thought of as being a metaphor for how Nature worked and, ultimately, a higher order of artistic process or at least one that interested me more. This notion was generally being explored at the time, by artists like Sol LeWitt, Mel Bochner, and Dorthea Rockburne and others, whose work had influenced my thinking. Over the course of the film, the entire image doubles in size while rotating clockwise, which adds to a spiral galaxy-like appearance as everything unfolds.

- Stephen Nowlin





Selected NNON frames: