Two ways of thinking, one quest for truth
CGU student Leslie Love Stone was raised by a mathematician mother and civil-engineer father. She minored in economics and holds an MBA. And as a former bank executive who focused on market research, it may seem odd to see Stone now pursuing a Master of Fine Arts. But rather than abandoning her former mode of thinking in pursuit of a new one, Stone applies mathematical and statistical models to her art.
“Every time we create a statistic, we are making a generalization about something that ignores specifics. The cost of this is that the information, by the process of collation, is sterilized, and the human element is lost. By painting these models, my goal is to reanimate that data but in a different form, to reinfuse it with a human principle,” said Stone.
Stone’s art represents the intersection of the analytical and the metaphysical. Typically combining three elements—a color, a body of statistics, and a random signifier— and using both formalist and conceptual—or interpretive—techniques, she aims to create meaning where connections aren’t ordinarily made.
On December 14, 2012 a mass shooting took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. As information slowly trickled out on the news wires, Stone sensed an unsettling emphasis on the shooter. And that following Monday, when Stone finally got information about the victims, she found it in the form of a spreadsheet that listed only the children’s names, ages, and genders.
This led her to question how society processes tragic news: By containing and rationalizing information, is it easier to process grief? By creating a summary of something, is it somehow more manageable? And what happens to the individuals behind the statistics? Where does the “human element” go?
“We are always mining the universe for data in an attempt to locate the truth, and where we lack data, we fill in the gaps with interpretation. Even though all I had were names, genders, and birthdays, the children started to come alive for me, and I started to imagine them as individuals,” said Stone. “Take Jack Pinto—what a cool name! He must have liked that, and I imagined him to be good at sports. And then there is Chase Kowolsky, who was born on Halloween. And I wondered whether at his age he still thought that was cool, or was bummed out about having to share his birthday with a holiday.”
Stone’s installation, They Fill My Eyes, which was on display last January at the Mosaic Gallery in Pomona, consists of 20 paintings using colors derived from the Myosotis arvensis (Forget-Me-Not) and a geometric numbering system. Each piece is painted with Flashe on a 10" x 10" wood panel. The color on each indicates whether the child is a boy or girl (blue or pink). The number of colored segments reflects the child's age. The overall number of segments is placed in eight triangular sections from left to right, top to bottom, and show the child's birth date. The series title is a line taken from the old Marmalade song, “Reflections of My Life.”
What began as a personal way for Stone to process the event has transformed into a poignant commentary on how we process grief, and how we can infuse raw data with a sense of humanity. And in the same way that the children came alive as individuals for Stone through her painting, she hopes that viewers of the art can experience the same. Patrons were provided with an informational pamphlet showing them how to read the panel.
“I didn’t have any expectations about how people would respond, but I noticed people spending a lot of time with each panel, counting the numbers, deconstructing, and trying to make meaning the way I had,” said Stone. “This story was written in a language I understand and I felt compelled to translate it.”