An exhibit at the Syracuse Tech Garden provides a fitting tribute to the Apple founder
The death of Steve Jobs on Oct. 5 was mourned from all quarters of a world he made smaller and more interconnected. His role as a continuous driving force behind the computer revolution cannot be denied. He began selling Apples out of his parents’ San Francisco garage in the 1970s and was unveiling innovations up until the end, including the iCloud online storage service earlier this summer.
Unlike many rock stars who fade in significance over the years, their fans holding on to nostalgia for early work, Jobs went out on top, with more and more faithful customers hanging on his every word and waiting in line for the latest iPads, iPods and iPhones.
It is easy to see how many artists would feel a special affinity for Steve Jobs: his pursuit of a personal vision, refusal to conform to standards, intense attention to aesthetics. Ty Marshal, recently on our Oct. 12 cover for re-creating the Cardiff Giant, is one such artist. The day after Jobs’ death, Marshal began arranging a tribute by putting out an international call for artwork. The rich and diverse response he received can be seen as Open Apple Steve: An Aesthetic Homage to Steve Jobs at, fittingly, the Syracuse Tech Garden.
As could be expected, many artists who responded work with Apple computers. Dylan Roscover created a typographical portrait of Jobs using fonts associated with the Apple brand. He shaped the contours of the face with words like “misfits,” “rebels” and “genius” taken from the “Here’s to the crazy ones” ad campaign of 1997.
Another portrait by Edwin Fang simply uses a grid of Apple logos as pixels to build up the likeness. Blain Hefner made an even more minimalist portrait, which seems fitting for a subject who always sought to simplify. Hefner floats two circles (the glasses) over a rectangle, which simultaneously looks like a tombstone and Jobs’ omnipresent black mock turtleneck.
At first glance, the vertical format and elegant efficiency of Chris Culy’s contribu tion make it appear to be Asian calligraphy. In reality it is the archival computer output (giclee) of encryption software Jobs designed. While this project clearly relates to Jobs by intermingling the technical and the aesthetic, the phrase that Culy chose to encrypt, “Reality Distortion Field,” was meant to remark on Jobs’ “ability to convince people that they needed what he was selling.”
Other responses were decidedly lowtech. Felice Arena gave a nod to Jobs’ one-time ownership of Pixar by sketching Buzz Lightyear and Woody, from the Toy Story franchise, in tears. Brazilian Dirceu Veiga used only coffee on paper for his portrait. Wood is Steve Clark’s medium. His silhouette of Jobs acts as a second bite missing from the Apple logo. Isaac Bidwell of Oswego used pen and ink to crisply portray “Gen. Steven P Jobs – Computer Revolutionist” as a stern Civil War soldier.
Debbie McIhhenny’s na´ve painting of a woman from the 1950s on a princess phone becomes a clever tribute once you realize that the black border around it sports an iPhone’s on-button. Her statement thanks Jobs for a phone that also allows her to house her entire portfolio. In a similar vein is Syracuse native Ryan Diana’s iPhone, B.C., a stone-age gadget Fred Flintstone would be proud to own. App icons for other important inventions like the wheel, fire and arrowheads are shown on the device, which puts the iPhone in good company.
These varied responses attest to the wide-ranging impact Steve Jobs had—both with his creations and with his example. He will be missed.
Although obviously marking an ending, this show is also the beginning: the inauguration of an as-yet-unnamed art space within the Syracuse Tech Garden. In remarks made at the opening of this show, curator and artist-in-residence Ty Marshal expressed a desire to further explore the intersection between art and science as part of the Tech Garden’s mission.
“Central New York is a historically innovative and creative place,” he noted. “The loafer was invented here, the Brannock device…We can make the world aware of us again.”
Open Apple Steve: An Aesthetic Homage to Steve Jobs runs through Jan. 16 at the Syracuse Tech Garden, 235 Harrison St., open Mondays through Fridays, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call 474-0910.