© Thomas Brummett
Born in Colorado in 1955, Brummett matured with an appreciation of arid deserts and soaring mountains. He was educated in ceramics and photography at the Colorado State University (BFA, 1979) and the Cranbroo Academy of Art in Michigan, (MFA, 1982), after which he settled in Philadelphia and had a daughter. Raised in a Christian (Episcopalian) family that includes several members of the clergy, after reaching adulthood and traveling to India and Asia, Brummett found that the journey described in Western Abrahamic religions had lost its meaning for him, and he was drawn to Eastern Taoist/Buddhist theology.
© Thomas Brummett
The parallel paths of the artist’s journey are clearly manifest in the series Infinities and Light Projections. In the series Light Projections the artist controlled the “circles of confusion” a lens can produce when out of focus. A “circle of confusion” is a term in optics for pinpoints of light (commonly known as bokeh [from the Japanese for “blur”]), which is an artifact of the lens that the artist describes as “an optical effect a lens produces with out of focus.” Brummett’s method of controlling and making images out of these so-called “circles of confusion” has never been done in the history of photography. According to the artist, the prints in this series “represent the physical manifestation of Light = The Infinite.”
As the artist has stated: “The Light Projections for me are the perfect visual symbol of the Infinite. All light is a part of the natural world. Light is the very basis of the natural world and all life and energy. [In this series] I was not shifting my attention away from the natural world but to its very essence. I was taking the natural world down to its purest form—Light.” With these words, Brummett is following in the footsteps of mystics throughout the ages who have associated light with infinity, and given these concepts divine associations.
Notice that Brummett capitalizes “Light” and “the Infinite”, thus personifying/deifying them in the classical Greek tradition of “the Good” “the Just” and “the Triangle” which were, according to Plato, all divine. This association of light, infinity and divinity took deep root in Western thought.
© Thomas Brummett
An amateur astronomer can easily arrange to photograph through a ground-based telescope, but a non-scientist cannot book time on a telescope that orbits above earth’s atmosphere. So for photographs of outer space, Brummett used images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope that NASA makes available to the public. Starting with one of these recordings of light—a transatmospheric look back in time—the artist worked like a printmaker and manipulated the image, desaturating the hue and layering the image with other patterns, all of which he has photographed from nature (Infinities [of Earth and Heaven] series 2013-16). The layers include images of stars, magnolia trees, a recording of snowflakes hitting a scanner, as well as real dust and mold from the artist’s studio.
In these images Brummett describes his intention as to recreate William Blake’s idea of what the world would look like to all of us: “If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, Infinite” (The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, 1793). Borrowing a term from thermodynamics, the artist calls his darkroom development process “entropic” (transfer of energy): “I print the image down to black and then resurrect it with bleaches, brushes and a redevelopment process. Each image is unique because the process is so naturally random.