Process makes Pattern, in art as in nature. Myrrh marbelizing paper, 1990. (Photo by Helen Golden)

Process makes Pattern, in art as in nature. Myrrh marbelizing paper, 1990. (Photo by Helen Golden)

Context is Everything — 1997

Looking back 30 years, I am amazed at how I backed into working with patterns in nature and science images. Some who realized Abstract Expressionism was getting hackneyed were turning their sardonic eye to pop culture, soup cans and pies. I dropped out, and only gradually restored my faith in art-making by seeing images I really liked, the framework for a new art vocabulary. Curiously, many of these were from the Scientific American and a 1956 book by Gyorgy Kepes, The New Landscape, which showed the affinity of science images and abstract art.I was mining science for art for superficial reasons: “Hey, I found pennies on the road no one has picked up!” But, reluctant to simply copy these motifs, I looked for ways to combine them. I found it humorous to combine snakes with river meanders. Suddenly, it struck me that these resemblances touched upon a great mystery. It came as no surprise to me when Peter Stevens' 1974 book, Patterns in Nature, grouped these into six basic families. But when he said “Of all the constraints on nature, the most far-reaching are imposed by space. For space itself has a structure that influences the shape of every existing thing,” my mind was blown....

My interests have expanded from merely playing with patterns to the attempt to get some overall feeling about the universe in which we find ourselves: creating context.

We have always tried to create a context, a story about where we are. I am told that one reason Roman soldiers converted to the Asiatic cult of Mithra was that it imparted secret knowledge about the stars and planets, a knowledge which they could identify in the heavens no matter where in the Roman Empire they found themselves.

One reason the study of these patterns inspires an almost religious awe is that we feel we are touching on something fundamental, a ground of all being that we have lost in our secular lives. We feel a kinship with the ancients like Pythagoras who were fascinated by patterns and regularities that they observed.

—Trudy Myrrh Reagan, Reprinted from Ylem Newsletter, January/February 1997