By Ian Trawinski, JAC Intern
The visual work of artist Chris Schulze stands out amongst its peers thanks to the preternatural geometric perfection present throughout many of these pieces. Chris displays a level of skill which surpasses that of even the most finely tuned machines, those whose ability to produce straight lines, perfect circles, and flawlessly sharp angles have been honed over hundreds of iterations. Yet this work is tempered by the stylistic flair only truly apparent in art crafted by a thoughtful human hand. And upon coming to know Chris as a person it becomes obvious how he manages to produce such eye-catchingly complex structural designs with less than the bare minimum of tools one might expect an artist to need in order to do so.
As Chris puts it “I see the seeds of creativity have been trying to express themselves all my life.” He has been drawing since his elementary school days. He entered the world of music at age 7 when he began learning how to play the piano. Only 6 years later he began honing his skills as a photographer and picked up the medium of solar pyrography which consists of “burning designs into wood with a magnifying glass and the sun.”
Though we at JAC know him best for his visual work, as Chris used art as an escape from abuse in his early life he found that it was music which, then and now, served as the most therapeutic artistic outlet he has yet encountered. But out of all of the mediums he has mastered, Chris’s preferred one is that of creating art with oil paints, with music produced by instruments such as the piano, guitar, bass, saxophone, and flute following at a close second favorite.
When it comes to the “how” behind Chris’s work, he explains that “as far as any creative process is concerned, it feels as though my mind is creating 24/7 whether it be music, designs, book ideas, and business ideas. There’s not enough time in a day to expand on all these ideas, so I just pursue what feels the most ‘right’ at the moment.” He manages to derive inspiration directly from the environment surrounding him, taking in the beauty of the universe in forms which include elements of the natural world, the human body, or sacred geometric patterns found across history or in everyday life. And when discussing how he goes about generating his most iconic form of art, those beautifully organic yet almost compositionally faultless works he has coined as Geometrix art, Chris laid out a general outline for how he goes about this process:
“my Geometrix pieces begin as either a fully formed design in my head or from an inspiration in nature. Once I have the design, I need to develop a means of realizing. Sometimes this requires working out some math, other times I just dive in and figure it out on the go. Either way the geometry is enjoyable and cathartic. I can spend 8 hours working on the prep and 20 hours on the actual design and feel as if only minutes have passed.”
He has even attempted to teach others how to create their own Geometrix art, though “none of them stuck with it long enough to ask the right questions.” He hopes that perhaps some day he can answer those questions in the form of a book dedicated to this unique type of art. One where he can layout the concept in greater detail and in a way that allows him to work backwards from how others understand his art to how that perception can serve as a starting point for him to teach them how to replicate this artform on their own. This teaching methodology is one Chris has developed out of personal necessity. He states, “I’ve had 56 years of experience in knowing that my brain does not work like most people. The way I approach music, art, poetry, etc, leaves most people mystified. But if I can get them to make me explain it from their perspective, only then do I feel able to adequately teach someone else to replicate it, if they don’t just ‘get it’ from the outset.”
And though Chris is not yet able to fully complete the Geometrix book, he has almost finished a separate work dedicated to teaching Western medical professionals how to incorporate Eastern medical practices into their work, a project which truly highlights the breadth of fields which Chris has expertise within.
Sadly, as with many artists in our network, Chris has found himself existing within a prison system that endeavors to makes itself into an environment that is totally inhospitable for creative growth and the survival of artistic expression. Chris’s two favorite mediums of expression have been outlawed at his facility, and when he created a fiberglass flute to indulge the most personally therapeutic of his outlets, this creation was taken from him and resulted in his placement in solitary after having reached out for this blog. In fact, many common art supplies, such as markers and rulers (two items which Chris hopes to be able to successfully purchase once his time in prison ends) are considered contraband.
These draconian practices have only been exacerbated and expanded by the Covid-19 pandemic, a fact which Chris has witnessed firsthand: “The Covid crisis has had a huge impact on my art and by extension, my mental health. Those in charge of ‘Hobby Craft’ at my facility are trying to take away as much as they can get away with and make whatever remains so displeasurable to participate in that it will implode on its own. They unreservedly believe that we do not deserve ‘recreation’ because we’re less than human.” Though Chris is directly impacted by the encroachment on his freedoms, unsurprisingly he is able to understand the larger effect that these changes have on incarcerated persons as a whole whilst also recognizing the importance of allowing himself and others like him to express themselves. “I would love for people to know how having a creative outlet keeps inmates alive, productive, and out of trouble. Taking away this outlet is only detrimental to society as a whole. Instead of having prisoners return to society with an attitude of remorse and atonement, inhumane treatment and life destroying sentences only create sociopaths with a thirst for revenge. That makes no sense!”
To see more of Chris’s work, check out his portfolio. You can also follow his work via Instagram (@cjschulze) and Facebook (cjschulze).