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Lost in a Place Where Pain Does Not Live

Lost In A Place Where Pain Does Not Live was a breakthrough piece of art

for me. It was the first time that I crossed that enigmatic threshold of consciousness where I was in a hypnotic, almost trance like state of mind while I was creating it. Feelings of depression, pain, and the feeling of constraint by being in a Miami J Collar and thoracic extension following spine surgery began to drift to the periphery. My concentration was so intense when making it that I found myself in a kind of trance where my back pain for moments briefly dissipated into nothingness. What imagery sprang forth were abstract skeletal and vertebra forms; like the ancient fossil record of a subset of extinct creatures. It surprised me. Where were these biological/skeletal inventions coming from? At the time, I didn’t know it, but with a little distance I came to realize that I was stripping away the external and revealing the internal, an exercise in mindfulness. When I acknowledge my pain and become one with it, I am better able to cope with it.


Fish Out of Water

Fish Out of Water was inspired by a painting of a fish that I grew up looking at as a child and was given to me by my parents.

After the second surgery I was confined in bed, only able to sit up for short intervals and in terrible pain. This was a long way from being a productive architect, always excited to get up every morning and go to work because I loved my work so much. There was only so much television I could watch. With nothing to do with all the time and Bruce (my life companion) seeing me become more depressed, he went into action, determined to pull me out of the dark and he did this with art. Bruce put my hospital bed in the Florida Room and surrounded me with art and he made sure that I could easily see the fish painting from where I lay in the hospital bed. A special bookstand allowed me to read in bed and I began revisiting my love of art. I always had a love of art history and particularly 20th century art and was fortunate enough to have had the educational opportunities to learn. The fish painting was painted in 1962 by a Cuban immigrant who had recently immigrated from Nuevitas, a small fishing village on the northern coast of Cuba. The painting is a metaphor for his feeling of being all alone in Miami, without any friends or family, and not speaking English. He felt like a fish out of water, a stranger in a strange land. And that’s how I felt too, feeling disconnected from the outside world and taken out of the pond of my architectural profession. So much of my identity was wrapped up in being an architect. I wasn’t sure who I was anymore.


Slice of Life

Physical Therapy has played an important role in my art. My first Physical

Therapist along with teaching and coaching me on exercises also would talk about the mysteries and mechanisms of pain in the human body and the advances that have recently occurred in the understanding the relationship of pain to the bodies connective tissue called Fascia. I did more reading on my own and learned: • Fascia is very densely woven, covering and interpenetrating every muscle, bone, nerve, artery and vein as well as all of our internal organs including the spinal cord. The fascial system is one structure that exists from head to foot without interruption. Each part of the entire body is connected to every other part by the fascia, like the yarn in a sweater. • In the normal healthy state, the fascia is relaxed in configuration. It has the ability to stretch and move without restriction. When we experience physical trauma, scarring, or inflammation, however, the fascia loses its pliability. It becomes tight, restricted and a source of tension to the rest of the body. The fascia can exert excessive pressure producing pain or restriction of motion. In the work Slice of Life, I imagined what my fascia might look like if I took a slice of it and magnified it on a microscope. In the tissue there are a lot of interruptions and blockages as if a portion of the tissue has been confined representing that my fascia is not being continuously connected as it is supposed to be. Creating this picture and others like it becomes a cathartic event and helps me become more mindful of my body by using the power of intuition and visualization to help me cope with my condition.


Whimsies Gone Wild

My work was beginning to make its first shift about a year after surgery.

I had been expressing myself with biologically inspired abstractions chronicling this first year as my wounds were healing and bone growing and hardening. As I continued to create these internalized biologically inspired abstractions, a stray pregnant poodle came into our lives and had 6 puppies. These 6 creatures would soon be of such profound inspiration to me that they changed the direction of my art. The puppies playing in the yard, soaring through the air as they jumped and played, being in the moment with unbounded happiness was such a breath of fresh air that it blew new life into my creativity. Their unconditional love was just the medicine I didn’t know I needed. My work began to venture into the terrain of surrealism as I conjured up creatures of my imagination I call WHIMSIES; stand-ins for the puppies. I imagined them as carefree, unencumbered beings free of the constraints of gravity. They move freely in ways that I’m not able to, often flying and just as the puppies inspired me, they would express motion, speed and the immediacy of being in the moment. In the work Whimsies Gone Wild, the large central Whimsy is a character I created that is a stand in for me; my alter ego. I’m surrounded by whimsies, and as is their nature, are being happy, peaceful and playful. As the whimsies play around me, they provide me the spiritual fuel to propel me forward. The Rocket Ship is a nod to my childhood as I remember the wonder of launching model rockets with my father and that feeling I imagine is as close the essence of the Whimsies that I can get.


A Day At The Races

Making pictures for me is an exercise in creating fantastic worlds that

take me far beyond the confines of my disability. I like to place my whimsies in different scenarios to tell a story or express something I’m feeling. The work A Day At The Races is no exception. Every day life for the disabled has roadblocks placed in the way. In the work A Day At The Races, I’ve built with pixels, my own inner theatrical stage set in which to play out my desire to counteract those roadblocks. Various obstacles have to be maneuvered and the whimsies navigate through them with trails of their flight in motion that become metaphors of my spine. These obstacles represent life’s roadblocks and just as the whimsies are able to do; real disabled people do it everyday with dignity and pride.


I Dreamed I Was Nine

Reflections on my childhood has been a subject on and off in my work.

The spirit of play to me is one of the most universal aspects of humanity. It doesn’t matter where we come from or what color we are or what religion we practice or of what means, when children play, it is the imagination which is foremost and the troubles of the world go away. If I can learn to tap into that magic perhaps my troubles can also be escaped from. Another new characteristic element of this work is the use of the circle. Why the Circle? The circle is as universal a symbol to children as there is. And particularly circles in motion – spinning. Think of spinning tops, found in every culture. What better shape to express play. I started creating spinning spiral forms. The spirals are based on the mathematics of nature in the form of the golden ratio of 1.618. The spirals also act as symbols of primitivism to connect me with our deepest roots as humans. The spiral form can be found in ancient cultures on different sides of the world. Some people have asked if I use software or algorithms to make them. I don't. I make them the old fashioned way by constructing them by hand and doing the math myself instead of the software doing it. Being a Baby Boomer brought up in the analog world, this ‘pre-digital’ approach connects me with my past. Letting go doing art, reconnects me to my childhood; a place where the playful quality of my work comes from. Like children, organic forms playfully interact with dots, circles, spirals and arcs. Much like the nature of childhood, everything is in motion, all is as it should be and life is good.


Navigator of the Never Never

During my college years I studied both architecture and art history. While

at Pratt Institute I studied Islamic art & architecture, which began to open my mind to cultural aesthetics beyond that which was familiar in my Western existence. Probing further beyond college, I began to learn more about how indigenous cultures and other civilizations, both Eastern and Western, integrated art into their societies. And this gave me a new, more inclusive, dynamic outlook when thinking about grand creative constructs. So with these interests and with Photoshop as my vessel, I imagine myself as an explorer ready to take on the unknown. In the spirit of discovery I investigate aspects in my art that would give me a way out of my physical self. Three things come together; Imagination, Technology and Intellect. In the art making process, when these elements come together in just the right way, as it did when I created this work, I feel an incredible sense of well being. In the work Navigator of the Never Never, Iconography of Australian Aboriginal art is superimposed on an ancient Celtic symbol, the Triple Spiral. The spiral is one of those universal symbols that could be found in ancient cultures without any communication between them on different continents. I like that. Again, using the archetypal form of the circle, I imagined myself navigating through a desert landscape. A river flows through the landscape and a desert creature walks into the picture. I hope to impart to the viewer the same meditative experience I had making it.


Parks & Recreation

It’s been years out from my last surgery and I find myself having new problems.

Having such an extensive fusion of the spine, a necessity to counteract the progression of the curvature from crushing me, has its own set of complications as time goes on. The portion below the fusion in my lower back is subject to tremendous physical forces because the portion of my back that’s fused no longer takes any of the loads of gravity. All the forces are transferred to the segments below the fusion putting much greater stresses on them than normal. In turn, the muscles in the lower back become overstressed and manifests as acute muscle spasms. It also turns out these greater stresses can manifest in other ways such as a disk herniation as I recently discovered and have been treated for. So here I was experiencing more pain, having more difficulty with mobility and feeling frustrated from having setbacks. To sort these things out, I again turned to my art. In the work Parks & Recreation I imagined a virtual playground to free myself in. Continuing my use of circles, I superimposed a grid of large circles on a grid of small circles. The making of this geometric arrangement becomes a kind of micro urban plan, the architectural side of me coming out I suppose. I soften the edges with expanses of color that flow in and out of each other. The park is bounded by a dashed line suggesting a baseball diamond. Nine large circles within the parks boundaries each have a black & white spinning merry-go-round in the middle. Making these hypnotic follies challenge and mesmerize me, giving me golden moments of respite as I work.


Selected Architecture & Art Installations

Installation of The Wonder of Bruce (on left) at the 74th Midyear Exhibition at the Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown Ohio

Frost Art Museum, Miami Photos courtesy HOK Architects

Installation of Exhibition Within Reach, Cleveland Ohio

Wilkie D Ferguson United States Federal Courthouse, Miami - Photos courtesy HOK

About Andrew Reach Andrew Reach, Architect and Miami native (b.1961), spent his formative years in Miami. From an early age he had an appreciation of art, graphic design and Architecture and enjoyed drawing and sketching. By high school, he knew what he wanted to be - an Architect. On his way to becoming an architect, Reach studied at New York’s Pratt Institute of Art & Design. And at various points in his architectural career, he worked with such notables as Yann Weymouth and Harold Zellman. After working in New York and Los Angeles he returned to Miami where his architecture moved towards large-scale buildings as an Architect for the worldwide firm HOK Architects. As Project Architect, his last project was The Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum at Florida International University in Miami where he collaborated with renowned architect Yann Weymouth whose newest museum, the new Dali Museum in Tampa recently opened in the fall of 2010. Starting in adolescence Andrews’s spine began showing signs of a disease known as Scheuermann’s Kyphosis, an abnormal curvature of the spine where the spine curves forward. His curvature got to the point where his internal organs were impacted and life saving surgery was required. His first surgery in 2003 involved a multi level spinal fusion assisted by rods and screws to correct the curvature. This fusion comprised more than two thirds of his spine. In the fall of 2004, at the commencement of would undergo a second surgery. It would A complication occurred from the first “Your head is falling off your spine”. The screws signaled the end of his architectural being disabled and not able to perform the

construction of the Frost Museum, Andrew mark an end and a new beginning. surgery. As his surgeon put it in lay terms, second surgery extending the rods and career with the realization and acceptance of rigors of his profession.

After the surgery and severed from his profession, the pain from his spine took control of Andrew both emotionally and physically. Then, at the urging of Bruce Baumwoll, his life companion, he began to learn Adobe Photoshop; using the software program to make greeting cards, employing images from Bruce’s collection of vintage ephemera. The creation of these cards were a transition to what would become—making original digital art from scratch. Little did Andrew know at the time that a journey paralleling Art Therapy would lead him to making art as his path to liberation. Using the world of computer technology he is able to generate art that expresses his creative energies while allowing a channel to escape his pain. Reach’s Art has been widely exhibited in the United States in Miami, New York City, San Francisco, Burlington, Chicago, Washington DC, Cleveland, Baltimore and New Orleans. His work is part of the permanent collection of the Frost Art Museum.

“The new technology of digital imagery has opened doors for many in the past few years. It has changed the face of art. For Andrew Reach, it is more than just a tool or new technology, it is a way to deal with his reality in the most positive way and the results are quite extraordinary.” Carol Damian, Director Frost Art Museum Excerpt of letter

“I find it wonderful that your mission is to inspire people with your art, a great mission. As you perhaps may have heard my view of the HOK mission is to enrich people’s lives. So our missions are completely intertwined.” Letter from Bill Valentine, Chairman HOK Architects

"His large archival Epson pigment prints on Somerset velvet paper bleed over with lush expanses of color, reflecting a bold source of influences and an inspiring odyssey into art making." Carlos Suarez De Jesus, Art Critic Miami New Times, Excerpt from article The Human Condition about Andrew Reach’s Solo exhibition “Beyond Pain”

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all images © Andrew Reach 2005 - 2011 email:

Profile for Andrew Reach

The Art of Andrew Reach - A Journey of Transformation in Eight Pictures  

Andrew Reach went on an odyssey of reinvention from an architect to an artist when a spine disease left him disabled and unable to continue...

The Art of Andrew Reach - A Journey of Transformation in Eight Pictures  

Andrew Reach went on an odyssey of reinvention from an architect to an artist when a spine disease left him disabled and unable to continue...