The community has gotten to know Paula Crown pretty well over the years in Aspen, as a philanthropist and wife of the Aspen Skiing Co.’s managing partner Jim Crown.
She also serves on the Presidential Committee on Arts and Humanities and the board of The Museum of Modern Art. A trained artist, who received a masters of fine arts in painting and drawing at the Art Institute of Chicago last year, she also has a full-time studio art practice, where she’s pursuing multi-media work.
This summer, she’s inviting the public to know her work as an artist and to, quite literally, get inside her head. The Aspen Institute is hosting an exhibition by Crown, titled “Inside My Head: A Contemporary Self-Portrait,” in the Isaacson History Room, downstairs in the Doerr-Hosier Center.
For the installation, Crown has installed two large convex screens, mounted on customized metal frames, which face each other in the center of the space. The viewer — standing directly between the screens — observes the passage of seemingly abstract patterns. However, upon closer observation, these images, with their pulsating accumulation of shapes and forms, reveal the workings of the artist’s own brain, documented via a magnetic resonance image (MRI).
“To me everything is a potential art project, including these brain scans,” Crown said earlier this summer during a presentation at the Aspen ideas Festival.
Crown underwent the MRI as part of treatment for migraine headaches, but found herself inspired by them.
“I think of it as painting with tools of technology,” she said.
The self-portrait is a centuries-long tradition in art history. Artists like Vincent Van Gogh painted themselves in the mirror because they could not afford to pay models. The tradition has continued, with artists, sculptors and photographers using external self-portraits to convey their inner lives.
Crown manipulated her brain scans in a manner referencing painterly techniques from the Renaissance to the present, including the use of multiple points of perspective, three-dimensional imaging and cross-disciplinary collaboration. Through this process, Crown identifies and describes the intersection of the internal and external, allowing the record of the data to physically build the environment.
The animation has been translated into image sonifications, and she added a musical score composed by Todd Reynolds and Ben Rubin, creating the sounds that fill the room. Crown’s use of these available technologies to amplify a clinical brain scan and her personal physiology provides aims for greater insight into people’s lived experience. For the artist, it is about getting closer to how the viewer represents and understands the world.
The exhibition was organized by Chris Byrne, with video and technical support by the Madrid-based Factum Arte. It is on view through Sept. 2.