Author Archives: nsmoss












The Category Game consists of a box with instructions on the inner lid, 20 double-sided boards (“My Categories” and “Category #”), and 120 clay playing pieces. All elements are white, black, or a shade of gray. The box is 6″ x 6″ x 4″ and the boards are slightly less than 6″ square, while the pieces range from approximately ½” to ¼” in their dimensions. It is a multi-player game, ideally to be played with between four and twenty people. Instructions are as follows:

Part 1

Each player takes a board and turns the “My Categories” side up. Pieces are divided evenly among players. Each player then sorts the pieces on their board into categories, using whatever criteria they see fit.

Part 2

All the players flip their boards to the “Category #” side, and they are placed together in the middle. The players pool their pieces and work together to sort the pieces into categories agreed upon by the group, placing one category on each board. Boards may be taken out of or replaced in the box to achieve the desired number of categories.

Part 3

The group replaces first the boards, then the pieces, in the box, and closes it.

The hope of the game is to inspire dialogue and contemplation of the way humans divide and classify. Categories can either promote or hold back understanding of a situation or individual, depending on their use. As the artist, my entry point into this issue was through research into sexual orientations in current American culture (particularly the asexual community, which often sub-categorizes prolifically), but further reading and contemplation expanded my understanding to race, class, nationality, gender, and the general way humans interact with the world. My goal was to produce a work that would highlight the complicated balance of the usefulness of categories (as a source of quick assessment of a situation, a starting reference) and their problems (when they are relied upon too heavily, and reality is forced to fit them, rather than the other way around).

I was pleased that, in general, players in my class picked up on many of the things I thought about in this game’s creation, including allusions to race and sexuality, a general applicability of the “category” metaphor, and both an attraction and aversion to categorization. Unexpected but interesting elements were the increased awareness of the group dynamic and the introduction of time as a critical factor.

A future version of this game will likely include: a revision or removal of the first step (solo sorting), time requirements for playing, a box that is easier to open/put things in, and a gradient of piece colors that does not separate white and black so clearly from the grayscale gradient.






A Planet Without A Moon (final)002

A Planet Without A Moon is a graphic exploration of a metaphor for asexuality. It is intended to convey a sense of serenity and peaceful solitude within a broader environment, and to get people thinking about what it means to be happy being single in a culture intensely focused on partnership. The title and incorporated text relate to the notion of a human without sexual attraction (that is, an asexual). The image is 7″ square on a 9″ square paper, painted with gouache. I chose to paint this image rather than compose it digitally (which some people suggested to me) because I feel the intimate, personal experience  of painting by hand and the resulting uniqueness of the piece give the piece more value and relate to the personal and unusual material I wished to convey.


Alexander Calder is one of the most famous mobile-makers I know of. He revolutionized the art form with his use of fluid, natural shapes. The thing about mobiles is that they are not a one-time viewing experience: they are always moving, changing their form, and creating a new (and yet the same) piece of art. (At least that’s how they’re supposed to work. The one at the Carnegie International didn’t really move….)


Kaalam, aka Julien Breton, uses long exposure photography for a different effect from Bill Wadman (my last post). He takes advantage of the fact that bright lights show up much more clearly than their surroundings. He uses light wands to draw in the air before a camera. The result–an ephemeral calligraphy that exists only when a long span of time is viewed simultaneously.


Bill Wadman takes long exposure photographs of dancers dancing. The essence of long exposure photography is the capture and compression of light over a span of time while things move. It’s like when something fast-moving blurs in a photo, but intuitional and way cooler. It gives form to the motion of an object through space over time, all in one image. Check out this website, which includes work by several long-exposure photographers.