Greetings, Earthlings...

Welcome to Beyond the Limits of Reason, the meeting point for all things Michael Doubrava.

Michael Doubrava profile

I was born on Earth during the second half of the twentieth century.

Untitled (San Lorenzo, New Mexico)

Untitled (San Lorenzo, New Mexico)
A metaphor for the conflict between rationality and emotion; betweeen Apollo and Dionysus; between the empirical and the supernatural; between stasis and revolution...

our motto and mission is to

tickle the idiot
rapture the faithful
pity all the ignorant and hateful

illuminate the enlightened
confound the intellectual
with life distilled flood memory's temple

September 4, 2019

August 2019 still-life of flowers morphs into a Baroque design

The original source material being photographed here was a vase of flowers sitting on a dining room table. Long after midnight I decided to make a couple of detail photographs of them. A few days later I "sandwiched" two of them together, making a new image. This image was duplicated four times, and flipped/rotated/reversed and then joined together, making the final image you see here. This image is very fun to look at, very entertaining, very hypnotic.  The central machine-like flower generator in the exact center is matched in weirdness only by the laughing face of the Dionysus-like creature at very top center. Finally, the viewer notices the pale "image" of a child's face emerging out of the center lower pattern as well. This child stares directly out of the frame, meeting the viewer's gaze. This photograph breaks expectations repeatedly, while still utilizing the tried-and-true compositional norms of the very late Renaissance.

July 7, 2019

Baroque Hallucination Fantasia Rapture, Rome, June 2019

This image was created on a swelteringly hot late afternoon in Rome. Walking through the Borghese Gardens, just past the Aurelian Wall portal. I noticed the beautiful trees which are quite different than I am used to, over four thousand miles away. I notice how the tops of the trees stand out against the sky, a kind of loose pattern. After a minute of fumbling around estimating the exposure details. I make two or three photos. One of them gets to serve as the single image from which this "quad" is formed. The Baroque aesthetic was of course coursing through my mind as I worked, and certainly is present in the "imperfect pearl", Baroque compositional design.
When I look at this creation, I see a delightful floating garden in the sky, upon which one might pleasantly, if carefully, stroll.

May 17, 2018

Star Map, May 2018.

This is an image of a supernova at the center of the universe. An exploding star: sending forth cosmic elements which will eventually form new planets and new species of life. And then, after the expanding blossom of the explosion recedes, the dying star will collapse and become a black hole, receding inward and consuming all that surrounds it.

This photograph is a combination of many individual photographs; using my camera I photographed many exposures of the floor of a chapel within Rosehill Cemetery in Chicago. Next, I combined these images into a single horizontal panorama. This new panorama of the floor in front of me, became my new "master": it was then repeated numerous times, and half of these were reversed, like mirror images. All of these images were then collected into one "canvas" and digitally "stitched" together using Photoshop.

April 11, 2018

Baroque Automaton, April 2018

This image is an imaginary re-creation of a Baroque-era "automaton", a term once used to describe a "mechanical-man" (or in this case, a mechanical-woman). Automatons were essentially puppets or proto-robots, powered by wind-up, clockwork-like mechanisms.  These complex productions of engineering and design were handmade by highly skilled craftspeople, and were considered valuable treasures, much sought after for display in the collections of curiousities which fashionable nobles and wealthy merchants curated to delight their peers.
I conceived of this automaton as being in the collection of a Spanish nobleman, circa 1600. Constructed from plates of silver which were looted from Mexico, this mechanical-elf would dance and sing when its' internal mechanism was wound and then released.  This 'renaissance-robot' would sing Andalusian and Catalonian folk songs, while dancing a rudimentary and primitive version of the dance now termed "flamenco." The halls of the royal palace echoed with the startled voices of the assembled audience, the pounding of the automaton's heavy metal boots, and the eerie hollow voice as she sang her sad songs.
This photograph is made entirely from a single source image which has been repeated over and over, at different sizes. The source image, which can also be seen here, is a photograph of a piece of metal which was found lying in the middle of a residential street in Chicago. That sad bit of 21st century detritus has here been elevated into an example of 15th century high-technology.

January 15, 2018

As the Old God Collapses, the New God Emerges, January 2018

"Nothing is new under the sun." Whether the subject is religion, science, or art, all new ideas emerge from the ones left behind. Knowledge, like a river, flows forward from a previous source. New civilizations grow from the cities preceding them; the burnt ashes of forgotten or dying cultures can feed and fertilize new growth. Consider the truth of this statement and remember it as you look at this collection of photographs I have entitled "As the Old God Collapses, the New God Emerges."

This visible, "natural" world we spend our days in is a reflection of a greater reality. As Manly P. Hall stated in his book The Secret Teachings of All Ages (first published in 1928): "The physical nature of the universe is receptive; it is a realm of effects. The invisible causes of these effects belong to the spiritual world. Hence, the spiritual world is the sphere of causation; the material world is the sphere of effects; while the intellectual - or soul - world is the sphere of mediation."

The artist can be a mediator between these spheres, creating images which are reflections and transmissions from a greater reality beyond the clouded spectrum of everyday, half-conscious life.

These images were made from a single double-exposure. In other words, two distinct photographs were combined to create a new source image.

While visiting a large greenhouse/conservatory, I made two photographs. The first photograph was a close-up photo of a large, tropical leaf. The next image was a photo of a different plant, from a greater distance. These two photographs were combined. This new double-exposure became the new source image from which this series was created.

November 2, 2017

Identical Twins (Fullerton Avenue Elevated Platform, Chicago), October 2017

I made the source photograph for this image while riding the Chicago Transit Authority's red line commuter train. As we rolled into the platform at Fullerton Avenue, I quickly made a few photographs, through the window, of the people waiting outside for the train doors to open.

The original image was simple to create, using a typical DSLR ("dx" format) and a 50mm lens. This 'source' image was duplicated four times, and then digitally manipulated in Photoshop, resulting in this final image.

Despite the mundane nature of the everyday moment which was initially recorded, this image illustrates the hazards of depending upon photography as a medium conveying empirical truth.

My original photograph of a De Paul University student waiting for a subway train has morphed into an image of a pair of identical twins who serve as gatekeepers of a private garden. The viewer can examine their features and sense that the twins have contrasting personalities.

October 15, 2017

The End of the World (Jerusalem), 2017

It was high noon, and the sun radiated glare and heat as I walked the perimeter of Jerusalem's walled Old City. I was dazzled by the intense light of August which reflected off the stone surfaces; I was intimidated by the sense of history and ancient time which emanated from these same stone blocks and buildings. It seemed as though different points in historical time were overlapping and converging, within this moment.

When I saw the dome of the Al-Aqsa mosque, I raised my camera. Using a wide-angle lens, I quickly made three photographs of sections of a corner of the ancient city wall; the mosque's dome was visible in the distance along the edge of the frame. Lowering the camera, I turned and retraced my steps, eager to get under some shade, and shelter from the sunlight. I gradually made my way back to more familiar surroundings.  It was a long, slow walk on a dry and dusty day.

A few weeks later I returned to these three separate, detail images.  I decided to stitch them together to form a single photograph, a vertical panorama, of this particular view of the wall. This single component, this new panorama, is the "building block" from which the rest of the image was constructed. After a few duplications and rotations, reversals and pairings, this composite image emerged.

This image reminds me of 19th century photographs by the likes of Maxime Du Camp or Gustave Le Gray, and the drawings of Piranesi. This is, certainly, a photograph made in Jerusalem; but it is also a representation of an Imaginary Jerusalem.  In this regard it follows in the great tradition of artists and pilgrims alike projecting preconceptions on the surface of this great city. The Temple Mount figures significantly in the endtime scenarios embraced by Abrahamic faiths, and this photograph resonates with those religions' scenarios of The End of the World, which are predicted to occur within this very cityscape.

October 3, 2017

The Poison Shop, October 2017

Riding public transportation at night in Chicago provides me with plenty of visual stimulation and subject matter. The cityscape reminds me of a stage set, and I am the sole member of the audience paying attention in the theater that is the #22 Clark Street bus. Each night as I return home, I photograph the passing scene through the bus window: I am a passenger, as well as an observer with a camera. The most common and mundane street scene transforms into a hallucinatory revelation when I engage in the art-making process: the result is a transformation of dreary expectations into conceptions "beyond the limits of reason".

In this case, I made two photographs within a few seconds, while the bus was momentarily delayed at an intersection. Because it was evening, requiring a long shutter speed, the camera's slightly wide-angle lens was placed directly against the window, to limit any unintentional camera movement (I never look through the camera itself when I make photographs this way). These two pictures were combined into one new image. This double-image was shortly thereafter duplicated, and I now had two identical double-images. The next step was to reverse the duplicate so that it was a mirror image of the first double-image. Finally, both images were then seamlessly joined to each other, and the resulting file was "flattened" in Photoshop, resulting in this final image.

It became a photograph of a shop selling poison, flowers, and poisoned flowers; I would exercise caution before entering, no matter how inviting it seems. 

September 8, 2017

Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem, August 2017

This image is the result of a double-exposure which was duplicated, reversed, and placed next to the original double-exposure. The image was then "flattened" in Photoshop, creating a new "original". When I made the initial image(s) during my visit to the Church, I was irritated because I could not photographically capture the entire dome within a single image; the space is simply too confining. I realized at the time of the initial image-recording that I would eventually have to somehow digitally create a rendering which would better describe the experience of being in this amazing place. While this final image does not absolutely accurately depict the architecture as it exists to the average tourist or pilgrim, it does reflect the feeling of awe and wonder I felt while standing under the ancient oculus.

January 22, 2016

The Masque of the Red Death (Single Room Occupancy, Chicago, November 2015)

Three exposures were combined in Photoshop to make this panoramic photograph. This is the interior of a rented room near California and Western Avenues, Logan Square, Chicago. The last night of November, 2015. From Edgar Allan Poe's The Masque of the Red Death:"... But to the chamber which lies most westwardly of the seven, there are now none of the maskers who venture; for the night is waning away; and there flows a ruddier light through the blood-colored panes; and the blackness of the sable drapery appals; and to him whose foot falls upon the sable carpet, there comes from the near clock of ebony a muffled peal more solemnly emphatic than any which reaches their ears who indulge in the more remote gaieties of the other apartments..."

March 15, 2013

Microflora? Mechanical Flowerhead? New work from the last weeks......

A composite of four digital files, each scanned from the same analog negative, originally exposed using a pinhole lens and a film-based (120 format) camera. Or, in an alternative reality, an actual x-ray of the face of a mechanical flowerhead.

Picket Fence through a Pinhole

December 11, 2012

jimmydumps/sunnyjimmy: Faith in the Creative Project!

James Moeller describes his response upon seeing this "flowerbolt" image on his excellent blog jimmydumps/sunnyjimmy: Faith in the Creative Project!: His writing is always both inspired and inspiring. Click on the highlighted link to read the article.

Looking for more?

You can access more imagery by clicking on the phrase above which says"older posts". Many additional works can be viewed dating back to the earliest posts which initiated this blog.