Lily Gist

[Type: Self-satisfaction, Filter:Sleepless, Red:Low, Blue:High, Filtered:Right]
Acrylic on Canvas Panel


Interview courtesy of Mandrus


What does it mean to be shown the context of your thoughts, and to see that events and conditions constantly shape your perspective? What factors are driving your decisions, and how much control do you have over them? What factors are affecting those who are like you, and what systems do they reinforce?

What experiences are shaping the decisions that others make each day, and how does your interpretation of their perception of you affect your conception of yourself? How does your conception of yourself affect your decisions?

What patterns become visible after abstracting an experience into codified patches of color? How can an experience be effectively translated? What is the sum effect of a painting, what is the isolated effect of each of its components, and what factors add variance to the evaluation of these effects?


The panel for SSAT [sleepless] (Red: Low, Blue: High) was built over the course of a weekend, ending well past midnight Monday morning. The next day, 20 professional emails were sent to various strangers. I was tired, but also glad to have had a productive weekend. After each email, a self-satisfaction rating was collected. When determining self-satisfaction, past experiences are filtered through present environmental factors to simulate the response of the recipient to my message. Any factor that affects my judgement is a filter, which further distinguishes my perception of reality from the actual moment.


  1. Complex ideas benefit from simple presentation.
  2. Process, materials, and presentation all correspond to the intended concept.
  3. Change is a challenge, not a coercion.
  4. Learn the findings of your elders, then study what has changed.
  5. Exercise expertise, exploration, control and surrender in all things.
  6. Each addition to a series informs each previous work.

These emails were re-evaluated weeks later on a standard control day, and the level of self-satisfaction was dramatically higher. It appears that sleeplessness, even with a sense of accomplishment, affects my judgment more than any other measured filter. Other days were also re-evaluated during the control day, showing less variance.

In order to communicate this data, evaluations were assigned colors on a Red to Blue spectrum. The lowest evaluation is pure red and the highest is pure blue. Each of the 20 stripes shifts hues from that of the control day to the filtered moment. The colors were mixed and poured into strips of acrylic paint using transparent pigments, allowing natural processes to disturb them as they dried. These processes include the slow pull of the paint as it shrinks, the swirling ripple of a breeze on a drying surface, an uneven dispersion of pigments, specks of floating materials, the overlap of multi-layer pours and variations in the surface friction underneath wet paint. There are many environmental factors that I choose not to control, instead waiting to see how they turn out.


Lily Gist is a visual artist living in Brooklyn, NY, whose current series METRICS focuses on the environmental and psychological filters that affect our perception and identity. Following scientific methods, she collects and analyzes comprehensive data sets then presents her findings in process-oriented visualizations.

Her work has been featured in several group shows in the NYC and Boston areas, and her Hundreds of Graphs of You was included as a featured contribution in the Gutai Card Box at the Guggenheim Museum's "Gutai: Splendid Playground" (2013).