Lincoln Schatz is sort of a man without a country.

When he mentions his interest in new-media art to his fine-arts peers, “They say, ‘That’s nice, but it’s not real art.’” And when he talks to new-media artists about his sculptures and drawings, they tell him to get his head out of the sand.

Such is the hybrid world where high-tech meets classical art. Mr. Schatz, a Chicago native, is one of the few professional artists in the country integrating digital and traditional designs.

“There is this desert where they come together, and this is where I am most interested,” he says.

Mr. Schatz, a graduate of Vermont’s Bennington College who has a studio on Ontario Street, began playing with computers to help him model sculptures. The more he learned, the more he incorporated digital elements into his designs.

About two years ago, Sylvia Chivaratanond, curatorial assistant at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, was tapped to find “young, funky” new-media artwork for display in the Real World house, the set of the MTV program filmed in Chicago last year. She thought of Mr. Schatz, whose animations ended up running on a continuous loop on a plasma screen during the show.

The exposure helped raise Mr. Schatz’s professional profile. In May, he had a solo exhibition at bitforms, a New York new-media art gallery. His 2.5-ton acrylic plastic Nimbus sculptures will be unveiled by the end of the year, the result of a juried competition commissioned for the city of Evanston.

“I was interested to see he had both animation pieces and 3-D sculptures – beautiful pieces,” says Ms. Chivaratanond, who attended the bitforms show. “He has a sculptor’s mind in the world of animation.”

Mr. Schatz, 38, says it will take him a few years to determine whether a fine artist can make a living with a digital sensibility. Few museums or galleries have such pieces in their collections, given the difficulty in collecting and exhibiting the works.

“Museums know they need a new-media person,” he says, “but they are not sure what they will do with them.”

By Margaret Littman
Crain’s Chicago Business | July 08, 2002
© 2002 by Crain Communications Inc.