Cosmic Flowers of Hope – An AI Art Series

AI Art, Thoughts and Essays

Imagine the art world as a sea, and text-to-art technologies as the storm thrashing that sea. Cutting-edge art generators can transform a text prompt into a work of art. One major player, DALLE 2, takes only about twenty seconds for a generation.

Reactions to these technologies range from the delighted expectation of an art revolution to fear of apocalyptic disruption. When I first heard about text-to-art generators, my immediate response was consuming fear. As someone who based a large part of my identity on my artistic talents, I felt like DALLE and the like had stolen a part of me. I wanted nothing to do with art generators – until my God showed me they are nothing to fear.

Now I am excited to have a way to experiment with digital art that does not require expensive software and an abundance of skill and time. To be clear, these generators are not insta-art. They cannot read your mind and then spit out an exact match to what you envision. The process requires several generations and edits to the text prompt and the resulting images (in my experience). Still, when it comes to the artistic process, this technology is liberating.

Recently, I was granted an invitation to participate in DALLE 2’s expanded beta stage. Below is the fruit of my experimentation so far. In this art series, life and beauty blossom in the limitless expanse of the universe (symbolic of my own journey with art-generating technology).

Enjoy!

Bannack: The Living Ghost Town

Bannack, Montana

Something yellow and timeless glittered in Grasshopper Creek. The discovery put fire in miners’ hearts, and Montana’s first gold rush began in 1862. Bannack burst to life and peaked at 5,000 people.

History

Gold fever and a population explosion created an ideal environment for crime. Bannack was a frontier town, and there was no established judicial system. Road agents (bandits) flourished. In fact, Bannack’s sheriff, Henry Plummer, was said to secretly lead a gang. Residents formed vigilante groups. The vigilantes of Bannack crossed into infamy when they hanged Henry Plummer. Vigilantes regularly hung their victims without the benefit of a trial.

Unlike most boom towns, Bannack survived for a century. The town went through repeated booms and busts. Improved mining technology, like dredging, was used to wrest more gold from Grasshopper Creek. As the town matured, its lawless character faded. More families made their homes in Bannack, and a church and a brick courthouse (later turned into a hotel) were built.

Yet dreams of gold died in the dust. Bannack declined after World War II, and became a ghost town. Several former residents and various groups concerned with preserving history worked to save Bannack. Eventually, Montana turned the site into a state park.

Bannack State Park: Living History

Today, Bannack is a living ghost town. Homes and businesses from all periods of Bannack’s history are well-preserved. To step into Bannack’s houses is to step into the inner worlds of the people who once lived there. Bannack is a portal back into time. Places I had learned about in history classes came to life as I explored the town.

Landscape

Bannack is located in a rain shadow – the land is essentially a desert. The lush banks of Grasshopper Creek offer the only reprieve from sagebrush wilderness. The spirit of the Old West is alive and well in this landscape.

I love the photos I took during my Bannack trip, but nothing compares to experiencing the sights yourself. If you find yourself in Big Sky Country – and you have a streak of history buff in you – make sure visit Bannack!

References

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park

Early in June I went camping with friends in Grand Teton National Park. We hiked past Jenny Lake and up to Hidden Falls (pictures below). We also had the chance to drive through Yellowstone, where we stopped by Lower Falls in Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon. I had the pleasure of photographing these beautiful landscapes between rainstorms. From lupines to sunflowers, the wild flowers are in bloom. The forest is unusually verdant thanks to ample rainfall.

We left Yellowstone on Sunday night, June 12th, a few hours before the historic floods that closed the park. I am awed and grateful that God delivered us from what would have been a disastrous situation.

Painting of a purple iris created by Tressa Mancini in collaboration with AI.

AI Art: Iris of Promise

AI Art, Thoughts and Essays

AI art generators are sending ripples through the art world. Some fear this technology, while others embrace it. I was terrified of it. I wrote a long post decrying it during a moment when I was caught up in fear and depression. I deleted that article. Instead, I want to tell a story of personal victory.

On Friday (06/03/22), God said to me during a time of prayer, “Do not fear! Your skills in writing and design are not in vain! Do not fear computer tools but embrace them.” I then promptly forget about this.

Saturday, June 4th, rolls around. I find myself on Night Cafe, an AI art generating service. With the Lord’s help, I worked up the courage to experiment with the technology I feared. The featured image in this post – the purple iris – is the result of my experimentation. I was pleasantly surprised!

Today (06/05/22) I opened my prayer journal to see the above quote. I had done what He said, and God walked through my fears with me! I was telling one of my pastors about this, and she asked me what color the iris was. When I said it was purple, she said that purple irises symbolically mean the promise of God. She had a bouquet of irises at her wedding for this reason (more on the symbolism of irises in Christianity here).

This led to a moment of awe for me – I was reverently astonished at how God worked in my life. I took a risk and stepped into my fear, and God helped me through it. In the end, He showed me a new form of beauty and gave me a memorial [the art piece] of His faithfulness and His promises.

Speaking of awe, this was the subject of my lead pastor’s sermon Sunday night. Fear narrows one’s focus to the object of one’s fear, which leads to a downward spiral of negative emotions (as exemplified by my fear of art generating AI). But, according to Phycological Science, awe combined with spirituality has the opposite effect. “By making us less focused on the self and more in tune with the present moment, awe may ultimately boost our own individual well-being…The link between awe and spirituality may, at least in part, be explained by an ‘upward spiral’ of positive emotion that ultimately boosts well-being.” Not only did I get to experience yet again God’s care and Him working out all things in my life, but He also showed me a new weapon to combat my fears with: awe of Him.

“For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” -Psalm 100:5

May the Lord bless you, and deliver you from all your fears!