John Grade, Capacitor, 2013
John Grade’s sculpture Capacitor is an immense, immersive piece designed to, as he puts it, “encapsulate the viewer.” As visitors walk inside the 40- x 20- x 40-foot sculpture, made of fabric stretched over metal frames, it moves, lightens and darkens.
Capacitor was conceived and built in a mere two months and was exhibited at the Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin in 2013.
The sculpture responds to information from weather sensors outside the Arts Center, slowly twisting and shifting to changes in wind direction and temperature. The live weather data are correlated to historic data, so the greater the divergence from historical norms, the more the sculpture moves, and the more dramatic the shifts in light.
Grade says he hopes people come away from the installation “having experienced something about the outside environment in a new way, having experienced it with their bodies.”
You can see more photos and other projects by John Grade on his website.
Michele posted fabulous pictures from Voyage of Discovery - her collaboration with Jessica Beels and Ellyn Weiss at the AAAS Art Gallery in Washington, DC – allowing those of us who cannot make it to the gallery to get a virtual taste of the experience.
Voyage of Discovery – Michele Banks, Jessica Beels, and Ellyn Weiss
Art like this requires the talent and creativity of artists. That means our artists need our support. You can support these artists by visiting their websites:
Artwork by Jessica Beels, Ellyn Weiss, and Michele Banks. All photos by Michele Banks. All rights reserved by respective copyright holders. Used with permission.
Simon Blackmore, Weather Guitar, 2006
Air guitar a little low-tech for you? Try Simon Blackmore’s Weather Guitar, a robotically-controlled flamenco guitar that responds to variations in weather conditions. Blackmore says that the electronic guts of the Weather Guitar, currently on view at the Aldrich Contemporary Arts Museum in Connecticut, were designed to be as flexible and open as possible, so it could be shown (and heard) in many different settings.
The Aldrich Museum’s Richard Klein explains: “Blackmore’s work is characterized by an inventive, DIY approach that draws on influences such as hobby-style electronics, open-source software, and lo-fi aesthetics. The resulting “performative” sculpture and installations are not, however, just about revealing the inner workings of things that are usually invisible, but rather an attempt to tackle the more philosophically thorny questions that surround our increasingly complicated relationship with technology and the power it holds over us.”
Blackmore himself describes the goal of the piece as “an attempt to draw parallels between the scientific inquiry of measuring and quantifying the natural elements, and the romantic notion of the weather acting as a source of artistic inspiration.”
You can see Weather Guitar and two other pieces by Blackmore at the Aldrich Museum through March 9 and see a video of it on Blackmore’s website.
Michael Tyka, KcsA Potassium Channel, Copper and Steel, 2011
Mike Tyka is not the first scientist to see artistic potential through his microscope, but he’s taken his love for the structure of protein molecules much farther than most – not only learning metalworking to make beautiful copper sculptures, but creating a studio/makerspace to do it in.
Tyka earned a PhD in Biophysics in 2007 and went to work as a research fellow studying the structure and dynamics of protein molecules. His particular area of interest is protein folding, and he has written computer simulation software to better understand the process. Tyka says that “protein folding is the way our genetic code is interpreted from an abstract sequence of data into the functional enzymes and nano machines that drive our bodies.”
Tyka got interested in sculpture in 2009 when he helped design and construct Groovik’s Cube, a 35ft tall, functional, multi-player Rubik’s cube. The cube will soon be on view at New Jersey’s Liberty Science Center as part of its Beyond Rubik’s Cube Exhibit.
Although the Groovik’s Cube project gave him his first taste of art-making, building a giant welded steel cube hardly prepared him to make exquisite replicas of complex biological forms. So he took to the internet. “I learned almost everything I needed from youtube and from jeweler friends. I didn’t have a space to work so I got together with some friend and founded an artspace (Seattle’s ALTSpace) and acquired or built all the tools I needed.”
Tyka was obviously very familiar with the protein forms and knew how he wanted them to look. He chose to work in copper, a warm, soft metal, because he wanted the sculptures “to look smooth, soft, liquid. Proteins are not solid objects, they’re more like jelly, they move and vibrate. I wanted to reflect that property somehow.”
You can see Mike Tyka’s work at the Hutchinson Cancer Institute in Seattle and at Science House in New York, and see lots more photos on his website. You can follow him on twitter @mtyka
I’d strongly encourage you to watch the video. Michele, Jessica, and Ellyn provide some very profound thinking about the ways scientists and artists view the world – and challenge both groups to learn from each other.
Even better. If you are in the DC area (or are traveling through), make some time to visit the exhibition in person. Make a point to support these talented artists.
Even betterer. Really support these artists by acquiring some of their work to keep near you at all times. Like their style, but don’t see the one thing you want most in the world. Ask about commissioning a piece. It is often cheaper than you think, yet makes you feel like plutocratic patron of the arts. And, that is a very good feeling.