Tag Archives: science art

Art of Science: Katie Lewis – Visualizing the Unquantifiable

Katie Lewis, Accumulated Numbness. pins, enamel, pencil

Katie Lewis, Accumulated Numbness. pins, enamel, pencil

Katie Lewis uses simple materials like pins and thread to create her artworks, which are based on data she collects about her own “bodily sensations” – but she won’t tell you what sensations she’s measuring. Twinges in the back? Rumbles in the tummy, perhaps? She says she uses a very strict method to collect and visualize her data, but she won’t tell you what her method is, either. According to Lewis, it’s all about questioning medicine and science’s view of the body as a quantifiable and endlessly analyzable thing.

She organizes her data into “grid-like charts and diagrams mimicking science and medicine’s representations of the body as a specimen, visually displayed for the purpose of gaining knowledge” – a mindset she sees as false. “The artificially rigid organization of my materials alludes to control – of the individual body as an institutional domain, and of irrational experience as a manageable, concrete set of events.”

Color me conflicted. On the one hand, I understand the artist’s resistance to the idea that every aspect of the self and the human experience can be quantified, crunched and displayed in neat charts. On the other hand, a lot of it can be quantified, and creating art from the data can be beautiful and meaningful, if never the definitive measure of a life.

You can see more of Katie Lewis’ art at her website.

Art of Science: Send Me to the Arctic, for Science and Art

Help support my art-science residency in Finland and this Reindeer Moss could be yours.

Help support my art-science residency in Finland and this Reindeer Moss could be yours.

I have been writing about the intersection of science and art here at The Finch & Pea for the past 3 years. I’ve been painting cells, bacteria, viruses and more for even longer, but I’ve never had the opportunity to work with real scientists in a lab – until now! I’ve been selected to be the Artist-in-Residence at the Kilpisjärvi Biological Station in Finland in October and November 2015.

This is Kilpisjärvi. Photo by Tea Karvinen

This is Kilpisjärvi. Photo by Tea Karvinen

I’m very excited about this opportunity and I’m asking for your help to make it happen. I just launched an Indiegogo campaign to help pay my expenses for this amazing experience.

Installation view of Culture Dishes at AAAS, 2014

Installation view of Culture Dishes at AAAS, 2014

The Ars Bioarctica Residency Program is a joint project of the Finnish Bioart Society and Kilpisjärvi Biological Station in sub-Arctic Lapland. The residency has an emphasis on the Arctic environment and art-science collaboration. I’ll have access to the station’s lab and equipment and I’ll be working side-by-side with scientists conducting research on vegetation, local fauna, and soil chemistry. izzyscarffinland2Kilpisjärvi’s location near the Arctic Circle puts it on the front lines of climate change, a subject of much of my recent art.

Like most art residencies, this one is unfunded. I hope to raise enough money through Indiegogo to cover my travel and room and board and to buy some art supplies. To thank you for your support, I’ve come up with an array of amazing perks, including a scarf and print based on Reindeer Moss, a lichen native to the region.

There’s lots more information about the residency on my Indiegogo page. Please look, click, spread the word, and support sciart!

UPDATE: As of 5pm on May 14, this project is fully funded! Thank you so much for your support.

Art of Science: Shawn Smith’s Wild Pixel Kingdom

Shawn Smith, Pronking Impala, Mixed Media, 2015

Shawn Smith, Pronking Impala, Mixed Media, 2015

Centuries ago, when an artist wanted to depict an animal he hadn’t seen before, he had to rely on descriptions or travelers’ sketches. This led to the creation of many inaccurate images, perhaps the most famous of which is Dürer’s rhinoceros.

We’ve come a long way since the 16th century. But have the enormous advances in the capture and dissemination of images really brought us closer to the visual reality of animals in the wild? Shawn Smith’s exhibition Pixels, Predators and Prey at the Artisphere in Arlington, Virginia, explores this question to intriguing effect.

Smith’s show “examines the evolutionary collision between nature and the digital world through the creation of a pixelated natural world.”

Growing up in large cities, Smith’s interactions with nature were limited to the pixelated representations he viewed on television and on his computer screen. These images would later serve as inspiration for Pixels, Predators and Prey.

Smith examines how we experience nature through the lens of technology by creating three-dimensional sculptures of two-dimensional images sourced from the internet. Each nature sculpture in Pixels, Predators and Prey is built pixel-by-pixel with hand-cut, hand-dyed strips of wood in an overtly laborious process that is in direct contrast to the slipperiness and speed of the digital world.

The work in the exhibition draws inspiration from biology and the struggle a single cell must endure to remain alive. In the same way a cell plays a crucial role in the identity of an organism, Smith explores how each pixel plays an important role in the identity of the object. – Artisphere

Smith’s work is beautiful, original and thought-provoking. However many photographs we’ve seen online, can we honestly say we know what a shark or deer truly looks like? Although those large animals, like the Pronking Impala (above) are the most striking, perhaps the most creepily seductive piece in the show is the half-pixelated, half-naturalistically rendered brain and spinal cord, portentously titled Becoming. Are we? And if so, should we be afraid?

Pixels, Predators and Prey is on view at Artisphere’s Terrace Gallery until June 14. You can see more of his work at his website.

Shawn Smith, Becoming, Mixed Media, 2014

Shawn Smith, Becoming, Mixed Media, 2014

Art of Science: Mr. Cunningham’s Dinosaurs

Illustration by Jack Cunningham

Illustration by Jack Cunningham

I stumbled upon the work of animator and illustrator Jack Cunningham the other day, when I saw 3D prints of his dinosaurs featured on CoolHunting. So I went looking for more, and I found his tumblr, which is full of pictures but almost devoid of words. And then I found…nothing.  So I really don’t know who Jack Cunningham is, where he’s from, or what his favorite color is, but I guess he likes dinosaurs. This drawing of people and dinosaurs on a busy city street made me wonder what life might be like if events had taken a different turn 65 million years ago.

3D Printed Dinosaurs by Jack Cunningham and Vincent Techer

3D Printed Dinosaurs by Jack Cunningham and Vincent Techer

Art of Science: Juan Travieso Paints Endangered Species

Juan Travieso, Extinction is Eternal, Acrylic on Canvas, 2013

Juan Travieso, Extinction is Eternal, Acrylic on Canvas, 2013

Earth Day seems like the perfect moment to showcase the work of Juan Travieso, a Cuban-born painter based in Miami. Travieso’s oil and acrylic paintings feature endangered species, particularly a vast array of endangered birds, juxtaposed against design elements that suggest encroaching buildings, technology, and disease – in other words, some of the things that endanger them.

In a recent interview with the art blog Hi-Fructose, Travieso explained his inspiration. “As a part of nature, I am aware of the fact that we are trying so hard as a species to disconnect ourselves from what we are. I feel that it is my responsibility as an artist and as a citizen of the world to give voice to the powerless species on this earth. Therefore, I have been focusing on endangered species for the last six years. One of my goals is to paint all of the endangered birds in the world.”

The ambitious scale of that goal is part of the point. Travieso notes that after two years of painting endangered birds, he realized that the message of the paintings would be magnified by their sheer number.  “The more different species I painted, the more the audience would understand the great value of their loss. One of my dreams is to have a retrospective with all of my bird paintings under the same roof. It would be a grand statement on the toll we have taken on nature.”

You can read the full interview here  and see the full Endangered Birds series at Travieso’s website.