Tag Archives: science art

The Art of Science: Stylish Sci Tattoos, Minus Pain

DNA temporary tattoo by the Vexed Muddler

DNA temporary tattoo by the Vexed Muddler

The Science Tribe are a proud people, many of whom display their allegiances on their skin in a dazzling variety of geeky tattoos. Science writers @Scicurious and @Laelaps, for example, both have cool tats designed by @FlyingTrilobite – a caffeine molecule and some dino bones. But there are those who fear the needle, or the commitment, of permanent ink. For them, The Vexed Muddler has created a new series of temporary science tattoos, available in her etsy shop. The Vexed Muddler (aka Peggy Muddles) is a biology lab tech by day, and she knows her microbes. You can chose from a variety of bacteria, a spiky virus and a classic DNA double helix. So be a trendsetter, wear your gut flora on the outside for a change. While you’re at it, you might want to accessorize with one of the Muddler’s lovely ceramic necklaces, in styles ranging from mitochondria to whipworms.

The Art of Science: Radical Elements

Grace Harbin Wever, Iridium - My Darkness to Light II, 2013, Mixed Media

Grace Harbin Wever, Iridium – My Darkness to Light II, 2013, Mixed Media

Soft materials meet hard science in Radical Elements, an exhibition at the National Academy of Sciences featuring 40 contemporary art quilts, each inspired by a different element from the periodic table. The works in the show, organized by Studio Art Quilt Associates, explore the elements in many ways, ranging from their industrial uses to personal memories associated with them. For example, Barbara Schulman’s piece, A Pepto Bismuth Story (below), started with the “beautiful crystalline structure” and iridescent colors of the element, which reminded the artist of her mother’s hankies and lace, so she incorporated them into the design along with bismuth’s best-known consumer product, Pepto-Bismol.

Grace Harbin Wever’s Iridium – My Darkness to Light II (above), takes a more strictly scientific idea, although she expresses it in a highly artistic, indirect way. The artist, a former cell biologist, was intrigued when she learned that iridium microelectrodes had been successfully implanted into the human brain as part of studies in vision and perception. A range of materials, including holographic fabric and copper wire, surround the central eye image, nodding to the juxtaposition of the natural and the man-made that characterizes recent advances in the field of vision.

Indeed, very few of the quilts on display stick to the traditional materials of fabric, thread and batting. Materials used range from duct tape and aluminum foil to keyboard keys and dining utensils. Curator Jill Rumoshosky Werner notes, “In a relatively short period of time, the field of art quilting has undergone a fundamental change. The primary focus has shifted from decorating the surface of a quilted wall hanging to a much broader acceptance of ideas, styles, and materials.”

Radical Elements is on exhibit at the NAS Building in Washington, DC, through October 19th.  Many of the quilts can be seen online here.

Barbara Schulman, A Pepto Bismuth Story, 2013, Mixed Media

Barbara Schulman, A Pepto Bismuth Story, 2013, Mixed Media

The Art of Science: Culture and Monoculture

Dawn Holder, Monoculture, porcelain, 2013

Dawn Holder, Monoculture, porcelain, 2013

Dawn Holder’s Monoculture is a porcelain replica of that American ideal, the perfect green lawn. Holder explains that she focused on the lawn because of its “multivalent nature.”

“It is a “natural space” in that it is comprised of plants and landforms, yet the lawn is a wholly artificial construct, a highly controlled space requiring labor, chemicals, and specialized equipment to maintain. I am fascinated by suburban America’s desire to construct this hybrid artificial-natural landscape and what it signifies in terms of time and resources. I think the lawn is our culture’s fantasy version of the natural world.” (source)

Holder’s piece, made from individually formed, glazed and fired pieces of porcelain, is also, of course, a “highly controlled space” that requires a lot of labor to create and maintain.

“The toil involved in the manufacture of these repetitive pieces mirrors the tedium of shaping and cultivating the landscape…Breakage and repair have become part of the labor of maintaining much of the work.” (source)

Holder’s piece is on exhibit at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, in Washington, DC, as part of a show called Organic Matters—Women to Watch 2015. The work seems especially timely as drought and climate change call into question whether humans can – or should – continue to exert this kind of control over the natural environment.

Perhaps one day, maybe sooner than we imagine, a museum will be the only place to see a perfectly tended green lawn.

Organic Matters continues at the National Museum of Women in the Arts through September 13.

detail from Monoculture

detail from Monoculture




The Art of Science: Decay All The Way

Artists have explored the beauty of decay  for hundreds of years. Images of dying flowers and falling-down buildings are potent reminders that life is fleeting and that nothing we build will last forever.  But of all the painters and poets that have pointed out this bittersweet fact, few get down to the nitty-gritty of decay quite like Sam Taylor-Johnson.

In her 2001 video piece Still Life, Taylor-Johnson (Formerly Sam Taylor-Wood, and yes, the same one who directed 50 Shades of Grey), presents a classic Renaissance tableau of a bowl of fruit on a table, sets up a camera and lets nature take its course. As the bacteria build up, the fruit begin to shrink and collapse upon themselves.

Unlike a traditional painter, who would typically suggest decay by showing fruit or flowers just past their prime, but still beautiful, Taylor-Johnson keeps the camera rolling until the all that’s left is a rotting black pile topped with angelic white mold, buzzed about by fruit flies.

One of the things that’s fascinating about watching the process is how the fruit keeps moving, at first shrinking and then seeming to regrow as the bacteria multiply furiously. It’s a truly visceral display of the circle of life. If you like this piece, and you have a really strong stomach, watch Taylor-Johnson’s video A Little Death of a dead rabbit (another classic art image) being devoured by insects.

If you’re in the DC area, you can see Still Life as part of the Super Natural exhibition at the National Museum of Women in the Arts until September 13.



Introducing Banks’ Second Theorem

A neighbor recently opened an etsy shop to sell her paintings. She asked me a bunch of questions about the process, which I was happy to answer. Then she asked me the essential question: “How do you get people to find you on the internet?”

Getting people to find me on the internet (ohai!) is the central struggle of my career. It’s a constant battle that I’ve been fighting every single day, with some success, for the past five years. But of course I didn’t tell my neighbor this, because I didn’t want to scare her off. So I suggested she start by posting her new shop on her Facebook page. “Well, that’s the thing, I don’t do Facebook.” Twitter? Nope. Instagram? What? We didn’t even get to the idea of submitting work to blogs.

I had a sudden flashback to a conversation with another artist a few years earlier, who complained that twitter wasn’t working well for promoting her work. “I tweet a lot,” she explained, “But I don’t actually READ tweets.” Dear fellow artist,


This is not to say that twitter is the only way to go, or that artists have to spend as many hours a day on the internet as I do. They probably shouldn’t!


But really, selling online has a lot in common with selling offline. You need to put in some time. You have to get out there and forge relationships. You need to know who the players are. I’m going to call this Banks’ second theorem:*

If you want to sell on the internet, you have to be on the internet.

If you had a brick-and-mortar shop, you would know the other shopkeepers in your neighborhood, wouldn’t you? Well, if you have an online shop, the internet is your neighborhood. Get out there, take a walk every day, and say hello. Read some blogs. Read some tweets. Make some intelligent comments. Show other people the cool things you find on your walks. Then say, “here, have a look at what I’m working on.” Repeat.

*I’ll get to the first theorem later. My blog, my rules.

(originally posted on Artoblogica)