The Art of Science: Caleb Charland Experiments with Photography


Caleb Charland’s photos explore many aspects of physics and chemistry to stunning effect – all without the use of photoshop. He uses a number of elaborate but essentially old-school techniques, including scanning and multiple exposures, to create his amazing images. One of my favorites is this relatively simple photo, Helix with Matchsticks, a DNA-style double helix engulfed in flame. Besides the obvious connection of the flames and life-force, could it allude to the fiery conflicts over evolution?

Charland, who is based in Maine, has recently been working on creating “photos” without a camera – using a burning candle to expose, and drip on, photographic paper. Before that, he used images to demonstrate unusual power sources, like using an orange to run a light bulb for 14 hours. He described his work in 2010 as being “like 5th grade science mixed with sculpture. It’s about being curious and playful. There is still a lot to wonder about.” (source)

You can see many more images at  Charland’s website.

The Art of Science: Put a Shark on It

Sharks are scary. The apex predators of the ocean, they have giant mouths with rows of pointed teeth, they can grow to a great size, and they never stop moving. And yet, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), more people are killed by electrocution by Christmas lights than by shark attacks.  (source) So our fear of sharks isn’t rational, it’s cultural.  Artists, take note: If fear is what you’re going for, put a shark on it. Continue reading “The Art of Science: Put a Shark on It”

The Art of Science: Shapeshifter

Brian Jungen is a Canadian artist of mixed European and Native background.  He often uses everyday objects such as sporting goods, shoes and luggage to create new versions of iconic cultural objects, such as Native American masks, totem poles and fossil skeletons. This piece, Shapeshifter (2000), is one of a series of monumental whale skeleton sculptures made of cheap acrylic lawn chairs. Continue reading “The Art of Science: Shapeshifter”

The Art of Science: Mika Aoki

Mika Aoki is a Japanese artist working mainly in glass. Her work, which features crystal-clear groupings of spore- and cell-like objects, treads a line between science and fantasy. Of this piece, Syringe, from 2009, Aoki says, “I got this theme from the idea of a sperm bank. Sperm donations are classified according to educational background or appearance. Great expectations are entrusted to microscopic life which can be sucked up by syringes. From this point of view, I notice that my personality is breathing within each cell of my body.” (source)

A viewer who didn’t know Aoki’s intent might see other possibilities in this piece, however – perhaps the specter of hospital-acquired infections or the idea behind vaccinations, of injecting ourselves with viruses to protect ourselves from them.

You can see more of Mika Aoki’s work at her website.

The Art of Science: Growth Factor

Betty Busby, a textile artist based in New Mexico, uses quilting to explore scientific themes.  Her large and often spectacularly detailed pieces represent biological processes, including cell division and the growth of plants and other organisms.

Busby uses photomicrographs of scientific images as inspiration for her work.  She says that because the colors in microscope photos are mostly artificially produced, either through chemical or lighting methods, it gives her the freedom to experiment with “the wildest color combinations I can think of, unhindered by expectations of realism.”

This piece, Growth Factor, looks at cell growth and development.  Busby printed the cell images on silk in a palette of green and gold, evoking a forest, then appliqued the purple organelles welling up in the middle. This piece will be shown at “Quilt Visions: Brainstorms”  at the Visions Art Museum in San Diego, CA, in October 2012.

You can see more of Busby’s work on her website  and at her etsy shop.

This post contains material that originally appeared in Guru magazine

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