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AAAS Summer Art Show Blends Art and Science
The 2006 AAAS Art of Science and Technology Summer Show features three fresh exhibits that blur the boundaries between art and science.
The show presents paintings by Rachel von Roeschlaub; photographs by Albert Teich, head of science and policy at AAAS; and award winning prints of the National Science Foundation/AAAS 2004 and 2005 Science and Engineering Challenge.
Both von Roeschlaub and Teich presented their work during the exhibit’s opening reception on Wednesday 28 June in the AAAS gallery.
Von Roeschlaub is an artist, educator, entrepreneur, and one time professional tennis player. While at University of Montana, she studied chemistry, later receiving an M.S. in organic chemistry from the University of Oregon. A former molecular biologist at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Von Roeschlaub chose to leave bench work to pursue art professionally.
Although she no longer works in a lab, her subjects have strong scientific themes. “Many of my pieces have biological themes that originate from my work in molecular biology,” von Roeschlaub wrote in her artistic statement.
Using a variety of media, from vinyl records to natural paper, von Roeschlaub’s “Bio Puncta Art” depicts bold and nearly three-dimensional subjects against a background of calm shapes and colors.
Von Roeschlaub achieves three-dimensions in a variety of ways. For example, in “Frog Fatale,” frogs are painted with contrasting colored legs and torsos, suggesting they are leaping out of the background.
Further expanding on pointillist techniques made famous by George Seurat, von Roeschlaub shades small circles both in the subject as well as in the background suggesting texture on the flat medium.
Many art critics suggest von Roeschlaub’s style is a combination of Aboriginal Pointillism and American Folk Art.
“I use basic shapes, with a myriad of points to create lively creatures and engaging patterns,” von Roeschlaub wrote in her artistic statement. “This pointillist technique allows the most reductive and primitive shapes to emerge with depth and figure.”
Von Roeschlaub’s paintings have appeared on the cover of various magazines and journals, including Cold Spring Harbor Transcript and Nature Genetics. In addition, she has exhibited in Manhattan galleries and has received a private commission for a mural to be included in the recently completed Harvard University Vivarium.
In addition to painting, von Roeschlaub is involved with DNA Adventures Inc., a science education company she founded. DNA Adventures provides hands-on workshops in genetics and biotechnology education. Over the past several years, she has traveled to India and Tibet to teach biology and genetics to Tibetan monks, students and school teachers.
When interviewed about her trip to Tibet, von Roeschlaub highlighted her encounter with the Dalai Lama and discussion with Tibetan monks about another monk, Gregor Mendel. Von Roeschlaub recounted, “The monks loved hearing about Mendel and how he used pea plants to explore basic principles of genetic inheritance. They’re planning to set up their own version of Mandel’s experiments.”
Like von Roeschlaub’s circular pointillist mark and vinyl record frame, Al Teich’s “Kaleidoscope Visions” makes strong use of circles.
Teich’s arresting photographs depict black and white beads floating in oil inside a 1.5 cm thick Lucite puck. Taken through the eyepiece of a kaleidoscope, the black and white prints display seven-fold symmetry.
Seven-fold symmetry is “an unusual form requiring an extremely precise alignment of mirrors,” Teich explained.
Teich, who holds a B.A. in physics and a Ph.D. in political science from MIT, sees a natural harmony between art and science.
“Many people regard science and art as polar opposites—science, they feel, is about cold, hard facts and ‘truth,’ while art is about emotion and interpretation,” he said. “Frankly, I think that's all wrong. Science and art share an appreciation for beauty and they interact at many levels. And science and scientists can be and often are as emotional as art and artists.”
While some of Teich’s print patterns appear still, many look as if they are bursting away from center. In one of Teich’s most dazzling prints, “Impossible Snowflake,” the “snowflake” appears disjointed with negative space between sections of the pattern suggesting movement and action.
“To my mind, the patterns are spectacularly beautiful and far more interesting in black and white than if they were in color,” Teich wrote in his personal statement.
Teich, who has been an enthusiastic photographer since he won a box camera in a jingle contest at the age of 10, has published photos in several books and magazines, including Ocala Magazine in April 2004.
The final series on display is the winners of the 2004 and 2005 National Science Foundation/AAAS Science and Engineering Challenge, sponsored jointly by NSF and Science.
The entries on display were chosen as award winners because they conveyed scientific knowledge effectively and aesthetically. According to the contest statement, “Some of science’s most powerful statements are not made in words. From the diagrams of DaVinci to … the remotest galactic outback, visualization of research has a long and literally illustrious history. To illustrate is, etymologically and actually, to enlighten.”
Currently in its 4th year, the contest received submissions in five categories: photographs, illustrations, informational graphics, interactive media and non-interactive media. Submissions were then evaluated for three main elements: visual impact, effective communication, and originality.
One of the most interesting submissions to the competition, “Return of the 17-Year Cicadas,” was submitted by Roger Hangarter and Samuel Orr of Indiana University. Using time-lapse photography and close shots, the movie chronicles the short-life span of the cicadas above ground.
For Virginia Stern, director of AAAS’s Art of Science and Technology, the new show offers summer viewers a rich mix of images and techniques.
“The art in the exhibition covers a wide range of research topics, in addition to the diverse presentations and aesthetic styles,” Stern said.
The works will be on display until 29 September in a public exhibit in the AAAS gallery at 12th and H Streets, NW, in Washington, D.C. The gallery is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, please contact Virginia Stern of AAAS's The Art of Science and Technology at 202-326-6672 or the gallery curator, Shirley Koller, at 202-333-4817.
To see other winners in the National Science Foundation/AAAS 2004 and 2005 Science and Engineering Challenge, click here. To obtain more information, or to submit an entry to the 2006 Science and Engineering Challenge, click here.
29 June 2006