REVIEW A Wide Open Sea of Stellar Art: "The Cosmos" at the New York Hall of Science
By Danielle Kalamaras, Contributing Editor
Installation shot of
"The Cosmos" at
the New York Hall
of Science. Photo
Look into the sky - the sun’s rays billowing beyond the clouds, the moon’s atmospheric glow illuminating the depths of darkness, or the dewdrops of stars at midnight. Even with these visual cues, it is difficult to conceive of space’s expansive frontiers. As science continues to probe the universe through exploration, experiment, and theory, so too does art hold high standards for questioning the world we live in. Collaborations between these two realms can lead to new interpretations of today’s science. “The Cosmos,” the 15th international juried exhibition organized by Art & Science Collaborations, Inc. at the New York Hall of Science, is a visually stunning illustration of the rewarding marriage between science and art.
Art & Science Collaborations, Inc. (ASCI) has been increasing communication and collaborations between science and art since this member organization’s conception in 1988. With a mission of “nurturing the intersection of art, science, technology, and the humanities,” ASCI aims to raise public awareness about both artists and scientists who use science and technology to explore new forms of creative expression. ASCI has held symposia, sponsored art exhibitions and public projects, and hosted events at which artists, scientists and others working in the field of technology can come together and learn from one another.
On view at the ASCI show are visual images documenting original art, executed in any media, related to astronomy, space exploration, questions of cosmology, extraterrestrials, or the nature of matter or time in relation to universal laws. The artwork was chosen by two jurors: artist Dan Goods and scientist Arthur I. Miller.
Dan Goods is a “Visual Strategist” at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA. Arthur I. Miller, author of the soon-to-be published book Colliding Worlds: How Cutting Edge Science is Redefining Contemporary Art, is a scientist, professor, and writer interested in the intersection of art and science.
“One cannot be but overwhelmed by a profound sense of wonder and amazement when pondering the cosmos,” Goods writes in his juror statement. The confounding scale of space continues to captivate human imaginations, he writes, even with scientific progress. In contrast to artists from the past who relied on maps and experiments to render space in scientific exactitude, Goods writes, “today, many artists are going beyond representing ‘reality’ with photorealistic imagery. As seen from this exhibition, they are creating imagery and experiences that convey unique insights that deepen our knowledge of the cosmos and our place in it.”
“The artists in this year’s competition go deeper,” Miller concurs in his statement, “trying to produce visual representations that evoke the frightening grandeur and poetry behind these awesome objects.”
"Cube" (Tight Expansion) by Jesse Ng (2013).
Oil on canvas. Photo credit Danielle Kalamaras
The stars are a gateway to the cosmos. Hilary Zelson’s painting Carina Nebula uses glitter to mimic how the stars glow in far away nebulae. Jesse Ng’sCube (Tight Expansion) is a painterly interpretation of a scientific illustration used in laboratory reports. Visual aids in science are attempts to contain and analyze the world through diagrams and hard-edged geometric shapes. We rely on these diagrams and infographics to visualize streams of data and to demystify scientific jargon. Ng’s Cube (Tight Expansion) is a “diagram” solidifying the ethereal elements of space, and her cube represents the “cosmos” as becomes a specimen of observation.
The stars lead way to the planets that dapple our solar system. Satellites today have reached as far as Mars, taking photographs and collecting data of its otherworldly terrain. Cassandra Hanks goes even deeper into the universe in her digital photograph Jupiter’s Geysers of Light. From data collected by probes, NASA and chemists have concluded that Jupiter’s landscapes are comprised of metallic hydrogen among other materials. Hanks studied techniques to stage a mock-environment of Jupiter, filling a water tank with mixed paints, dyes, and condensed milk in order to stage the planet’s atmosphere. She backlit her Jupiter with LED lights to mimic the effects of geysers setting off on Jupiter due to the collision of liquid and solid metallic hydrogen.
"Dark Matter" by Michelle Hartney (2012). Mixed media,
wood, pearls, sequins, beads and acrylic poms. Photo credit
Beyond our planets and solar system is the real unknown. One may believe our world begins and ends with Earth, or at the other end of the spectrum, that Earth is a minuscule point in the blueprint of the universe - and that we may not even be alone.
Venzha Christ’s sound installation Area51 is based on recordings during the artist’s travels to the U.S. military base, Area 51, in Nevada, the site of top-secret research. Christ’s installation uses an ultrasonic frequency receiver to convert imperceptible noise (frequencies above 20KHZ) to sounds perceptible to the human ear. In his installation people are able to hear sounds never heard before, creating a connection between humans and the unknown world.
A show about the cosmos would not be complete without the Cosmos king himself, Carl Sagan. Michelle Hartney’s mixed media sculpture Dark Matter tells the story of NASA’s Voyager spacecrafts, launched in 1977 and equipped with the “Golden Record,” a phonographic recording intended for extraterrestrials that may one day stumble upon these spaceships. While working on the Golden Record, creative director Ann Druyan and scientist Dr. Carl Sagan fell in love - on the record is a recording of Druyan’s brain waves made in the early days when the couple were first courting. According to Hartney’s artist statement, Dark Matter is a “visual representation of Druyan’s brain waves made tangible - pulsing with love, heading for what Sagan describes as the ‘great wide open sea of interstellar space.’”
“The Cosmos,” the 15th international SciArt juried exhibition at the New York Hall of Science, is open through March 2, 2014.