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Pi, paint, and the big picture


With its never-ending decimals, pi can’t be defined in finite terms by math or science but can be by visual art—in a simple circle. That contradiction in- trigued Doug Stern ’89 as he painted Big Bang Pi Theory, on exhibit in A Resolution of the Arts and Sciences at Schick Art Gallery last fall. The show featured works by some 30 Skidmore alumni, faculty, and students.


Christine Neill ’69, a Maryland art


professor, says that while her focus shifted from biology to art at Skidmore, “the scientific principles that attracted me to biology have always predomin- ated in my imagery.” Her Westerly, a watercolor and ink-jet print, depicts a glowing piece of seaweed above a beau- tiful but invasive species of red algae on the sea floor. Skidmore’s Lubin Family Professor Amy Frappier studies stalagmites as “precious artifacts” that record natural history and track climate change, and her polarized-light photos allowed gallery visitors to see their complex crystalline beauty. She was encouraged to submit this “artistic science” for the show by a student in her oceanography course, Rachel Fisher ’12, who was the exhibit’s prima mobile. When Fisher learned about “Walk Like an Egyptian,” a 1987 campus event led by Skidmore faculty sculptor John Cunningham to demonstrate an elegant method that ancient pyramid builders may have used for carrying massive stones, she recruited him, along with Ali Carney- Knisely ’12 and Nora Johnson ’12, to help devise the Resolution show and lecture series.


In her pre-exhibit talk, Skidmore an- thropologist Heather Hurst ’97 told of collaborating with a materials scientist to analyze the ancient Maya murals that she recreates. Dorothy Hafner ’74, whose student interests “toggled be- tween the arts and sciences,” says it takes “a lot of scientific understanding” to achieve the range of colors in her glass and porcelain works. Megan Pini ’14 also discussed chemistry in notes on


ECLIPSE, BY JOHN MATHEWS ’79, ALLUDES TO ASTRONOMY (AND PERHAPS ENTOMOLOGY?).


her Platter 1, 2, 3, 4, which show how copper can be made to deviate from its typical green to produce rich reds and purples. Michelle Molokotos ’13 created Representation of Monet’s ‘House of Parlia- ment’ in paint tubes as an hom- age to the port - able tin tubes that liberated Impres- sionists from the confines of the studio. Psychol -


nected than you would think— they’re both very abstract and very creative.” Her own untitled piece craft- ed of brass, copper, and silver was in- spired by blood- drawing instru- ments, reflecting the art major’s early interest in becom- ing a doctor. Co- curator Carney- Knisely combined her majors in art and exercise science in her bronze jewel- ry piece Looking Through Our Core, based on a hinged human rib cage and pelvis, and The Heart of the Matter, EKG patterns im- printed on medical gauze. She says she came to Skidmore


FISHER’S HOPE WAS THAT “PEOPLE TAKE AWAY FROM THIS


SHOW THE REALIZATION THAT ART AND SCIENCE ARE MUCH MORE CONNECTED THAN YOU WOULD THINK—THEY’RE BOTH VERY ABSTRACT AND VERY CREATIVE.”


ogy professor Flip Phillips says his “glavens”—abstract objects designed to be somewhat familiar yet impossible to identify, which he uses to study how the brain makes sense of 3D shapes— “take inspiration from the production of drawing, painting, and sculpture.” Fisher’s hope was that “people take away from this show the realization that art and science are much more con-


“strictly as an art major” but discovered exercise science in her freshman Scrib - ner Seminar on the human body, and the exhibition has reinforced her grow- ing understanding that “everything is interrelated.” And that’s just the point, says Peter Stake, art professor and Schick director. “These disciplines, both involving


human imagination and invention, help us understand our world and how we exist in it,” he explains. Frappier adds, “I think it’s good for scientists and artists, creators and scholars, to consider together the many and surprising ways our disciplines intersect. Art has driven science, science inspires art-making, and both endeavors profoundly enrich our lives.” —KG


8 SCOPE WINTER 2012


BURNS AUSTIN


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