Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Leonardo Abstract Services (LABS) for art/sci theses

Dear Faculty:

This is a reminder that you recommend to your students who have successfully finalized an MA, MFA or PhD thesis that in some way explores the intersection of art, science and/or technology to submit an abstract of their thesis to Leonardo Abstract Services (LABS). This database, which has over 500 thesis abstracts, can be found at

LABS offers an international platform for graduate work so that artists and scholars can participate in a dialogue with peers from around the world. Your support of their work and this project helps to invigorate the next generation and faculty who guide them. Thanks for your help with this.

All the best,

Sheila Pinkel
LABS English Language Coordinator

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Co-Evolution: Art and Biology in the Museum

Between 2010-2015, the University of New Mexico ran Advancing Integration of Museums into Undergraduate Programs (AIM-UP): a NSF Research Coordination Network program themed around natural history museum collections.

The goal of the RCN was to emphasize the critical current value of these collections by
"refining existing efforts and developing new integrated approaches to collections-based training in large-scale questions using the expertise of educators, curators, collection managers, database managers, and scientists whose work spans disciplines."
The program included field stations, as well.

As part of AIM-UP, in 2012 the museum ran a semester-long seminar called CO-EVOLUTION: Art + Biology in the Museum. The seminar connected art and science:
"Communication between fields is important within science but there also is a greater need for interdisciplinary exchange between biologists, artists, historians, and other researchers to share resources and methods for building collective knowledge. Such collaborations help identify the ties between cultural history and natural history, as we pose new questions and foster a more expansive approach to answering these questions by connecting their diverse histories. Collections can help foster the development of creativity, generative thinking, and rigorous inquiry that will be required of future leaders in research and practice. While scientific education and research offer rigorous methods for creating new knowledge, arts education and practice provide the tools to foster exploration."
The project created a blog that is a rich source of art/sci content and links. The blog was meant to be:
"A space for posting thoughts, ideas, references, resources, and works. The theme of our seminar and workshop series is 'Morphology and Geographic Variation.' We will use the natural history collection as our starting point and hear from scientists, artists, designers, programmers, musicians, and more on place-based study."

Einstein was an Artist

Einstein was an Artist? Zat Rana wrote a recent article in Medium that makes some interesting points:

"Einstein inspired a paradigm shift in physics not as a scientist but as an artist...English distinguishes a scientist as someone who systematically learns about a part of the natural world and uses that knowledge to describe and predict it. An artist, on the other hand, is defined as someone who creatively produces."

"When it comes to categories like science and art, we have a tendency to presume [incorrectly] mutual exclusivity."

"There are many smart and knowledgeable scientists. Rarely, however, are they capable of producing work that shifts our entire understanding of the world. That requires an entirely new way of looking at things... At its core, creativity is just a new and useful way of combining old ideas. It isn’t imagined out of thin air, and it isn’t completely abstract. It’s a fresh way of making sense of the existing components of reality that have yet to merge."

Rana goes on to identify several key ways of nurturing creativity:
  1. Be willing to produce subpar work
  2. Compromise today for tomorrow
  3. Don’t wait for inspiration to get moving
  4. Seek relationships between existing ideas
  5. Produce a large volume of work
Read the full article here.

Work by the Root-Bernsteins establishes that practicing art as an adult is 15-25x more likely in Nobel Prize-winning scientists than in their non-winning peers. Einstein was an accomplished violinist.

Einstein famously claimed to have conceptualized the notions behind the work that became Special Relativity while imagining what the world would look like if you could ride along on a beam of light.

This video by Eugene Khutoryansky does the best job I have ever seen of visualizing and explaining that conceit:

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Call for submission of evidence

From Roger Malina...

Dear Colleague,

We are seeking your input on a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine study that is examining the evidence behind the assertion that educational experiences that integrate the humanities and arts with science, technology, engineering, math, and medicine lead to improved educational and career outcomes for undergraduate and graduate students.

The committee undertaking this study began its work in July of 2016 and the final product of our deliberations will be the publication of a detailed, evidence-based report in the spring of 2018 that will describe the known impact of integrative approaches to teaching and learning in higher education on students' academic performance and career readiness. We are currently in the information gathering stage of the study process and we would like to ask whether you, or others at your institution, have data and information to share that could inform this study.

Are there programs or courses at your institution that integrate the arts and humanities with science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and/or medicine? If so, what is known about the impact of these educational experiences on the students at your institution?

Has your institution ever evaluated or assessed these educational experiences formally or informally? If so, what data can you share?

Are there factors at your institutions that make integration across disciplines difficult to achieve? If so, what are they? Have any educational experiences or programs at your institution that integrated the arts and humanities with sciences, technology, engineering, math, and/or medicine ended or been discontinued? If so, why did the experience or program end?

We would greatly appreciate your input as we work to meet the charge of this study. The data and information you share will not only contribute to the evidence base the committee will examine, but will also aid us in our effort to gather sufficiently broad input to ensure that we consider all important perspectives and information pertinent to this topic. In addition to your input, please also forward this request for content to those colleagues and thought leaders, as well as affiliated partners in higher education, who you think might make a unique contribution to this study. Please note that any information you or your colleagues share with the committee will be made public, consistent with the Federal Advisory Committee Act.

If you have information to share, please submit it using this link:

It would be very helpful to us if you could contribute your input by May 1, 2017 to allow ample time for the committee to consider your contribution before the drafting and publication of the report. If we have follow-up questions regarding your letter, we may contact you by phone or e-mail, or we may request that you present more details directly to our committee at a future meeting. For further information on the study, you may emailAshley Bear.

Your efforts and input will be greatly appreciated.

On Behalf of the Committee,

David Skorton
Secretary, Smithsonian Institution

Wednesday, March 1, 2017



January 17 – May 14, 2017
Roger W. Rogers Gallery
Willamette University
Mary Stuart Rogers Music Center
900 State Street Salem, OR 97301
Hours: Monday – Friday 8am to 6pm

Winter Solstice, Leah Wilson.
In its measured and diligent investigation of minute, incremental changes in light levels at a specific site in the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest over time, this series of paintings represents a seamless merger of art and science as it throws into high relief the pivotal role of change in ecosystems. It also examines the nature of perception, and the idea that by studying phenomena, we change them.

The genesis of the project lies in Wilson’s experience as an artist-in-residence at H.J. Andrews, a 16,000 acre long-term research site which is located in the Western Cascades east of Springfield, Oregon. During her residency, Wilson had the opportunity to observe scientists from Oregon State University’s Department of Forestry, who are currently in the 30th year of a 100-year log decomposition study.

The study involves deliberately placing a number of tagged logs in a wide variety of locations in and around the streams that run through the forest in order to test the effect species and size of logs have on decomposition and nutrient cycling processes. Wilson’s interaction with this research led her to realize that science in general, and ecology in particular, seeks to identify patterns (and changes in patterns) over time. It is therefore fitting that both in terms of process and product, the most evident element of the work would be repetition, rhythm, and pattern.

The selection of the solstices and equinoxes of a specific year for the collection of her “data points” connects the cycles in a specific place and ecosystem with much larger and more powerful astronomical cycles. In comparing the barely perceptible, incremental chromatic changes that occur over the course of a day with the large seasonal changes that occur during the course of the earth’s orbit around the sun, Wilson’s work underlines the universality of the forces and phenomena that affect her specific, chosen site.

While the careful, and even clinical attention to methodology, process, and detail might lead us to think that Wilson’s work is purely scientific, there is much more at work here than only a concern with science. Her work is also a symbolic and meaningful examination of the philosophical idea that change is the only true constant. Wilson points out that the nature of our senses and perception influences and changes the thing we study. She also demonstrates that the very act of studying something changes it. She explains her realizations in this regard as follows,
“Not only do our senses and brains edit information, and therefore the patterns and rhythms we perceive, but we have affected every environment and ecosystem on the earth, directly or indirectly, which also affects the way that we experience the patterns of change in the environment. Looking upstream from my location on the creek, the wild ruggedness of the old growth forest is apparent. But looking downstream is an abrupt intersection of wildness and human construction, a reminder of the way we alter our environment to fit our specific needs of that place.” 
Wilson was able to observe human interventions occurring at her site during the course of her one-year process. She explains that these human interventions affected the patterns and rhythms of chromatic change in the creek, and subsequently in her paintings. She elaborates as follows:
“Even environments that appear wild and untouched are still affected by human intervention: a road can change the speed and redirect water during a storm; national parks are highly managed to control plant and animal populations; fires are suppressed or started to achieve a desired environmental effect; and climate change affects ecosystems across the globe. I chose to observe this location on the creek because of the juxtaposition of wildness and the constructed environment created to observe and understand it. The act of observation changes the patterns that we observe, whether it is though what we construct, the instruments we use to perceive, or our own physical perceptions. …..” 
Leah Wilson is a Eugene resident and practicing artist. She obtained her MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute.

  -Andries Fourie (Curator, Roger W. Rogers Gallery)

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Pioneering artist/scientist rediscovered

"Maria Sibylla Merian, like many European women of the 17th century, stayed busy managing a household and rearing children. But on top of that, Merian, a German-born woman who lived in the Netherlands, also managed a successful career as an artist, botanist, naturalist and entomologist."
Read entire article here