Alluring Echoes of Science
By Tom Wachunas
“All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man's life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom.” - Albert Einstein
EXHIBIT: FUSION – The Merging of Art & Science / works by Sarah Burris, Jennifer Anne Court, Keith Freund + Linda Lejovska, Micah Kraus, Beth Lindenberger, Jack McWhorter, Miwa Neishi, Lorraine-Heller Nicholas, Seth Shaffer, Donna Webb (also with Beth Lindenberger and Joseph Blue Sky), Wei Zeng / at SUMMIT ARTSPACE, through JUNE 18, 2016 / 140 East Market Street, Akron, Ohio / Gallery hours Thursday and Friday 12 – 7 p.m., Saturday 12 to 5 p.m. / phone 330-376-8480 / www.summitartspace.org
The theme of this group show – “The Merging of Art and Science” – suggests some intriguing considerations. Initially, it might seem predicated on a conventional perspective that art and science are separate and discrete …what? Disciplines? Motivations? Methodologies? In the past, this sort of compartmentalizing tended to make us associate such things as intuition, chance, and emotionality with art, while assigning reason and logic to the realm of science. It’s the classic dichotomy of subjectivity and objectivity, creating and perceiving, or if you will, of spirituality and materiality.
But I think our postmodernist philosophizing and its penchant for deconstructing old assumptions and definitions can be useful in appreciating how the boundaries between art and science aren’t as substantive or necessary as we might think. For the moment, consider both simply as human pursuits or aspirations, cross-fertilizing each other, and otherwise united in that they are, essentially, responses to being alive. As such, both pursuits are inherently exploratory and expository activities, ultimately probing the meaning of our aliveness. In that regard, the sheer variety of media to be found here makes the exhibit at once aesthetically engaging and - particularly in the mesmerizing collaborative video installation by Lorraine-Heller Nicholas, Sarah Burris, Keith Freund and Linda Lejsovka - cerebrally challenging.
This is not to say that these artworks are “scientific” illustrations or expositions of the apparent workings of the universe, or declarations of immutable truths. They don’t “explain” in the cognitive sense so much as they imply or abstract, while often celebrating evidence of nature’s fecundity of organic forms, physical systems, and/or processes. The curator for this exhibit, Rob Lehr, puts it this way: “Artists and scientists both investigate the world around them to absorb and transform information into new and unexpected ways. From laboratories to studios, biomimicry with all of its fascinating nuances, merges art and science, allowing onlookers to grasp nature’s remarkable power to evolve and survive.”
Though Jennifer Anne Court calls her beautiful digital prints “Microscapes,” their rippled fields of color seem to somehow evoke not just fluid movement on a small scale, but perhaps cosmic waves of stellar energy as well. On the other hand, Wei Zeng’s series of intimately-scaled pieces, under the title “Live Like Cells” and made with silver and polymer clay, are more clearly inspired by microscopic cellular growths. But here they’re objectified and enlarged enough - as indicated in the accompanying snapshots of (presumably) the artist – to be worn like jewelry. There’s an elegant intimacy, too, in Beth Lindenberger’s delicate terracotta evocations of forms reminiscent of seedpods or spores.
On a headier note, Micah Kraus’s collages of found imagery along with relief and screen prints read like a Dada scrapbook, or whimsical manifestos on psychology and physiology. And it seems to be a psychological “space” as well that Miwa Neishi explores in an array of fascinating open-volume, brightly-hued sculptures.
The wall sculptures by Seth Shaffer are meticulously crafted boxes that have been deeply incised to reveal amorphous cavities made with recessed layers of hand-cut paper. The depth, intricacy, and variable patterns of these layers are a wondrous counterpoint to the slick stability of the outer surfaces of the boxes. Metaphors for the neuron networks deep inside the skull?
And speaking of counterpoints, music of a kind came to mind when I saw the four spectacular oil paintings by Jack McWhorter. Pulsing, layered, soaring music. Broad brushstrokes like melody lines. Coming forward, fading inward, then forward again. Entwined with polyphonic harmonies. Driven along by bold, brassy staccato notes. Dotted with steady percussion. Tone poems about the movement of molecules, or chemical reactions, or interactive systems of living things growing and evolving.
Call them songs about science.
PHOTOS, from top: Resurrection Shell, by Jack McWhorter / Sheba 1196, by Seth Shaffer / Plum Blue, by Miwa Neishi / Cellscape #2, by Beth Lindenberger