Relationship between artist and scientist on exhibit

Peter Barta, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
Artist Colin Kidder and St. Jude research scientist Dr. Yiannis Drosos are reflected in Kidder's sculpture, which replicates the genomic structure of DNA.

Photo by Peter Barta, © 2009 St. Jude Children's Research Hospital; all rights reserved

Peter Barta, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital Artist Colin Kidder and St. Jude research scientist Dr. Yiannis Drosos are reflected in Kidder's sculpture, which replicates the genomic structure of DNA.

'The Art of Science'

At the Hyde Gallery, Nesin Graduate School of Memphis Gallery of Art, 477 S. Main, through Oct. 26. Call 901-634-6343, or visit AOS2012.org. There will be a closing reception from 6 to 9 p.m. Oct. 26.

Maggie Exner interprets an image of lines of cells in the inner ear by lining up plastic "honey-bear" bottles painted in bright hues.

Photo by Peter Barta

Maggie Exner interprets an image of lines of cells in the inner ear by lining up plastic "honey-bear" bottles painted in bright hues.

"The Art of Science 2012," at the Hyde Gallery of Memphis College of Art's Nesin Graduate School pairs colorful microscopic imagery from scientists at St Jude Children's Research Hospital with interpretations by 33 local and regional artists in a dazzling range of concepts, styles and mediums.

The exhibition will be displayed through Oct. 26.

The images from the St. Jude scientists, taken, one assumes, through electron-microscopes, would make a compelling exhibition by themselves. Presented in deeply saturated hues, the pictures of cells, crystals, genes and DNA seem like representations of alien worlds of uncanny and rather chilly beauty. It's disconcerting to realize that while many of these seductive images portray the infinitesimal power houses of energy, attraction, repulsion and genetic order that make us what we are, others reveal the depths of malignity in cancer cells, tumors and various diseases.

The point of "The Art of Science 2010" is in the relationship between the scientist and the artist and how the work of each establishes a sense of resonance with the other. It's not surprising that some of the efforts are more successful than others, but overall the exhibition is always at least interesting and often quite fruitful.

Some of the artworks take an oblique approach, as in the conjunction of "Influenza Spreading," an eerie, almost sci-fi piece of photomicrography image provided by Thomas Oguin III, and a painting by Alison Lawyer that shows a running ostrich against a background of circular cell-like objects. No artist statement is provided, so we are left to ponder these mysteries.

Some are more literal, like Mary Long-Postal's garden-like painting on glass that accompanies "Influenza in Asthmatic Airways," an image from Dr. Amali Samarasinghe, or Colin Kidder's monumental glass-and-mirror sculpture that replicates in reflection the dividing of chromosomes. More symbolic is a piece by Kimberly Thomas in which she uses salt and pepper to represent on a flat black surface a slide staining technique called "salt and peppering."

Not many of the artists take a whimsical slant on the seriousness of the exhibition's subject, but one exceptions is Maggie Exner, who interprets the lines of cells in the inner ear with ranks, lined on the floor, of plastic "honey-bear" bottles painted pink, blue, light green and gold.

And none are as risky as Jessica Lund, who offers, alongside Dr. Frederique Zindy's image of "a section of a cerebellum harboring a medulloblastoma, most common malignant brain tumor in children," a piece called "L'll David Listening to 'The Wrong Road' by B.B. King," an art-object consisting of an iPhone and an Instagram photo that almost subliminally links "wrong roads" in the brain to "wrong roads" in behavior and performance.

As intriguing as "The Art of Science 2012" is, it could be improved in at least one way, and that is by treating it as an actual art exhibition with placards that carry the artists' names and the materials from which the piece was made and perhaps a brief artist statement. As it is, the emphasis, aside from one mention of the artist's name, is on the scientist and the statement about what's going on in the slide image, generally expressed in scientific terms.

If the premise of the exhibition is that scientists and artists are equal in creativity, then the artists deserve equal billing.

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