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Archive for the ‘interpretation of art’ tag

Science and Art- an Inseparable Marriage of Equals

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In Nature, in 1887, University of Pennsylvania Professor T.H. Huxely stated  “I imagine that it is the business of the artist and of the man of letters to reproduce and fix forms of imagination to which the mind will afterwards recur with pleasure; so, based upon the same great principle by the same instinct, if I may so call it, it is the business of the man of science to symbolize, and fix, and represent to our mind in some easily recallable shape, the order, and the symmetry, and the beauty that prevail throughout Nature.”

It is an interesting concept to think about – the artist as a scientist and the scientist as an artist.  Since the time when both fields of study were formally identified, they have been closely linked to one another, yet when viewed in modern society, it is so easy for us to separate the two. Sure, we can see how science and art intersect when discussing chemical compositions of oil based paints (lead poisoning anyone?) and light refraction on photographic lenses, but what about the more high concept of the reciprocal nature of science and art? Is one the muse of the other, and if so, which came first?  It might be easy to argue that ‘of course science came first- science is all around, and it is the beauty of nature and discovery that brings forth artistic inspiration, but what if it is the artistic influence of our surroundings that inspire the quest for exploration and discovery?

Philosophical quandries such as these are not meant to be solved with a simple Beet Street blog, but it is interesting to think about it from different perspectives.  Todd Siler, a prominent contemporary artist who’s work in based in the art/science realm has this opinion on the matter:

“The messages of this art are basic.  The universe imparts its creative processes to us.  We, in turn, impart our creative processes to the things we create. Our creations reveal the nature of our minds directly and so the universe indirectly.  This is the great current of influences that changes our lives.  The playful, purposeful work of neurocosmology is to venture into this ocean current with at least one premise:  in decoding the brain, we decode the universe—and vice versa. In many ways, the brain is what the brain creates.  Its workings reflect the workings of all its creations.”

With a doctoral degree from MIT and his art displayed at both the Guggenheim and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Todd Siler is certainly a qualified source for opinions on the origination of art in relation to how the brain processes our interpretation of color and shape.  Much similar to T.H. Huxely’s opinion in 1887, Siler sees it as the artists job to create pieces that challenge the brain’s interpretation of visual stimuli just as much as he is challenged artistically by the complexity of the brain,  most of the time – literally. 

Currently Siler’s work can be seen at the Fort Collins Museum of Contemporary Art in his exhibition entitled, The Mind and All It Creates. Installed in the museum’s Main Gallery, Silers work explores how the brain works by looking comparatively at the creative outcomes of the brain’s complex processes. Works from a variety of periods in Siler’s career are included in The Mind and All It Creates.  Siler’s Mind Icons, dating from the early 1990’s, are visual meditations on the life of the intellect and spirit set into shapes that resemble the human brain.  Also included will be selections from Siler’s totemic photo-metaphorms that visually compress ideas and images printed on the upwardly twisting metal sculptures.  In paintings such as The ArtScience of Grasping Synapses, 2000-2004, Siler offers an artistic, imaginative rendition of a brain synapse that expresses the explosive, energetic activity that takes place constantly in the brain.


Science and art – it  is such a joint relationship, divorcing one side from the other just isn’t possible. Whichever side of the debate you fall on, it can’t be argued that without a muse, neither would exist as we know it today.


More information on Todd Siler can be found on the web at:

Fort Collins Museum of Contemporary Art
201 S. College Ave. Fort Collins, CO

FCMOCA hours:
10-5 Tuesday through Friday;
12 to 5 on Saturday;
Closed Sunday and Monday.

Admission fees:
$5.00 adults,
$2.00 seniors over 65.
Free to museum members, students and children under 18.

Todd Siler will also be joining Beet Street for a very special edition of Science Café on March 10th.  Location and details coming soon.

Stories Without Words- Experiencing Life through Art and Ourselves

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Long gone are the days when stories were read aloud to us- now we have Previously on Lost…

Long gone are the days when stories were read aloud to us- now we have "Previously on Lost…"

We typically hear stories nowadays from movies, radio songs or television shows. Long gone are the days when stories were read aloud to us- now we have “Previously on Lost…” As children, stories were everywhere. We made up elaborate imaginary worlds with the help of our friends, or maybe even snuck in a daydream at our desks in class. It seemed that every little thing was a new story, inspired by a stray dog in the street or a cloud in the sky. And while T.V. plots are entertaining, and can be considered art in themselves, they sometimes do not feel real. We may find ourselves jealous of today’s children’s vivid imaginations, and their ability to take common images and turn them into stories that seem so real. Here in Fort Collins, artists are tuning into the connection between what we see and what we experience, creating ways to display stories all around us.

After attending the Center for Fine Art Photography’s exhibition titled “Documentary,” the concept of visual storytelling become better defined. A form of photojournalism, documentary style photography seeks to capture objective, truthful moments with little or no embellishments. The goal of the image is to create the sensation of being a fly on a wall, so that the viewer feels like they were actually present in the moment. On the Center for Fine Art Photography website, you can preview just a few photographs from the exhibit. One picture that reached out to me was a photograph of something so simple- a gun lying on a carpeted floor. You can see how the rug lay just off center in the room, such a typical human error, and the composition of the photo makes it feel like you are glancing down at the object, the only person in the room. All the images from this exhibit may not look like your own home, or even reflect your own experiences, yet they seem so natural that you are automatically transported to that place, and you are part of that experience. In essence, they tell a story that you inherently play a role in, much the same as a book or a movie.

Ed Kashi, a photojournalist, filmmaker and educator who judged the “Documentary” exhibition, notes that to their subjects photographers have “a tremendous sense of responsibility to tell the truth but also to also honor their stories.” It is clear that the artists displayed in this exhibit have fulfilled that obligation. “Documentary” is now closed (online exhibit still available), but look for other opportunities to see forms of visual storytelling at future exhibitions.

At home, in my own environment, I can see the objects scattered about my house, like my dog’s tattered lounge bed or my favorite DVD sitting on a shelf in my entertainment center. There are already so many memories associated with these things, and I have many more to create as I move forward in the future. Storytelling comes in the most commonplace images, as well as the most complex ones. If something can be said for storytelling, it should not neglect the stories that can be seen all around us. Whether a story starts as a visual adventure, or through spoken word, we can all find ways to see ourselves through the interpretation of art and experience.

Here are some other ways to experience visual storytelling in Fort Collins this week:
Andy Warhol Exhibit
Start your Lunch with an Art Break
Art in Public Places Initiative