The Beet Street Blog

Archive for the ‘visual arts’ tag

Science and Art- an Inseparable Marriage of Equals

without comments

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:
http://www.ToddSilerArt.com.

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

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.

Raising a Creative Economy

without comments

“the Creative Economy at its best, is about communities taking responsibility for their condition and creating meaningful work and a viable economy with the most powerful resources at their disposal. These include the distinct nature and culture of their place, and the creativity of the people — all the while welcoming and learning from those who pass through or who decide to stay” (Tom Borrup, 2009).

When we say someone or something is creative, what do we mean? Imaginative? Innovative? Inventive? Artistic? Fantastic?


Now imagine these adjectives combined with the word ‘economy’ (meaning management of the house)….imaginative economy, inventive economy, artistic economy, fantastic economy…. getting the idea?

The term and phenomenon of the “creative economy” describes industries that have their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent, and have a potential for wealth and job creation through the generation of ideas, products and/or services. These industries and activities are critical not only because of their contribution to the knowledge economy which is in the process of engulfing the globe, but also because of their capacity for urban and civic regeneration, the preservation of cultural heritage and cultural identity and the creation of places and communities as ‘destinations’. Tom Borrup consults, teaches, and writes about community transformation, cultural infrastructure, and the creative economy. He believes that the creative economy grounds itself in an active community of artists, an eternal and constant spring of respect for indigenous/multiple cultures, and finally and most importantly, cultural and economic equity.

In their recent report on the state of the arts in Colorado, the Colorado Council on the Arts issued some surprising statements on the nature of the creative economy in our communities. Indeed, it seems that Colorado is actually quite a creative state, ranking 5th nationally in terms of the concentration of artists overall; 2nd in concentration of architects, 7th in concentration of writers, designers, entertainers and performers, and 8th in concentration of photographers. Interestingly only New York, California, Massachusetts and Vermont rank higher. Here in the Northwest of Colorado, we grow arts and music festivals, visual artists hang down in the Southwest corner where the red rocks, white snow, and green pines blind us with their beauty and the literati hang in the center of the state, inspired by the clear air of the mountains and lakes.

These creative activities, industries, communities and populations are sustained through their emotional and aesthetic appeal to others as they engage in work which is inherently creative and artistic. Why is such work meaningful? Because long before we were literate, art and our artistic endeavors formed the base of a universal language and a dominant form of communicating place, identity, purpose and membership. Tom Borrup believes that creative economies and communities hold onto the distinctiveness of place, remain open to learning and reinvention and accept new ideas from unlikely places, forming common and strong bonds between those involved in local cultural practices and the economic livelihood of their communities. Drawing from the Houston based Project Row Houses, Borrup proposes that in creative communities and economies, art and creativity are woven into the very fabric of life through rituals, ceremony and other utilitarian activities; quality education and strong neighborhoods sustain social safety nets for the community and facilitate social responsibility; economic development is essential for all residents both present and future and architecture as a social practice, should make sense of and preserve a community’s character.

So, make 2009 your year to raise the arts and creative life of your community – check out our website to see and experience the extraordinary offerings here for you – see a show, hear a speaker, go to a festival, and bring your friends!

With thanks to Amanda Woodward and *Sally M* for their fantastic art!

Kirsten Broadfoot