Introducing the NEW Art + Science Series!

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Greetings biocreativity readers! As many of you know, the biocreativity blog started as a way for me to explore the interrelationship between the arts and biology. I heard from so many artists looking for a place to exhibit their biology-inspired artwork, that the blog eventually inspired me to found a brick-and-mortar art gallery to exhibit science-inspired art. Well, Art.Science.Gallery. has started the new year in a new gallery space at Canopy in east Austin, and I couldn’t be more excited about our exhibitions for 2014! I invite you to come and visit whenever you’re in Austin: 916 Springdale Rd, Building 2, #102, Austin, TX 78702. You can also follow the gallery on Facebook and Twitter (@artscigallery). I’m so happy to report that Art.Science.Gallery. exhibited the work of nearly 200 science-inspired artists in 2013 (check out our past exhibitions here), and we’ve got an exciting schedule of nine science-inspired exhibitions lined up for 2014 (including two open call exhibitions)!

So what has become of the biocreativity blog? Since I’m a biologist by training, the biocreativity blog has thus far featured biology-inspired art. Now that Art.Science.Gallery. is up and running, I’ll be featuring art inspired by all of the natural sciences. I’m happy to announce that the ECO Art + Science Series is being reborn to be more inclusive of other scientific disciplines, as the Art + Science Series. I’ll be featuring interviews with artists that we’re exhibiting at Art.Science.Gallery.! And, as always, I enjoy learning of new artists who are merging art and the natural sciences, so keep me informed in the comments and stay tuned for our first Art + Science Series feature on Katey Berry Furgason’s Portraits of the Microscopic paintings and Collaborations with Insects, Weather, Time, Wood + Root sculptures coming up very soon!

Join Our Evolution at Art.Science.Gallery. !

Dear biocreativity readers,

I just wanted to let you know that biocreativity’s partner gallery – Art.Science.Gallery. in Austin, TX – has just launched an exciting crowdfunding campaign on IndieGoGo.com to help us evolve from being a pop-up gallery to a brick-and-mortar gallery! As you probably know, Art.Science.Gallery. is the direct descendent of the biocreativity blog. I decided to open an art gallery that exclusively features science-related art after meeting many of our talented Eco Art + Science Series artists and seeing the amazing work they create! There are a whole lot of science artists out there who need more places to show their work, and thus Art.Science.Gallery. was born! Art is also a great way to get people of all backgrounds interested in the sciences, and we hope our gallery will help increase science literacy by exhibiting science art and by hosting workshops for scientists in science communication and fun art-sci classes for everyone!

Making art-science trading cards at Art.Science.Gallery.'s Join Our Evolution Kick-Off Party + Art-Sci Jam at Strange Brew Lounge Side in Austin, TX.

Making art-science trading cards at Art.Science.Gallery.’s Join Our Evolution Kick-Off Party + Art-Sci Jam at Strange Brew Lounge Side in Austin, TX.

In the past year we’ve hosted more than a half dozen exhibitions and events around Texas in collaboration with universities, museums, scientific organizations, non-profits and even churches,  and we’re on to the next step in our evolution: our own brick-and-mortar space that will allow us to expand our programs.

I invite you all to Join Our Evolution and help our gallery evolve into a community space that promotes art-science fusion of all kinds! A contribution at any level will get your name incorporated into a unique work of science-art that will be on permanent display in our gallery space (+ your name on our website). Other thank-you packages start at only $10! Even if you can’t contribute financially, please help us get the word out by sharing our campaign with friends, family and colleagues via email, social media, or by making a comment on our campaign site: artsciencegallery.com/evolve! We promise to get back to creating great biocreative posts when we’re settled into our new space – and thank you so much for your readership and support of this blog for the past couple of years! You’re fantastic!

Join Our Evolution at Art.Science.Gallery.! from h. gillespie on Vimeo.

Biocreativity on the Road: Over The River, in Colorado

Let’s talk landscape ecology today. And contemporary art. In fact, let’s talk about an art project so big, it’s been over 20 years in the making, and it’s the only one to have ever received a federal Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Just last fall, the Bureau of Land Management gave their final approval for the Over The River project, a temporary art exhibition that will suspend 5.9 miles of translucent fabric over a 42 mile stretch of the Arkansas River between Salida and Cañon City, Colorado. Known for their large-scale structure and monument wrappings, artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude first conceived of Over The River in 1992 and have since been working on details of the project, which include an incredibly lengthy design and permitting process.

OTR is a curious case-study in environmental policy. The federal EIS conducted for this temporary art project was financed entirely by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, a process that often happens without much public attention when it comes to more routinely-conducted activities on public land. The BLM allows many activities conducted by private entities on public lands including livestock grazing, oil and gas development (including hydraulic fracturing), mining and logging on public lands in the region. Most of these projects have not been subject the level of public scrutiny that OTR seems to have received. Nevertheless, Christo continues pursuit of the remaining permits to make OTR a reality. Christo paid for the EIS at an expense to himself of over $6 million, which was conducted over a 2.5 year period by a team of engineers, wildlife biologists and environmental consultants. The plans for OTR now include scheduling the two-week temporary exhibition to avoid major wildlife migrations, nesting seasons and to minimize noise and disturbance in any one place on the river to a minimum during the construction and take-down process.

Christo Over the River, Project for the Arkansas River, State of Colorado, Collage 2007 in two parts: 77,5 x 30,5 and 77,5 and 66,7 cm (30 1/2″ x 12″ and 30 1/2″ x 26 1/4″) Pencil, fabric, twine, pastel, wax crayon, charcoal, enamel paint, hand-drawn topography map, fabric sample and tape. Photo: Wolfgang Voltz © Christo 2007.

Interestingly, the NEPA review process calls for environmental design arts and aesthetics to be considered in EIS reviews. As former National Director of the Bureau of Land management Patrick Shea explained in a 2010 letter to the director of the Colorado State Office of the BLM:

“It is striking to remember that the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) itself provides that it is the Federal Government’s responsibility to “assure for all Americans safe, healthful, productive, and esthetically and culturally pleasing surroundings”. In order to do this, NEPA states that the federal Government must “utilize a systematic, interdisciplinary approach which will insure the integrated use of the natural and social sciences and the environmental design arts in planning and in decision-making which may have an impact on man’s environment.”

Despite widespread public support for Over The River, there is some opposition to this project from a small local group which seems to simply not want the temporary art exhibition of this scale in their own backyard. Curious to view the area myself, I drove alongside the Arkansas River on my way to Taylor Park Reservoir, Colorado this summer. As I paralleled the Arkansas, I encountered prospectors searching for gold, anglers hopeful for trout, rafting outfitters guiding the adventuresome, cattle grazing, ATV and motorbike trails, freight traffic, agricultural fields and even quarries. And, if you care to look past the immediate roadside to the adjacent landscape, the list of proposed private uses of BLM land out of the Royal Gorge Field Office (can anyone direct me to the list of current uses?) indeed includes energy trasmission, private development right-of-ways, oil and gas development, coal leasing, mining, cattle grazing and christmas tree harvesting.

Why then, I wonder, does the Over The River project seem to have been singled out as a “disturbance of the peace” by a handful of locals? There are certainly activities on our public lands that are much more disturbing to the local ecosystem and to wildlife, including ones with much more long-term consequences than the proposed Over The River project. Is it because Colorado has a long history with mining, fossil fuel extraction, ranching and agriculture? Are these activities therefore more comfortable, commonplace, and acceptable by local residents, despite our current knowledge of how they affect our environment? Is it because art is a much less common use of our public land? Yet, Colorado also has a long and rich history of art, from the artistic traditions of Colorado’s Native American cultures to nineteenth-century geological survey photographer William Henry Jackson and contemporary photographer John Fielder, whose comparative approach to photography has explored how the Colorado landscape has changed since Jackson’s first forays in to the western wilderness (see Colorado 1870-2000). Whatever the reason, just imagine if all activities by private entities on our public lands were held to such a level of public scrutiny as Christo’s temporary art exhibition. It seems that our public lands would be much different places. What do you think?

Over The River Life-Sized Test for aesthetic and technical considerations, four life-sized prototype tests were conducted in 1997, 1998 and 1999 on private property on the Utah/Colorado border. Photo: Wolfgang Voltz, © Christo 1999

Christo and Jeanne-Claude, however, are no strangers to opposition of their monumental-scale works. “This has happened before,” Christo recently told the Denver Post, “This is a natural process for which we are very familiar.” They seem accustomed to the lengthy permitting processes that accompany their projects, and demonstrate a love of their work, an admiration for public discourse and a level of patience that is itself quite admirable. A recent update from the OTR project page indicates that on-the-ground activities will be delayed yet again, perhaps until August 2015, because of ongoing litigation by a local group against two of the agencies that have approved the project (the BLM and the Colorado State Parks).

The opposition remains small, however, and the Over The River project has gained an incredible list of supporters including the Cañon City Chamber of Commerce and City Council, current and former governors of Colorado and the Colorado Council for the Arts, to name just a few. Since Jeanne-Claude’s passing in 2009, her husband Christo remains dedicated to making Over The River a reality. As an art lover and former Colorado resident, I can’t wait to write a future On The Road post along the Arkansas River, under the shimmering canopy of Over The River. Until then, here is Christo in 2010 talking about the origins of the project back in 1975 as he and Jeanne-Claude were wrapping the Pont Neuf bridge in Paris:

Over The River perfectly reflects the type of artistic, social, and cultural engagement that public art seeks to create. Public art such as Over The River is by definition meant to provoke reaction by engaging the public outside the framework of a traditional artistic exhibition — outside of the four walls of a museum, and outside of the four corners of a painting.” – Patrick Shea, Former National Director of the Bureau of Land Management

this week in biodiversity….

I’ve come across some pretty fantastic biocreative material about biodiversity this week. The first I found through the Center For Biological Diversity’s facebook feed, which was created last year by graduate students at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology with hand-drawn artwork by Marley Davis:

©2011 by graduate students Laurel Hiebert and Kira Treibergs with artwork by Marley Jarvis (http://www.shop.minutemorning.com/invertebrates/)

“This all started when two graduate students, Laurel Hiebert and Kira Treibergs, were late-night tidepooling on the Oregon coast. They came across some amazing animals, such as a tiny sea spider, a carnivorous chiton, and a brittle star hidden beneath a boulder. They were talking about how invertebrates represent 97% of all animal diversity, but are greatly underrepresented by humankind. Originally, they thought that this would make a great message for a t-shirt for their marine lab, the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology. Then an idea hit them suddenly: “Octopi Wall Street” – it seemed a perfect analogy for this cause. They put together a shirt design for the marine lab’s t-shirt contest with this message. But, soon after that, it went even further. After posting their design on Facebook, it quickly became clear that people all over the country (and world) supported this cause: vertebrates steal the spotlight and the 97% deserve recognition. A PHYLOGENETIC REVOLUTION HAS BEGUN!”

Now, not to overshadow or under-appreciate the invertebrates (hey, I let them go first today!), the second piece is from AmphibiaWeb.org in celebration of the 7,000th described species of amphibian. This song, by The Wiggly Tendrils, sings some cool facts about many different species of amphibians. The Atlantic even picked it up in an article yesterday. And, I’m so excited that it features the name of my dissertation study species: Eurycea sosorum!

Finally (and I wish I could find a higher res image and a credit for this image), I really enjoyed this poster on the biodiversity of Mexico. It’s just overflowing with incredible diversity of all types of organisms!

What other great biodiversity images have you found!?

Art.Science.Gallery. is here!

After months of blogging and meeting some amazing people and artist-scientists, I’ve been hard at work on opening a physical space that embodies this blog. I am so excited to announce the next big adventure here at the biocreativity blog: Art.Science.Gallery., LLC is finally here! While I’m still looking for the perfect physical location for the gallery, I’m really excited to be collaborating with some other spaces to present some really excellent science-related art. Our first exhibition opened this past weekend featuring the sustainable art of one of my past ECO Art + Science artists Emily Bryant!  If you recall, Bryant creates intricate collages of invasive insect species out of pressed and dried invasive plant materials to help educate others about the risks associated with invasive species. We’re collaborating with the South Corridor Gallery @ First Presbyterian Church of Austin on the exhibition, and extend our sincerest thanks (especially to gallery manager Laurie Nelson) for the opportunity to share their space!

So what is Art.Science.Gallery.? Well, it’s a new art gallery, science communication training center and (soon-to-be) event space featuring science-related art in Austin, Texas! Our mission is to provide a friendly environment to make science more accesible to the public through science-related visual arts exhibitions, foster the careers of emerging and established artist-scientists and to provide professional development opportunities for scientists to become more engaging public communicators.

Here’s a little bit more about us:

We reject the idea that one must be categorized as either an “artist” or a “scientist”, and welcomes anyone along a great spectrum of artists and scientist to explore and participate in Art.Science.Gallery.! Both those educated as “artists” and as “scientists” are trained to seek out novelty and contribute to their fields in new and exciting ways. We think those people who can innovatively blend the two disciplines have the best chance of improving art, science and social literacy around the world. One reason we opened Art.Science.Gallery. is to give these artist-scientists a platform through which to present their work and perspective from their place on the biocreativity continuum. As public funding for the arts and sciences continues to decrease, it is increasingly important to provide accessible multidisciplinary content that engages public audiences in these subjects. So, Art.Science.Gallery. encourages people of all ages to explore contemporary art and basic science in a fun and relaxed environment.

Indeed, the Scientific American blog Symbiartic recently evaluated the growing science art movement, measuring its strength via the size of ScienceArtists FriendFeed (a multi-blog feed of many dozens of science-related art and artist blogs, of which the biocreativity blog is a part). This new science-art aesthetic seems to be testing the boundaries of both art and science to establish itself as its own field; a beautiful hybrid between art and science that once existed during Ernst Haeckel’s, Charles Darwin’s and John James Audubon’s times. Art.Science.Gallery. seeks to further this movement by directly fostering art-science collaborations and by featuring the work of both emerging and established contemporary artist-scientists.

Art.Science.Gallery. will also serve as a hub for art-science collaborations and science communication training. We believe all scientists – especially those whose work is supported by public funds and/or at public institutions – have a responsibility to communicate their work effectively to the public. Unfortunately, relatively few colleges and universities offer specific training to their students in science communication. We will soon be offering training courses and workshops for scientists to help them become more engaging and creative public communicators as well as fun hands-on science-art classes for the public!

So, I think you can tell I’m pretty excited about this, but that doesn’t mean that the biocreativity blog is going anywhere (and maybe now you can see why I haven’t posted as often the last couple of months)! Stay tuned for some new posts from scenic Colorado, as I’m traveling there for the next two weeks and plan to tell you all about Christo + Jeanne-Claude’s Over the River Project and some biocreative selections from the Denver Art Museum.

If you’d like to join the Art.Science.Gallery. mailing list, please click on the image below. You can also find us on facebook.com/ArtScienceGallery and follow us on Twitter @artscigallery. And, feel free to help us spread the word!