Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Real World Arts Integration- or, Why Science Needs Art

Crumple Paintings
Tauba Auberbach Crumble Paintings at Deitch Projects, Fall 2009, New York. CC Image courtesy of Chad Carpenter on Flickr.
Arts integration--combining the study of art with other subjects--seems to be all the rage these days. The strategy is growing traction as a way to include arts education in schools often working on tight budgets; the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities study released in May strongly recommended arts integration for this very reason. But what does arts integration look like outside the classroom? One answer to this question is visible (quite literally) in the work of Tauba Auerbach, Nathalie Miebach, and Matthew McCrory. Read on to find out what they do and why their work is good news for art ed advocates.

Bringing Science in to the Art World
Artist Tauba Auerbach was trained in math and science as well as art; today, she combines her knowledge of the two to create mesmerizing and mind-bending works of art like the Crumple Paintings (pictured above). The crumple effect visible in the above image is achieved through some complicated math that I will never understand--up close, the painting is just a dizzying arrangement of dots on an entirely 2-D surface. Auerbach's other series explore the connection between art and science, or order and chaos, in other ways. Her series of static photographs are one example; there is a digital logic behind these images of seemingly random digital chaos. Despite her work’s strong roots in science and math, Auerbach works primarily in the art world. Her work has been shown at the New Museum, SF MoMA, and the Whitney Museum, among many others.

Artistic Visualizations of Science
Nathalie Miebach also works within the art world but was trained in science. A sculptor based in Massachusetts, Miebach creates ornate basket sculptures that directly represent scientific data such as tidal patterns and cloud formations. She came to her unique work method while concurrently studying basket weaving and astronomy; she decided to create 3-D representations of the 2-D images of space on view in her classes to aid in her own learning process. “I’d be looking at these incredible images of the deepness of space and time projected against a flat wall. And it was very frustrating,” she said. “I decided the only way I could really understand it was if I could find a way to make it three-dimensional.” Though Miebach considers herself a sculptor she has presented her work to several groups working in science, including a conference of science teachers.

Matthew McCrory’s work skews the most toward science, as he is employed by the Center for Advanced Molecular Imaging at Northwestern University (indeed, can you sound much more scientific than that?). McCrory used his scientific background to work on the technical aspects of DreamWorks films such as A Shark’s Tale and Kung Fu Panda. Like Miebach, McCrory was frustrated by 2-D representations of scientific data--especially in comparison to the computer generated images he worked with in Hollywood. So when an opportunity to create an 3-D imaging system presented itself at Northwestern, he jumped at the chance. Now Northwestern is home to a three dimensional “You make discoveries much quicker when you have a different way of viewing your data,” says Mr. McCrory

Using Art To Solve Problems, Scientifically
I think that the work of these three scientific artists (or artistic scientists) shows the dizzying array of possibilities (as dizzying as one of Auerbach’s crumple paintings!) that can come out of art education--and the importance of art to science. From using science to create art for art's sake, to employing art to solve more practical problems in the scientific realm, Auerbach, Miebach, and McCrory are three great examples of how art and science can be integrated and synthesized outside the classroom with incredible results.

More broadly, the work of these three individuals speaks to the ways in which arts integration can enhance how other subjects are taught by adding depth and new perspectives to other subjects.

Indeed, combining the artistic with the scientific has potential to yield incredible possibilities. McCrory’s description of how the 3-D imaging system he designed works is a great example: “If we put glasses on you and display a rabbit brain on the screens, you’re no longer looking at it, you’re walking around in it.” Imagine the potential for scientific discovery! If anything, the work of these three scientific artists (or artistic scientists?) is another reason to go from STEM to STEAM (adding Art to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math education).

Do you know of any artists--or scientists--with a foot in both of these fields? What do you think about arts and science integration? Tell me about it in the comments!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.