ArtSci 2001, Nov.
Dr. Peter Warny
Art as Science Field Research
As an artist involved in wildlife preservation, decreasing global bio-diversity is a concern and a focus. My interest in biology/ecology began at an early age growing up in a rural setting. By chance, I received a better scholarship to study visual art than I did to study biology. My fascination with the living organisms were not forgotten along with my study of art, but instead, became my art. Shortly after college, I began
corresponding with biologists and eventual conversations evolved into scientific participation.
I contacted Peter Warny based on a referral from another scientist. Immediately we clicked. Our mutual fondness of field observation has led to dozens of amphibian population surveys in the New England area. Along with these surveys we have collected and documented numerous deformed frogs. Warny has said that my attention to amphibian anatomy has made him notice details he had not noticed before.
A recent project we are working on follows the theories of Dr. Stanley Sessions. It involves the investigation of parasitic trematodes and the effect they have on limb development in certain
treefrogs. The information we gather from our collaborative scientific activities is transformed into environmental art -- usually exhibited in an installation format -- is intended to help inform viewers about contemporary ecological issues. Several of these collaborative
art-sci installations have been exhibited at: the Queens Art Museum, Cornell Medical Center, The Gateway National
Recreational Area, Exit Art, and The Consulate for the Republic of Hungary, New York City.
Brandon Ballengee was born on April 18th, 1974 in Sandusky, Ohio.
Influenced by his father, a physician, Ballengee's interest in science
and particularly zoology began at an early age. By the age of 16 he had
received several state and a national educational science awards for his
experiments with fish growth and reproduction. Along with his
fascination for biology he had developed a passion for visual arts and a
particular attraction to the history of the visual language. In 1992
Ballengee was awarded a merit based scholarship to attend The Maryland
Institute College of Art. His interest in art history led him to
continue his education at The Art Academy of Cincinnati. He later
attended The New York Studio Program. This spring he was awarded the
E-STAR Residency at The Institute for Electronic Arts at Alfred
University, supported by the Rockefeller Foundation.
In 1996 Ballengee began collaborating with scientists to create hybrid
environmental art/ ecological research projects. Ballengee's approach
towards nature was influenced by earlier Earth/Eco artists such as Betty
Beughmont, Agnes Denes and the Harrisons and inspired by the political
philosophies of Thomas Cole and the Hudson River School. A current
project instigated by Ballengee involves working with The Gaia Institute
and The New York State Museum to populate newly created waste water
management sites throughout New York City with native amphibians. The
amphibians will not only control mosquito populations but will act as
environmental flags to help monitor the health of the wetland. All
aspects of the project are being documented and will be exhibited in
installation format and as a website in the future.
Ballengee's projects have been included in numerous exhibitions both in
New York and internationally. This fall his work will be exhibited at
The Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, The Peoples Republic of
China. His projects have been included in articles appearing in several
publications and broadcast media stories including; ABC News ONLINE,
ABC's World News Tonight, Art Papers, Die Tageszeitung, GENEWATCH, The
Journal of The New York Herpetological Society, The New York Times, The
New Yorker, The Sciences and others. Over the past five years, he has
lectured at many Universities and public spaces including; The Cooper
Union, The University of Massachusetts Amherst and The Consulate of the
Republic of Hungary. In January of 2002 he will be co-teaching (with
developmental biologist Dr. Stanley Session) an ecology art and
neotropical evolution course at the Monte Verde Scientific Field Station
in Costa Rica.
last modified 07/22/01