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  Featured Members: May'08


Artist Claire Beynon and
Polar biologist, Sam Bowser

       First shown at the Frances Tang Teaching Museum and Art 
       Gallery, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY - May 2, 2008

     Sam and Claire walking towards trapped iceberg in Antarctica, 2005

The INTERFACE exhibition introduces the collaborative dynamics between New York-based polar biologist Sam Bowser and New Zealand artist Claire Beynon. In line with the United Nations' International Polar Year initiatives, one INTERFACE objective is to create a series of artworks that effectively communicate scientific principles - particularly the "concept of scale (nano-to-macro and vice versa)" - to general public audiences. 

     AstramminaTriangularis foram
     Antarctican foram nick-named "Euclid". It starts life as a triangle,
  and as it evolves, transforms into a square,
  then a hexagon, pentagon, septagon, octagon, etc.

Sam studies an ancient group of unicellular creatures called Foraminifera ("forams"), in an attempt to understand their role in the functioning of marine ecosystems. Forams produce vast fossil deposits that help paleontologists interpret past ocean and atmospheric conditions - information key to understanding contemporary issues such as global climate change and its impact on the environment, human health and commerce. 

        Claire's charcoal drawing, "Katakatikos" 2006
         inspired by Antarctica topography

In their novel ArtScience collaboration, Claire's artwork, inspired by a season's research in Antarctica with Sam's team, is taken by Sam and miniaturized through nanolithographic methods and used as a template to produce a feature-rich growth substrate for forams to inhabit.  Information on their motile behavior and structure is gathered using time-lapse video light microscopy and scanning electron microscopy, which in turn is applied to generate scientific hypotheses for more formal experimental tests.  Claire then utilizes these scientific images as prompts for new artwork.


    Forams growing on a substrate
  created from one of Claire's Antarctica drawings.

    Examples of Claire's charcoal and pastel interpretations of Sam's SEM substrate images.


    Close-up of one of Claire's charcoal drawing
    interpretations of Sam's SEM substrate images.

To their knowledge, this work is the first to explore ways in which Antarctic microorganisms are influenced by topographic features similar in scale to that of their native environments. By cycling information through artistic, scientific, and microbial processes in a way that is analogous to how energy and resources flow through Antarctic ecosystems, they believe their collaborative process presents a new creative paradigm that will be widely applicable to other life science disciplines.

     1 SEM image [center] and 6 interpretative charcoal & pastel drawings; 850 x 850mm

About the exhibition: Aesthetically dynamic and factually informative, INTERFACE documents a chapter in the ongoing conversation between two dedicated professionals whose fascination with research, truth and beauty drives them to cross barriers to find links between their two disciplines. At the center of this exhibition is a 10' x 10' floor-mounted installation comprising 127 drawings and Scanning Electron Microscope [SEM] images mounted a-top 127 glass laboratory beakers. Four composite wall-mounted drawings and three glass-topped display cabinets containing images made up of raw science materials (i.e., gold-coated specimens on aluminum SEM stubs) expose the details and layers behind both the artist's and scientist's work processes. A lecture presentation accompanies the exhibit.

Visit the websites to learn more about this unique collaboration where an artist and scientist have embraced the mutual influence of their work.

Claire Beynon:
Sam Bowser:

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