By: Shelby Lawson
The Cultural Programs of the National Academy of Sciences is now displaying “Art of Science”, an exhibition of artwork from the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology located at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. The exhibition will be on display through January 2023 at the Keck Center of the National Academies in Washington, D.C., and is available to the public through appointment only.
The exhibit features artwork across the 12-year span since Art of Science was established, bridging science and art to accomplish two goals. One, to emphasize the diversity of research at the IGB, and two, present the research in a way that is both eye-catching and understandable to everyone – literal works of art. In doing so, the exhibit aims to take the scientific endeavors occurring past and present at the IGB and highlight their wonder and beauty. Julia Pollack, Art of Science curator at the IGB since 2018, works with researchers to enhance their images and emphasize the beauty and importance of their scientific work.
“We see these scientific images that have so much labor and experimentation within them, and I think a lot of this science can get locked away in a very specific space for just the scientists that understand it,” explains Pollack. “Art of Science helps open up the process and reveal interesting ‘humanity moments’ so that when people see the image they think ‘whoa, look at this amazing new thing we discovered!’”
The Art of Science features subjects ranging from the microscopic to the perceptible, including physical phenomena captured using microscopy, scanning, and other various means as well as abstract representations of research. For example, “Air,” created by Taher Saif, Gutgsell Professor of Mechanical Science and Engineering, along with Julia Pollack, was captured using a confocal microscope with florescent particles. The image features an array of brightly colored particles floating between two bright circles, representing the discovery that the COVID-19 virus spread through suspended water droplets between people, and is meant to emphasize the importance of masks.
“It is a portrayal of life, health, and our being. The image gives a sense of flow. The flow of air that gives us life and connects us, as we share the same air. We shared the small particles, the virus, the impurities that is depicted in the image,” said Saif.
J.D. Talasek, Director of CPNAS, explains that the program is about exploring the intersection of art and science to emphasize observation, creativity, and discovery. “It is our hope that the visitors to our space will find inspiration from our exhibits and be reminded of the human connection we all have with science – its beauty, elegance, and inspiration, as well as its significance and impact on society,” said Talasek.
By: Shelby Lawson
Photos By: Julia Pollack