Bowdoin Faculty Draw Connections Between Art and Science In April 21 Gallery Talk

Blue Iceberg

The deep blue hue of this iceberg provides insight into how the iceberg formed. Photo by C. Roesler.

A trio of Bowdoin math and science professors will be explaining how color, pattern, and scale are scientific tools as well as artistic ones, in a 2:00 PM gallery talk at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art on April 21.

Mary Lou Zeeman, R. Wells Johnson Professor of Mathematics, Collin Roesler, Associate Professor of Earth and Oceanographic Science, and Emily Peterman, Assistant Professor of Earth and Oceanographic Science, will discuss the exhibition “Sense of Scale, Measure By Color: Art, Science, and Mathematics of Planet Earth.”

The display includes aerial photographs of sea ice patterns, a rainbow array of rock samples, and kaleidoscope-esque images of mineral cross-sections, arranged to demonstrate that nature’s colors and patterns are full of scientific information as well as visual appeal.

On view through June 2, 2013, the exhibition was conceived as an accompaniment to the museum’s current Per Kirkeby show, which showcases the Danish artist’s large, colorful, geology-inspired paintings.

“I was struck by how his work resonated with the geological and glacial features of the earth on large scales,” Roesler said, “but also by how the large color block pieces looked like microscopic cross-sections of rocks and sea ice.”

In this Sunday’s talk, she and her colleagues will focus on this theme of playing with scale, and in particular how it figures into the scientific study of the earth. Some examples highlighted in the exhibition are aerially-viewed sea ice patterns, which scientists can interpret to learn about underlying processes of ice formation.

The exhibition’s biggest message is summed up by a placard on the museum wall: “Arts and sciences are typically taught as separate disciplines, yet both are avenues for exploring and explaining the astonishing complexities of the earth.”

Other collaborators on the project include Bowdoin College Museum of Art Curator Joachim Homann, Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow Sarah Montross, Earth and Oceanographic Science Laboratory Instructor Joanne Urquhart, and Associate Professor of Art Jim Mullen. The exhibition is supported by the Stevens L. Frost Endowment and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

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