Making Art From Science and a Drop of Seawater

In late August, Bowdoin Marine Science Semester students gathered plankton samples from a marine research vessel off of Boothbay Harbor. Returning to the marine lab at the Coastal Studies Center, they then identified and photographed the many forms of plankton and other organisms they observed in a single drop of water.

With instruction from Visiting Assistant Professor of Art Mary Hart, students printed their plankton photographs with pronto plates, which are thin sheets of polyester that utilize a form of lithography. The students produced a suite of prints.

Coastal Studies Scholar Bobbie Lyon helped students select and identify the microscopic creatures, and asked them to create both a visual and written analysis of their significance.

This assignment grew out of a collaboration between Hart and Lyon, who wanted to prompt students to investigate the relationship between science and art.

“In the collaborative environment of the print studio, we talked about the different thought processes of art and science and what visual art can bring to scientific inquiry,” Lyon said. Students spoke about how merging science with art could help communicate scientific ideas to a broader population. They also noticed how making art helped them fine-tune their observational skills.

“We discussed how the creative process for artists often relies on intuitive leaps and tangential thinking,” Lyon continued. “How can this way of thinking benefit scientific research? Many great scientific minds will tell you this too was a crucial means to their discoveries.”

The prints were displayed in a recent campus show called “From a Drop of Seawater: Making Art Out of Science,” in the Visual Arts Center.

Photos by Eliza Graumlich ’17

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