Scientific concepts can be difficult for everyday audiences to understand. And scientists themselves, brilliant as they may be, aren't always the world's best communicators of their own research. That's where art and artists come in.
Through engaging exhibits, displays, illustrations, and movies, artists are bringing science to general audiences in elegant, even fun ways that can help the public visualize complex scientific concepts.
To better understand how scientists and artists can and do interact and how art can enrich research results by explaining phenomena visually and creatively, swissnex San Francisco hosts a panel discussion with Cornelia Hesse-Honegger, renowned Swiss scientific illustrator; Tierney Thys, marine biologist, science communicator, and National Geographic Emerging Explorer; Charles Sowers, artist and exhibit developer at the Exploratorium; and Erin Biba (moderator), WIRED Magazine correspondent covering science.
Cornelia Hesse-Honegger's paintings depicting morphologically disturbed insects near fallout areas of nuclear plants like Chernobyl will be featured in WIRED's May issue. Ten of her original works will be on display at swissnex San Francisco from April 7th through April 16th, 2010.
Erin Biba is a correspondent for WIRED Magazine. Based in San Francisco, she writes about science and its intersection with technology and popular culture covering topics like the physics of time, NASA's latest space-based telescope, and beer made from 145-million-year-old yeast.
Her work has appeared in Nylon, The Sydney Morning Herald, PC World, and The Atlantic.
A scientific illustrator and artist, Cornelia Hesse-Honegger was born in 1944 in Zurich, Switzerland. She worked for 25 years as a scientific illustrator for the scientific department of the Natural History Museum at the University of Zurich. Since 1969, she has collected and painted bugs in the suborder Heteroptera. Her watercolors act as an interface between art and science and pay witness to a beautiful but endangered nature.
Since the nuclear catastrophe at Chernobyl in 1986, she has collected, studied, and painted morphologically disturbed insects she finds in the fallout areas of this and other nuclear plants. Since the early 1970s, her work has been shown in various galleries and museums in Switzerland, as well as at prestigious institutions such as the Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, the Chelsea Art Museum in New York, and the Kunsthaus Nürnberg.
Charles Sowers is an artist and exhibit developer at the Exploratorium who has been making thought-provoking, beautiful, and sometimes whimsical experiences for visitors for the past 15 years. He seeks to provoke a sense of delight and wonder and to reward extended observation. Frequently, this involves developing an apparatus to recreate and/or highlight some natural phenomenon observed in the world: the swirl of fog blowing over a hill, the formation of ice on a puddle, or the flow of water and foam on the beach as a wave drains away. These things often go unnoticed until pointed out but, according to Sowers, the mundane can be sublime.
Science serves as a deep resource for creative ideas for Sowers, and he frequently collaborates with scientists to recreate lab experiments. Through these collaborations, he has discovered a strong correlation between his process and that of the scientific experimentalist. Both build apparatus, for example: scientists to probe the limits of their collective understanding, and Sowers to probe the boundaries of beauty, delight, and wonder.
Tierney Thys, a National Geographic Emerging Explorer, is a marine biologist with a doctorate in biomechanics. She has worked with Earle and studies Mola molas (giant sunfish) in addition to her work with Sea Studios Foundation, a documentary film company.