Monday, August 21, 2017

Eclipsed - The art of the solar eclipse through time

Howard Russell Butler (1856–1934), Solar Eclipse, Lompoc 1923. Oil on canvas.
In honour of today's solar eclipse, the first of the century visible in this part of the world, I thought I would look at some of the artistic depictions of solar eclipses through time.

I'm a fan of the elegance and humour of astronomer Katie Mack's popular eclipse tweet:

As a science-artist, I often wonder how to portray astronomy, or earth and planetary science without reproducing actual diagrams, but some have done so in delightful and artistic ways. Artistic works incorporate both actual diagrams and abstractions, from Joseph Cornell's assemblages complete with scientific ephemera, through Roy Lichtenstein's stylized pop art with a true sense of movement of the celestial bodies, capturing the 4D event on the 2D plane. The always delightful Rachel Ignotofsky incorporates some diagrams in her retelling of the life and science of underappreciated Qing Dynasty astronomer and mathematician Wang Zhenyi (1768–1797) in her fabulous book Women in Science.

Joseph Cornell (1903 – 1972), Earth Eclipse
ca. 1960
Assemblage in box: wood, glass, steel, plaster, blue sand, and photograph
12.3 x 25.5 x 8 cm

Roy Lichtenstein, Eclipse of the Sun (1975)
Rachel Ignotofsky, spread on Wang Zhenyi and how she deduced the mechanism of solar eclipses, from Women in Science

Artists throughout time and across cultures have used the image of solar eclipses to bring a hint of the eerie or supernatural to their works and eclipses are not uncommon in religious art.

Raphael (and his workshop), 1483-1520, Isaac and Rebecca Spied on by Abimelech

Yoshitoshi Taiso (1839-1892), Mount Yoshino Midnight-Moon: Iga no Tsunone, from the series One Hundred Aspects of the Moon (1885-1892), ukiyo-e woodblook print on paper
Egon Schiele, (1890-1928) Crucifixion with Darkened Sun, 1907, oil on canvas
Some more contemporary works are more evocative than direct illustions.

Diego Rivera (1886 – 1957), Portrait of Ramón Gómez de la Serna, 1915, makes reference to the poet's own mentions of eclipses and hints at the artist's own love of eclipses

Rosemarie Fiore's "Smoke Eclipse #52," 2015. Firework smoke residue on Sunray paper.

Russell Crotty's "Blue Totality," 2017. Ink and watercolor, fiberglass, plastic and tinted bio-resin on paper, 48 inches by 48 inches by 1 inch
Many of these works benefited from the artists' own observations of actual eclipses and art historians can often tie works to recent eclipses in a given region. There are also wonderful images created as science communication, to literally depict events for research or teaching purposes. Princeton University has a wonderful exhibit website for the scientific illustration eclipse paintings of Howard Russell Butler (1856–1934). The site brought my attention to many of the works here and you should view and read more context there.

Adolf Fassbender (1884-1980), Sun's Total Eclipse, 1925, Gelatin silver print
William Langenheim (1807–1874)Eclipse of the Sun, 1854. Daguerreotypes, from 1 1/4 x 1 in. (3.2 x 2.5 cm) to 2 13/16 x 2 5/16 in. (7.2 x 5.9 cm). First known photographs of a solar eclipse

Illustration from Der Mond, 1876 by James Nasmyth and James Carpenter

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Love All Bodies Art Show Opening August 19th at Toronto Etsy Street Team Gallery

Come join us this Saturday, August 19th, from 6:00 to 9:00 for the Opening of the Love All Bodies Show. This show celebrates all human bodies and features new work from artists in various media including drawing, photography, printmaking, multimedia, textile art, and bronze sculpture. Guest curator Rebecca Rose Vaughan writes, "This exhibition aims to bring together a diverse and inclusive representation of all bodies through intersectional, body positive, progressive, and political work. ALL bodies deserve space and positive representation. We aim to create space to represent people that are particularly subject to systems of oppression and discrimination because their bodies are different. We highly encourage all POC, genderqueer, female identifying, trans persons, those with disabilities and queer people, to submit. Let us create new conversations about what it means to love our bodies specifically in a society where most are taught not to."

EVENT PAGE: Love All Bodies Art Show Opening

Find works by:

Tara Holtom

Carly Whitmore
Lesia Miga

Yahn Nemirovsky
Rron Maloku

Amarina Norris & Ron Caddigan
Sharon Hafner

Stephanie Venerus
Rebecca Rose Vaughan

Ele Willoughby

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Found Wood Assemblage Earth and Planetary Science
Veneer Theory, Ron van der Ende, 2014. Bas-relief in salvaged wood, 60″ x 61″ x 6″.

Dutch artist Ron van der Ende wanders the streets of Rotterdam, salvaging unwanted wood to make, amongst other delightful, enormous multimedia works, wood assemblages like giant diagrams of our Earth, celestial bodies and geological cross-sections.
Europa, Ron van der Ende, 2015. Bas-relief in salvaged wood, 168 x 168 x 14cm
Volcano (Moses and Geology), Ron van der Ende, 2012, Bas-relief in salvaged wood,  229 x 152 x 12cm
Watershed (Yosemite), Ron van der Ender, 2013, Bas-relief in salvaged wood, 180 x 200 x 12cm.
Don't miss his portfolio, where you'll also find minerals, gems, spaceships and more.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Insect as Canvas, Real and Imaginary

Yesterday I encountered the work of two different artists using insects as a medium onto which they are building their art.

Japanese artist Akihiro Higuchi (also here) has created works like traditional Japanese lacquerware on beetles and painted on moths in patterns reminiscent of traditional Japanese-style Nihonga painting, Japanese washi papers as well as more kitschy vintage cartoon illustrations.

Akihiro Higuchi,

"MITATE - urushi" Hideyoshi Toyotomi - Hanbei Takenaka, 2015

Stag beetle specimen, Japanese lacquer, gold dust, silver dust, mixed media
25 x 20 x 6 cm
Akihiro Higuchi,

"MITATE - urushi" Mitsuari Ishida - Sakon Shima, 2015

Stag beetle specimen, Japanese lacquer, gold dust, silver dust, mixed media
25 x 20 x 6 cm
Akihiro Higuchi,

Meanwhile, UK illustrator Richard Wilkinson has a series of digital illustrations, so realistic in flavour they (at least at first glance) appear to be painted on insects. They are in fact imaginary insects which resemble pop icons. His delightful collection "Arthropoda Iconicus: Invertebrates From A Far Away Galaxy" allude to Star Wars of course. He expects the book to be released this fall.

Richard Wilkinson, 'Dokk volgatus'

Richard Wilkinson, 'Regio Tutanamentum'

Richard Wilkinson, 'Roboduobus Duoduobus'
I love the intersection of art, entomology, culture and the imagination and how each of these artists are bringing their own cultural touchstones to the medium of insect decoration.

Compare this with where entomology meets fashion.

Friday, May 12, 2017

WUNDERKAMMER: The Cabinet of Curiosity Show

I'm very excited to have curated the Toronto Etsy Street Team Gallery's first group art show, WUNDERKAMMER: The Cabinet of Curiosities from May 11 to 28. This art - or science art - show, is inspired by the Wunderkammer or Cabinet of Curiosity, the immense, eccentric, encyclopedic natural history collections gathered by collectors since the Renaissance. Cabinets of Curiosities featured treasured zoological, botanical, anatomical, fossil and gem specimen, collected by early citizen scientists. WUNDERKAMMER features original sculptures, drawings, hand-bound books, prints, paintings, printmaking, ceramics, jewellery, generative and multimedia specimen of natural and unnatural history on all scales, from the microscopic to the macroscopic. We are featuring the work of local artists (myself included):

István Aggott Hönsch

Erin Candela
Gavin Canning

Andrée Chénier
Carolyn Eady

Leslie Fruman
Monika Millar

Heather Ibbott
Colleen Manestar

Peggy Muddles
Teodora Opris

Christine Strait-Gardner
Tosca Teran

Rovena Tey
Lauren Vartanian

Ele Willoughby

Explore our curiousity cabinet of wildlife biology, mathematics, chemistry, mycology, micro and cellular biology, marine biology, entomology, botany, and fantastical lifeforms through the lens of art.

Join us Saturday, May 13, 6:00 pm to 10:00 for our Opening! FOLLOW THE LINK TO RSVP

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Pi in the sky

Today we celebrate π day, because (non-metric) Americans write the date 3/14, like the first three digits of the digital expansion of the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. Enjoy with some mathy Kate Bush and yet another incredible math-art work about pi by Martin Krzywinski. This year he's translated the 12,000,000 digits of Pi into star charts (by taking blocks of 12 digits and using them as latitude, longitude and azimuth). Then he's selected 80 constellations from these imagined stars and named them after extinct plants and animals. Find more here!

Martin Krzywinski's 2017 Pi Day Star Chart Carree Projection


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Ursula Franklin for Ada Lovelace Day #ALD16

Ursula Franklin, linocut, 11" x 14" by Ele Willoughby, 2016
Cross-posted from the minouette blog 

This year, to celebrate the international celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and math, Ada Lovelace Day (ALD16), I am returning again to my first subject: Ursula Franklin (16 September 1921 – 22 July 2016). Every year since 2009, people have devoted the 2nd Tuesday in October to blogging about (and otherwise celebrating) the under-recognized and under-appreciated women who have made pivotal contributions to STEM throughout history, in the name of Countess Ada Lovelace. (I hope you'll all recall, Ada, brilliant proto-software engineer, daughter of absentee father, the mad, bad, and dangerous to know, Lord Byron, she was able to describe and conceptualize software for Charles Babbage's computing engine, before the concepts of software, hardware, or even Babbage's own machine existed! She foresaw that computers would be useful for more than mere number-crunching. For this she is rightly recognized as visionary - at least by those of us who know who she was. She figured out how to compute Bernouilli numbers with a Babbage analytical engine. Tragically, she died at only 36.)

A preliminary mock-up of one of the Phylo cards
in this new Women in Science and Engineering set
featuring my portrait of today's namesake: Ada Lovelace
I began participating in Ada Lovelace Day in 2010, and I knew immediately I should write about Ursula Franklin. For me she really personifies the goals of ALD; not only did she represent excellence in science and engineering, but she was a great, perhaps even visionary, thinker on the very role of technology in our society, as well as a fearless and tireless advocate for women in STEM, peace and social justice. Her research interests and achievements were clearly guided by her principles, including gathering evidence of the harmful health effects of radiation from atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons to or her work on the political and societal impacts of support of the technologies and their use. When she died earlier this year, I wrote about her life, work and how she has been one of my heroes since I was too young to fully appreciate the importance of role models in my scientific career. Her influence as a roll model of women in physics and engineering here cannot be overstated. She was one of the most impressive people I have ever met. I got some encouragement from friends to do something I had long contemplated: add her portrait to my growing collection of scientists. When I finally sat down to do so this September, I was really tickled to open my email and receive a commission to do precisely that! I'm really pleased to say I'm going to be contributing some artwork to latest edition of the Phylo Project from Dave Ng and the Advanced Molecular Biology Laboratory (the science education facility within the Michael Smith Laboratories, UBC): a trading card game about Women in Science and Engineering! Sometimes you get several hints of what work you should do next; this portrait's time clearly had arrived.

Franklin was born in Munich in 1921 and survived being interned by the Nazis. She received her PhD in physics from the Technical University of Berlin in 1948 and immigrated to Canada, where after a post-doc at U of T, she joined the faculty. She pioneered archeometry - the use of modern materials analysis in archeology, dating prehistoric artifacts made of metals and ceramics. In my portrait I include an image of an ancient Chinese ding vessel to represent both her metallurgical research and archeometry and her writing about "prescriptive" versus "holistic" technologies used in mass production versus technologies used by craft workers and artisans. Her science was always engaged with societal concerns. During the 60s she advocated for the atmospheric nuclear test ban treaty, citing her studies of strontium-90 radioactive fallout found in children's teeth. Strontium-90 (90Sr) is called a "bone-seeker" because biochemically it behaves like calcium and when absorb it in our bodies what isn't excreted finds its way to our bones. Thus, this radioactive product of nuclear fission (for instance, in atmospheric tests of nuclear weapons) is particularly dangerous and can cause cancers. It decays by beta decay, giving off electrons, as shown by the child's tooth in my portrait. During the 70s she was part of the Science Council of Canada investigation of how we could better conserve resources and protect nature. She began to develop her ideas about complexities of modern technological society.

She consistently has stood up for her beliefs in peace and social justice. As a member of the Voice of Women (now called Canadian Voice of Women for Peace), she tried to persuade Parliament to disengage Canada from supplying any weapons to the US during the Vietnam war, to shift funding from weapons research to preventative medicine, to withdraw from NATO and disarm. She later fought to allow conscientious objectors to redirect part of their income taxes from military uses to peaceful purposes (though the Supreme Court declined to hear the associated case). She joined other retired female faculty in a class action law suit against the University of Toronto for claiming it had been unjustly enriched by paying women faculty less than comparably qualified men. The University settled in 2002 and acknowledged that there had been gender barriers and pay discrimination.

As an applied scientist, her writings on technology benefit from the insight of an insider, but her priorities are justice and peace and she critiques and analyses technology in this light. She does not view technology as neutral; it is a comprehensive system that includes methods, procedures, organization, "and most of all, a mindset". It can be work-related or control-related, holistic and prescriptive. Franklin argues that the dominance of prescriptive technologies in modern society discourages critical thinking and promotes "a culture of compliance". She investigated the relationship between technology and power. She investigated how we interact with communication technologies and advocated for the right to silence - long before our contemporary concern with these issues.

Many of her articles and speeches on pacifism, feminism, technology and teaching are collected in The Ursula Franklin Reader (2006). A nod to her pacifism and feminism is built into the structure of her portrait which encompasses the symbols for peach and women in the negative space. Franklin is one of many respected scholars and thinkers to have delivered a series of Massey Lectures, in 1989. Hers were gathered and published as The Real World of Technology. She has been recognized for her work in many ways, including receiving the Order of Canada, Governor General's Award in Commemoration of the Persons Case for promoting the equality of girls and women in Canada and the Pearson Medal of Peace for her work in advancing human rights. She was inducted into the Canadian Science and Engineering Hall of Fame in 2012. Locals may know the Ursula Franklin Academy, a Toronto high school, named in her honour. I think this University, city, country and in fact, society at large were made a better place because Ursula Franklin was a part of it. So, though she has received this recognition, I think she should be a household name, so that's why I am happy to add her to my portrait pantheon of scientists and write about her again this Ada Lovelace Day 2016. I also think that it is very apt to combine making her portrait using holistic technologies of the artisan and sharing it through more prescriptive digital technologies with the world.

(NB: much of the biographical information is recycled from my own previous post about Franklin) .


Related Posts with Thumbnails