The inspiration behind "earth • science • art," an exhibit opening Friday at the , stemmed from the "serendipitous co-location" of the gallery and the U.S. Geological Survey's Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center. The two locales, one whose business is art and the other science, literally share a wall.
"To me the wall came to represent the wall between art and science, metaphorically, how culturally we view them as two different disciplines," said Lisa Hochstein, the curator of the exhibit. "I wanted to see what kind of overlap there was between the two."
Hochstein approached Jane Reid, a geologist and associate center director, with the idea of pairing artists with USGS scientists for a collaborative exploration of the disciplines.
Reid jumped on board, seeing it as an interesting and unique opportunity.
"We think there is a difference between art and science," she said. "But they are so similar in so many ways. Both artists and scientists are trying to be observers. Scientists break things down to their component parts and then put them back together. Artists do that too."
Sixteen artists were paired with 16 scientists. The couplings weren't completely random; prior to pairing, each scientist gave a presentation on a research project they are currently working on. The artists then picked the top scientists they'd like to work with, input Hochstein used to make the juxtaposing duos.
That was five months ago, and since then the artists, half of whom are from Santa Cruz and the rest from throughout the Bay Area, have been working on developing pieces in a variety of mediums related to their scientist’s research.
The research ranges from the study of migratory bird patterns to the movement of sediment by wind, waves and currents to mapping climate change as it affects both human communities and natural environments.
One artist is even exploring the life of her scientific cohort, mapping the time she spends in the lab and elsewhere doing her work.
Despite the perception that geology is only interested in ancient rocks, Reid said that the research of the participating scientists is very much anchored in the here and now. The artistic representations of their work, she said, will help exhibit-goers understand that geology has implications for the present and future.
“Most of the scientists are interested in what’s going on right now,” she said. “They are looking at wind, waves and tectonics and trying to understand what’s going on and what impact that will have on society. The art will help to bring this home in a non-scientific way.”
The exhibit won't just be centered on the artists, Hochstein said. To that end, she asked each scientist to create a poster explaining the science behind the art.
"I hope that the posters help people make the connections of the thought process that an artist might go through when they do what they do,” she said. “I also hope it might get them thinking, 'How would I have artistically represented this project?'"
Hochstein said that she'd like the exhibit to have a life beyond its run at the Blitzer. Art and science, while different in methodology, have an abundance similarities that extend beyond gallery walls.
"I'd like the exhibit to engage [the public's] creative imagination," Hochstein said. "I’d like people to get a sense of how important art and science are in our lives yet how, at least at the federal level, funding for both is under attack. I’d like the show to say this is important work and it’s worth paying for it and supporting it. These are endeavors that are the best that people do. They're endeavors of the creative spirit."
The exhibit runs through July 7. An opening reception will be held from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the R. Blitz Gallery on Friday, June 1. Two panel discussions will take place on June 7 and June 14 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Three artists and three scientists will be at each, presenting what they got out of the collaborative experience and discussing the connection between science and art.
A $5 donation is suggested but not required. A portion of the proceeds will go towards the . For more information on the scientists and artists behind "earth • science • art", go to the exhibit's website.