There is a place in our minds where we experience the inspiration of creative art; there is another realm where we ponder the rational calculations of science. But what happens when we put these insights together? We grasp the tangible beauty of the world.
Three accomplished photographers explore the intersections of art and science in this exhibit. Bob Fera and Mike Mayda point their cameras to the heavens to capture astonishing images of faraway galaxies; Terry Nathan follows the curving arcs of tiny whiffs of smoke and connects them to the seminal ideas of Isaac Newton. Together these three artists invite us to ponder the scientific dimensions of art, and the artistic insights of science.
Bob Fera fell in love with the night sky in the early 1990s, and set about capturing images that can't be seen with the naked eye. "An image of the cosmos is a snapshot in time. I am literally photographing the past, as the light from my subjects has taken anywhere from hundreds to millions of years to reach us. With my camera, telescopes and software, I'm able to capture the stellar nurseries where stars are being born, the remnants left behind by the celestial fireworks of a star’s death, and entire island universes that are homes to billions of stars."
Bob Fera: M-42, Orion Nebula
Bob Fera: M-101, Pinwheel Galaxy
Mike Mayda has journeyed to remote locations in the Sierra in order to be able to see the night sky free of the distracting lights in the cities of the valley. Employing complex narrowband imaging filters, Mayda’s camera penetrates deep into the outer universe, capturing visions of the stars and planets with exposures sometimes lasting over 14 hours. "We look up from the city at skies that are seemingly featureless, except for the Moon, a few stars and the occasional planet. But if we look deeper, with silicon eyes and special filters, there is much wonder to behold."
Mike Mayda: M-31, Andromeda Galaxy
Mike Mayda: M-51, Whirlpool Galaxy
The spectacular patterns of the galaxies are experienced on a more intimate scale in Terry Nathan's small studio. Tiny curls of smoke snake their way across a black background, evoking notions of order and disorder, the sublime, the figurative. The scientist sees underlying properties in these "smoke dances" that also structure the flows in rivers and the development of weather systems; the artist sees only a graceful beauty. "I am exploring an intellectual borderland were universal qualities shared by both art and science are brought to light by the fleeting sculptures formed in whiffs of smoke."
Terry Nathan: Smoke Dance 295
Terry Nathan: Smoke Dance 269