China Blue speaks with Natalie Tyler about her exhibition Lux: Art & Science, an exhibition and conference on the art and science of light held at Cornell University.
CB: What motivated you to organize the exhibition “LUX: Art & Science” at Cornell University?
NT: When I first came to Cornell, I saw a great divide between the different departments. The Art Department is becoming more reduced, due to budget cuts. During my time there, I wanted to bring to the University, artists who make innovative works with light. I wanted to create an exhibition that would speak to people from different backgrounds, helping to bridge the gap between disciplines. I collaborated with Robert Lieberman from the Physics department. He curated the scientists involved with the LUX talks. The scientists were all very interested in being part of an event where they expressed their research to a wider audience and spoke alongside artists.
CB: Why is the blending of art, science and nature important to you and Cornell?
NT: When an artist experiments with materials and techniques, it is similar to a scientist in the lab, who takes their research one step further. It is during that process that innovation occurs. I believe that if artists and scientists collaborate and discuss more, each will learn from the other, strengthening both. The blending of art, science and nature isn’t a new concept. Da Vinci understood the importance of not limiting oneself to one discipline. He was an artist, scientist, and engineer. There is resurgence lately in the importance of blending art and science.
CB: In your experience what are the benefits and pitfalls of artists and scientists collaborating?
NT: Generally speaking scientists explore how it works and artists explore how it looks. Realistically speaking explorations in art and science make deep connections and create limitless opportunities that benefit both the artists and scientists. New materials can be discovered, different perspectives influence, and the possible outcomes are vast. Yet, at times communication between artists and scientists can be challenging. Artists often work from intuition and not always are they immersed deeply in fact and research. At times I have gotten crossed-eyed looks from scientists responding to me. But I realize it just takes different ways of seeing and wording in communication. As far as pitfalls, the benefits out way the pitfalls.
CB: How long have Cornell’s art and physics departments been collaborating and can you tell us a little about that history?
NT: This is one of the first events that I know of where the art and physics departments have collaborated. It is my hope that it is the first of many future events. Cross disciplinary education is fertile ground and rich for cultivation. The possibilities resulting from collaborating departments are limitless. Everyone who was involved with the LUX exhibition said they hope there are more events like this one.
CB: What interesting contributions were made by the panel that you organized?
NT: The LUX talks were a fantastic combination of artists and scientists who use light in different ways. We brought in distinguished scientists from departments at the University, such as, Biology, Physics, Computer Engineering and Chemistry. Michal Lipson talked about photonics and bending light on a nanoscale around objects to cloak them. Roald Hoffman spoke about the early discoveries of chemistry and color. Cole Gilbert and Jim Morin spoke of bioluminescent creatures that use light for mating and defense. Moti Fridman discussed his discoveries using lasers to cloak time and events. Philip Krasicky from the Physics department created a demonstration of light and color. Beatrice Pediconi, Oisin Byrne, Jason Krugman and Sharyn O’Mara all gave talks about how they use light in their artwork. The talks flowed one into the other, the artists and scientists all shared innovation, research and a passion for their discoveries.
CB: Tell us a little about your residency at Cornell, how long is it and your piece “Diapause” that is in the exhibition.
NT: My artist residency runs for one school year. During this time I am an artistic resource to undergraduates from a variety of disciplines. Part of what I am doing during my year at Cornell, is to teach them about sculpture, bring in guest artists, organize exhibitions, and open up the opportunity for them to express themselves creatively.
My installation “Diapause” is an interactive sculptural installation with human size cocoons hanging from the ceiling. Diapause is a deepened state of hibernation. As you enter the room, each cocoon glows subtly. As you approach each one, they waken and begin to glow brighter. The change of light creates a lifelike experience. The installation highlights life stage transitions. You can see the video of the cocoons on line at this link. I will have one of the cocoons installed this summer in “Virtu” a solo exhibition, at Dacia Gallery, 53 Stanton Street in NYC. The opening reception is June 7 th.
CB: Thank you for your thoughts and for organizing an innovative exhibition and thought provoking panel discussion.