Wednesday 15 October 2008

Face the muses

In my university days, science and art seemed to be considered non-overlapping pursuits. So I tilted at windmills and would show up at class with drawings of trilobites and extinct fish. The first time I showed up at class with drawings of trilobites, my prof said, "ooo, I don't want any of those in my soup," and the critique was done.

(note to self: cool idea - trilobites crawling out of soup and menacing a professor)

Science is a muse. But why? I need to explore my fascination. I need to explore so I can understand the weird little niche I'm in right now. There is also the more immediate and exciting reason that I will be attending ScienceOnline'09, and co-moderating a couple of sessions.

One session I will be co-moderating -with the inimitable Jessica Palmer of Bioephemera!- is entitled Art and Science - online and offline. I've posted a few notes at the conference wiki, and Jessica and I will be developing and refining the beats of the group discussion over the next while.

I view the world of art mainly through the eye of a painter. I'm fairly specific in my aims most of the time (Payne's Grey here, Quinacradone Orange here). I like using modern scientific ideas and discoveries as visual symbols for ideas like love and death and whimsy, as religious and mythological symbols once did in the Renaissance. So my thoughts about how science intersects art will be starting from a fairly specific place. How far can I expand my perceptions?

Learning from other bloggers helps. Renaissance Oaf continues his series But Is It Art? and has an astute analysis of the importance of the market, whatever the style of art. Bond's Blog pondered the variations in illustrations of one dinosaur genus, and how to move forward with his own rendition. My incomplete image of Haldane's Precambrian Puzzle wound up on Infectious Greed, an economic blog, illustrating the perils of lousy analysis. Cocktail Party Physics looked at the question But Is It Art? and showcased some fascinating examples.

It can be all too easy to get wrapped up in an image and not stop to ponder why it is exciting to me. It's time to face the muses.

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All original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow. The contents of this blog are under a Creative Commons Licence. See sidebar for details.
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Prehistoric Insanity said...

My "art" (of the 3D variety) is almost always filling in a story telling need for my various other creative endeavours... be it an animation for a movie or an illustration for fiction... so the muse tends to be borrowed from whatever inspired the fiction.

I nearly wrote an essay on this subject here in this little comment box, but you've become a muse now for a post at my own blog. I'll try to get done in the next day or two.


Glendon Mellow said...

That's an interesting point. A lot of what used to be fine art, such as depicting nature, has become art in service of story-telling. Not a bad thing, but a significant change.

I look forward to your thoughts, Craig!

Kim said...

hi Glendon
your blog is now listed in the Top Artists Directory..
please consider sending me an image and short bio when you have time :)
thanks Kim aka laketrees

traumador said...

Craig got his post up.

Peter Bond said...

This is a very interesting topic, and one I will ponder over the weekend.

I think of my muses (musi?), and I notice that I get excited about sketching a dinosaur or trilobite, but become bored by other everyday subjects(cars, portraits...) Why is that?

(Great post, btw)

Glendon Mellow said...

Thank very very much Kim!

Will do, over the next couple of days!

Glendon Mellow said...

Great, thanks for the heads-up, Traumador.

Sometimes, it's almost like you share Criag's brain. (Not the other way around).

Glendon Mellow said...

Bond, you bring up an interesting point.

I suspect it's similar to my feelings when a professor used to exhort me to paint my 90 minute subway commute to school, and instead I painted Martian landscapes and tardigrades.

Painting doesn't have to be about depicting the world immediately around you, and it's exciting to use your canvas for whatever strikes you.

Like on The Simpsons. It doesn't cost them anything extra to send Homer into space, or into a chili-driven dream sequence. And it's fun.

Stephanie Zvan said...

I'm always confused by people like your professor fetishizing the mundane in art. There's even a subgenre of mundane science fiction now. The fetish is always couched as a search for "truth," but what's untrue about science? How is a character in one of my stories less true because she's reacting to something that didn't happen on a different planet instead of something that didn't happen here? And how the hell is human curiosity and wonder less real than boredom or hunger?

Ahem. This will end this installment of push-button ranting.

Glendon Mellow said...

You are absolutely right to rant, Stephanie.

The subway assignment was supposed to be a painting "of the world around you, from your own life". So for one piece, I painted tardigrades and made reference to bacteria in people's stomachs. Symbiotic relationships with microorganisms.

He thought that idea was outside of personal experience.


Stephanie Zvan said...

So your personal experience had to be bounded by his understanding? Gah, indeed.

Besides, if the point of art really is communication, don't we hamstring it if we insist that it only communicate things that people already know?

Glendon Mellow said...

Well, you know, Stephanie: he was an artist with tenure.

bioephemera said...

Woot! I can hardly wait - even if i'm totally overwhelmed by how much we have to do between now and then! Insanity! Insanity!

Glendon Mellow said...

Hahaha, yeah Jessica, it is insanity.

We'll throw it together. The motivation's there. Feel free to edit my notes and call me a crazy person on the wiki!

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Posts over 14 days old have their comments held in moderation - I've been getting an unusual amount of spam for a guy who paints trilobites. I'll release it lickety-split though.

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