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Thursday, 03 December 2015 16:13

Ask the Artists: New Exhibit Explores the Beauty of Biology

SARATOGA SPRINGS – The science world and the art world converge in the new exhibit “Under the Microscope: Biology and Art,” which is premiering at Spring Street Gallery, located at 110 Spring Street, on December 10. This project will present an assortment of beautiful images produced with high-powered microscopes, giving access to the tiny universe all around us that usually only scientists get to witness. .

“Under the Microscope” involved collaboration between Spring Street Gallery’s director, Maureen Sager, and biologist Dr. Abby Grace Drake. Many of the biologists/artists involved in the project are students at Skidmore College including Isabella Gaw, Perri Keehn, Berke Tinaz, and Wenhui Zhao, as well as UAlbany graduate student, Amanda Andreas.  I spoke with two of the artists in the project, Emily Singer, a senior at Skidmore studying biology, and Chelsea Fujimoto, a Skidmore alumnus, who shared their insights on the exhibit and how biology and art are more related than we think.

Q: Why is it important to connect biology and art in “Under the Microscope”?

A: “I believe that biology and art are completely intertwined and that the natural world gives us so much beauty to appreciate. By observing biological phenomenon, I believe we are observing the art of nature’s process.” – Emily Singer

A: “Artists and scientists are both trying to gain a measure of understanding, to see the world through a new lens and reveal new perspectives. Research is, in a way, a form of self-expression. I think sometimes people don’t realize that research requires a measure of creativity. I think this exhibition is a great way of communicating to the general public how biologists see their work – there is beauty to be appreciated in the images themselves, but also in understanding the science behind them.” – Chelsea Fujimoto

Q: How were the images captured and printed? What was the process like?

A: “The images were captured using a merging technique, where I took two pictures of the same cell that was focusing on different labeling with different lasers (one red, one green). I then overlaid the images together. The colors then appeared together and made the cell whole, since where one color was absent the other was usually present.” - ES

A: “Something that people say a lot about microscopy is that you have to enjoy spending long hours by yourself in a dark room – and it’s pretty true. I’ve imaged specimens under three different microscopes:

conventional fluorescence, confocal scanning laser microscopy and scanning electron microscopy. The first two are in color, and the last is in black and white because it uses electrons instead of light. Since electrons travel faster than photons (which are responsible for visible light), they provide better resolution and allow us to see even small structures. Often, the loss of color is worth it for the increase in resolution. The last photography studio on Skidmore’s campus was actually in the science building, not the art building, because for a long time, digital photography just couldn’t match the resolution of the microscopes, and film and photo paper gave a sharper image.” – CF

Q: Why are you passionate about this project? Why should people see it?

A: “I am passionate about this project because there is a whole microscopic world that most people will never have the opportunity to see. I have been lucky to work with a professor who is very talented at microscopy and has taught me about different technologies that allow us to observe this microscopic world and see how it translates into the larger world around us, giving me more to appreciate and more art to see in biology.” – ES

A: I’m passionate about the project because I feel so strongly about the connection between art and science. I think it’s unfortunate that a lot of science is viewed as inaccessible to the general public. I’m 100% behind work that makes our research more accessible and understandable. What I’m really hoping is that people viewing the exhibit will be struck with that childhood sense of wonder that sparks you to want to know more about something. I hope that when you see these images and think about the captions, you feel the same kind of reverence for biology as I do when I take a step back and look at the bigger picture of life on this planet.” – CF


“Under the Microscope: Biology and Art” opens on Thursday, December 10 at Spring Street Gallery, with a reception from 6 to 8 p.m. that is free and open to the public. The artists will be at the reception to talk about their work. The exhibit will run until January 29. 

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