In this regard, one work in particular stands out. Perhaps the least visually grandiose of her oeuvre, Candle (from Earth into a Black Hole) (2015) is the namesake for her upcoming New York exhibition. The piece, which appears to be a conventional white candle, was made in editions of 100 in a time-consuming process that is belied by its simple appearance. Paterson describes the work as a journey through space, by way of scent. Each layer of the candle was carefully crafted with a bio-chemist and perfumer to smell of a different planet or celestial object, based on descriptions from astronauts or scientific guesses. “It burns down as if you’re taking a trip through outer-space,” Paterson explains. “It starts on Earth, which smells of forest, and then you go up into the clouds and the troposphere which smells like wet basement, apparently. This is where some fiction comes in, from people’s descriptions. It’s a mixture of the real and the imagined.” Scents of various minerals and edibles waft from the melting wax as it burns over 12 hours in the gallery space.
Much of Paterson’s work is rigorously scientific, but by presenting it through art she manages to bring out the more poetic aspects of the field. Much of scientific inquiry necessitates educated guesses, and by visualizing the fictional and aesthetic facets of this guesswork, Paterson gradually demystifies some of the more mysterious mechanics of the universe, or at least separates them from institutional discourse.
Her latest major work, Totality (2016), is a large-scale disco ball composed of nearly 10,000 images of solar eclipses recorded throughout history. The images, sourced from around the world, are both amateur and telescopic, depicting eclipses from varying angles and with varying degrees of precision. The images are compiled on the ball to simulate the natural progression of a solar eclipse. Totality serves as a kind of map of different visual magnitudes, reasserting the place of humans as witnesses to and agents within the cyclical patterns of the universe.