A brilliant work by light and space artist Lita Albuquerque, entitled Beekeeper (2006), uses computer generative software to create a luminous image of a solitary figure against an all-black background. Albuquerque has said that her inspiration was, “to present the visual similarity between a beekeeper and an astronaut,” which she approached by “[creating] a narrative around which the beekeeper’s aim is to help maintain biological life on the planet and the astronaut became the starkeeper maintaining life in the cosmos.” Unlike with her earlier works, where she explored scale and the representation of celestial landscapes through pigments, here, Albuquerque worked collaboratively with Chandler McWilliams and Jon Beasley to create animated digital pixels that would expand and condense, deconstructing and reforming the images over time. This fluid metamorphosis allows the figure to take on multiple identities—a beekeeper, an astronaut, or an ambiguous, celestial being.
While Albuquerque’s work illustrates the instability of particles, Will Clift meditates on entities that are exact and precise in shape. In Circling In (2013), wood, aluminum, and carbon fiber coalesce to form a gestural, spiraling shape. Suspended in air, as if caught in an instance of descension from another realm, the work carries a certain Alexander Calder-esque quality to it, like one of his “drawings in space.” In comparison to Clift’s other sculptures—dynamic, minimal, and tending toward irregular curvilinear forms—the kinetic implications of Circling In are more clearly articulated, as the shape seems to spin inward and outward at the same time.
Victoria Vesna, a professor of design and media arts at UCLA and the featured artist in the show, investigates the impact of “communication technologies [on] collective behavior and how perceptions of identity shift in relation to scientific innovation” with her piece Nanomandala (2004). A video projected onto sand uses a scanning electron microscope (SEM) to render the image of a grain of sand seen at a molecular level, scaling it up progressively into a complete mandala. Merging media arts, nanoscience, and biotechnology, Vesna worked with Tibetan Buddhist monks to create this most radiant, layered work.
The works featured in “Inventory of Light” show a powerful interplay between artistic expression and scientific discovery. In the interstitial space between these two modes of practice, artists and scientists find new, generative forms.
“Inventory of Light” is on view at Peters Projects, Santa Fe, Mar. 27–Apr. 25, 2015.