A visual timeline of STEM to STEAM incubation from 2003 onward (which is by no means all inclusive) accompanying “On Cultural Polymathy: How Visual Thinking, Culture, and Community Create a Platform for Progress” — an article I wrote for Claremont Graduate University’s The STEAM Journal. Unfortunately, the image wasn’t approved for use so I’m posting it here.
Read the full article.
Credit: Timeline created by Whitney Dail with images from The Institute For Figuring, MAKE Magazine, Science Gallery, John Wiseman, Whitney Dail, Stan Alcorn, World Science Festival, The Creators Project, Miwa Matreyek, and The STEAM Journal.
Place has always been important for the emergence of new products and entire industries. They form crucibles wherein people, ideas, and organizations come together. Silicon Valley outpaced established East Coast electronics centers when young engineers and innovators began to cluster there — committed to the place rather than to particular employers. The same is true of Detroit and motor vehicles, Los Angeles and motion pictures, New Orleans and jazz, Nashville and country music, Boston and publishing, Chicago and advertising, New York and visual art, and San Francisco and product design.
Ann Markusen and Anne Gadwa (from Metris Arts Consulting) in Creative Placemaking (PDF), a white paper published by the National Endowment for the Arts on the role of arts and culture in urban planning, livability, and economic development.
“￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼Subjects regarded as making important contributions to creative thinking include art and music, but science and mathematics also score highly.” —Adobe Systems Incorporated
Adobe has released Creativity and Education: Why it Matters, a new study that sheds light on the role of creativity in career success and the growing belief that creativity is not just a personality trait, but a learned skill.
Download the PDF.
Greg Eltringham’s Dream Houses
Greg is one of my favorite SCAD artists, a faculty member in the painting department. He began this series in 2010, which reminds me of old-timey cartoons and Jim Woodring comics mixed with a little bit of Wes Anderson a la Fantastic Mr. Fox and A Life Aquatic. Rightfully so because the Eltringham family is kind of like the Tenenbaums. His wife Angela is also an artist (they met while attending SCAD in the early 90s) and makes folky paintings and needlepoints of boats, underwear, and limbs. Granger is in high school, aspiring to be a Jacques Cousteau-esque marine biologist, filmmaker, and artist. Penelope, the youngest, is an actress and storyteller with the tiniest Italian greyhound in tow named Olive. We have four Eltringham pieces in our art collection — my love being an embroidery of Dusty Springfield. What does your dream house look like?
Credit: Greg Eltringham. L-R: Typhoon Class, Float, Glazed, The Blue Pretzel, Quick Snack, and Sherbert.
Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc Cave: ‘The Louvre of the Paleolithic Galleries’*
Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams is the story of Chauvet Cave’s great art discovered only in December 1994. It’s a beautiful film offering a sensory experience into Paleolithic man’s paintings (and perhaps early attempts at animation) through music, storytelling, and images that you can only revisit through the DVD. With Herzog as the mediator and a small cast of archeologists and historians, we’re offered a rare glimpse into the human history of the cave and the search for meaning in the artwork as well as nearby landscapes and cultures.
What’s interesting is that even as Herzog follows the scientific investigation, its speculative nature is always present. As the unicyclist-juggler turned archeologist points out, the past cannot ever fully be known or reconstructed. There is just as much mysticism surrounding the people who decorated the caves and the panels upon panels of stunning depictions of horses, ibexes, lions, rhinoceroses, and bears. Two characters named Carole and Gilles have traced and analyzed the contours, layering, and compositions. They believe they can tell truths about the creators (down to one six-foot-tall person with a crooked pinky finger) and the creative process, all by reading line weight, shading, and human handprints.
What scientists DO know about Chauvet is that at approximately 31,000 years old, it’s the oldest known rock art — predating the art in Lascaux. The 1,300-foot cave has been spatially mapped (see above) in its entirety using laser scanners. (These digital images of the cave have stuck with me.) But for all of the scientific research that’s been conducted, we’re still fascinated by the earliest acts of artistic expression. The mysteries of modern human origins, especially early arts and culture, are what keep us searching for answers. Joe Morgenstern wrote in a Wall Street Journal review, “The unknowable or the mysteriously ambiguous in human behavior is what sets Mr. Herzog’s synapses to firing with singular intensity.”
I’ve seen Cave of Forgotten Dreams on four occasions. The first time was in a small, packed theater in Savannah, and it took my breath away. I felt especially moved because in 2007 I studied in the South of France and visited several nearby caves (including Lauscaux II, the recreation) during a Paleolithic rock art course. But the connection is more universal. Do yourself a favor and watch this film on Netflix streaming.
* According to sociobiologist E.O. Wilson in “On the Origins of the Arts” for Harvard Magazine.
Credit: Photo by unknown source. Screencaps by Whitney Dail.
Farewell, Lebbeus Woods
“Lebbeus Woods, an architect whose works were rarely built but who influenced colleagues and students with defiantly imaginative drawings and installations that questioned convention and commercialism, died on Tuesday in Manhattan. He was 72.” —The New York Times
I’m deeply saddened to hear that Lebbeus Woods, American architect and founder of the Research Institute for Experimental Architecture, has died. Woods’ dystopic, futurist work offered radical visions re-imagining the present, sometimes realized in buildings and other times in conceptual drawings or models. His influence on pop culture can be seen in the interrogation room of Terry Gilliam’s movie 12 Monkeys, although the adaptation resulted in a sizable lawsuit in Woods’ favor. I’ll remember and admire his ideas about reconstruction, reality, and culture always.
Read an interview with Lebbeus Woods on BLDGBLOG from 2007.
Credit: Manifesto by Lebbeus Woods via Harpreet-Khara.
Understanding Dark Matter and Dark Energy
I’m currently reading Richard Panek’s The 4 Percent Universe: Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Race to Discover the Rest of Reality that tells the story of the standard cosmological model, starting in 1965 and leading up to the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics. Panek’s anecdotes are informative and enjoyable, describing dark matter and dark energy’s reveal through the work of unusual physicists and astronomers. But being a visual learner, I needed to “see” the numbers. So… Voila! Behold the the Jelly Bean Universe, a visual representation explaining atoms (4% lightly-colored beans) and the rest of the universe (96% black beans, equaling 23% dark matter and 73% dark energy) — “dark” simply meaning unknown.
Bonus: Learn how to make your own universe on YouTube from Fermilab’s Kurt Riesselmann, the man who deconstructed John Updike’s Cosmic Gall poem.
Credit: Photo by Fermilab.
“There are thousands of da Vinci-likes that are out there in every field that are tying information together and growing beyond it.” —Todd Siler
Todd Siler’s talk on how ArtScience can save the world from January 2012. Siler is a respected visual artist with a doctorate from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Interdisciplinary Studies in Psychology and Art. He coined the word ArtScience in 1990, stemming from his doctoral research on creativity during the eighties, which he defines as the process of “integrative thinking” that joins art with science and vice versa.
Credit: Video by TEDxTalks.
Reaching for the Stars, Aiming at Galaxies
Vera Cooper Rubin (b. 1928) is an American astronomer who pioneered research on galactic rotation and, according to Richard Panek, “discovered some of the most compelling evidence for the existence of dark matter,” although why her Wikipedia page is so sparse is beyond me.
Rubin never took advice to steer clear of science as a profession. She graduated from Vassar College with an undergraduate degree in astronomy — the only astronomy major in her class — and received her master’s from Cornell University in 1950 after not being allowed into Princeton’s astronomy program due to being a woman. That same year at twenty-two years old, Rubin presented her ill-received thesis challenging Hubble’s research to the American Astronomical Society in Haverford, Pennsylvania with newborn in tow (the first of four children, a geologist named David).
In 1954, she completed her doctorate at George Washington University in only two years with a dissertation titled “Fluctuations in the Space Distribution of the Galaxies.” Rubin became the first woman to be hired by Carnegie Institute’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism (DTM) in 1965 where she still works today at the age of 84. Her entire body of work has been driven by sheer curiosity and questioning of the science before her time.
To graduates of American University’s Class of 2011, Rubin offered this advice: “If you really have something you want to do — and it surely doesn’t have to be astronomy — and you really think that it’s worth doing, you should go ahead and do it.” Pay no mind to naysayers. As Vera Rubin reminds us, only you are in charge of your destiny, and that’s why I love her story.
Credit: Photo by Archives and Special Collections of Vassar College.