Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Scientific American Guest Blog

Today on the Scientific American Guest Blog I have a post entitled, Scientific Accuracy in Art. 


©  Glendon Mellow 2010


In it, I touch on fossils, math, a crucifix and microscopic paint. It attempts to answer: what is science-art for?
Would love if Art Evolved contributors and fans could head there to comment - disagree, support or ask questions!

The burgeoning field of science-art is one I love to explore.  Recently, I was also on a podcast on Atheists Talk with science-artist Lynn Fellman and host Mike Haubrich, and I have been discussing science-art some more on my own blog as I gear up for ScienceOnline11 in North Carolina in January.

-Glendon

9 comments:

Traumador said...

i love your challenging the statement sci-art is "a way of knowing"...

science in and of itself is a way of UNDERSTANDING, but never knowing! there are no absolutes in science only constantly evolving understandings.

that alone in the art!

exploring totally, the whole point of both art and science... where they have a happy collision!

so here's to more exploring people!!!

Glendon Mellow said...

Thanks Traumador! True enough.

davidmaas said...

I'll be adding to this in form of the Kentrosaurus reconstruction and some scribbles I've got on my slate. I agree with the "way of understanding" distinction... great stuff. yet as much as i agree with your words, I won't be following your arguments very far down the road to fine art... ie. wings on trilobites. My key issue being a win-win relationship between artists and scientists. What concrete insights are scientists being offered? So I follow you up to that point, then ascertain that we're already miles apart.
anyway, I look forward to the debate!

Glendon Mellow said...

Thanks for your thoughts, David! A topic I wrestle with off and on, is that artists like myself (the whole wings-on-trilobites genre) can be parasitic on the findings of science without giving back.

I get in a lot of trouble for saying this sometimes...but art rarely informs new areas of research; it aids them, it enhances explanations or in my case, it plays with them. But it seldom leads to new discoveries.

davidmaas said...

http://www.drip.de/?p=1156

Just wrote about Lottolab on my blog... very art-like stuff going on there, and definitely science.

David Orr said...

Way of understanding is great, just as good as way of exploring, while being a shade different.

One thing I love about this topic is how every corner you turn brings up a whole suite of possibilities. I saw something about fractals today, and that made me think about how they cross over between mathematics and art and science. They're equally powerful tools for understanding nature and creating art. Such a deep subject!

Traumador said...

Glendon- you raise a very good point when you say:

"I get in a lot of trouble for saying this sometimes...but art rarely informs new areas of research; it aids them, it enhances explanations or in my case, it plays with them. But it seldom leads to new discoveries.

i find this especially true in palaeo-art. if anything we artists are totally reactionary in our efforts to recreate the past. no matter what we might wish otherwise, we require the fossils before we can do anything, and thus our art is forced to wait for the scientific discoveries before it can be made.

with this in mind i think to address david's point on your art:

"I won't be following your arguments very far down the road to fine art... ie. wings on trilobites. My key issue being a win-win relationship between artists and scientists. What concrete insights are scientists being offered? So I follow you up to that point, then ascertain that we're already miles apart."

i can see this argument to a point, as scientific illustration certainly has a concrete role to play in science, but glendon's trilobites can too in an inspirational way...

taking glendon's own self describing motto "art in awe of science" a scientist who looks at his winged trilobite, while possibly dismissing it as anatomoically incorrect, might also hopefully look at why and how glendon has done this.

despite the fact trilobites did not have wings, glendon has otherwise done his homework on the trilobite's and the wing's anatomy, and thus should cause (especially) an informed viewer to ask why he has combined the two in a non realistic fashion.

not because glendon believes we will one day find a batwinged trilobite, but rather (i feel anyways... he can correct me if his intention was different) that these magnificent forms both evolved in the same way, from a singluar source, but yet are only connected by that common ancestory.

glendon's piece is a singular incarnation of the concept and awesomeness of evolution, that a science illustrator would have to churn out numerous pieces to come close to achieving.

while i'm definately in your boat as an illustrator, i can see the merit and "common ancestor" artisically speaking that we share with glendon in his pursuits.

as we are all dealing with palaeo (on this site anyways) we will always be following the research rather than leading it...

Traumador said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
davidmaas said...

I'll go with that. I'm professionally required to be very sensitive to stylistic discontinuities... and feel there's one here. There's a drive for anatomical correctness on the one hand - this highlights a loyal representation of observed nature. Then there's a fantasy / creative break with this observation in the style of a collage... disparate elements are brought together to create a new context.
As art, fine (I could well warm to thought of a tattoo of that winged trilobite). As paleoart... err, ya lost me. Content and ambition no longer overlap.
Or - asked more provocatively - what sets it apart from the taxonomic chimeras (winged rabbits and such)? As art, I find it great... its the prefix 'paleo' that I trip over.

As an example of artist and science generating some true groove, I point to Brain Engh's recent sauropods:
http://svpow.wordpress.com/2010/12/13/pimp-my-pod-2-haids/

And to make sure no one thinks I'm dissing cool artwork, I'm caught up on the claim that it's "paleo" - not that its art.