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Open Question

What interesting art and science news have you seen recently?  Let us know.

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Carolina (Cemile) Avalos Interviewed by Henderson

Carolina Avalos, a local painter, talks with MASI about her re-emergence into the Chicago art-scene. A spiritual creative, her works seek to unearth the purest connections between us.

In the throes of creativity, the mind becomes trance-like and still.  Experiences and relationships converge to a razor-sharp focus clearing away distractions and leaving only the pure intent of the spirit.  Here, a brush-stroke connects common paths and colors signify mood and the passage of time.

Carolina Avalos’ mind has never been more still than when she is in the process of creating.  Whether painting, writing, or drawing, in this place where she is most calm, a busy mind can be disconnected, material desires can be cast-away, and purpose can be defined through deep spiritual practice which open doors to an observant spirit.  In the past two years, Carolina has been practicing this stillness of and searching for her artistic voice through the philosophy known as oneness.

Oneness defines everything in the universe as being connected; from the energies that cause the movements of galaxies to the winds carrying seeds across continents to the interpersonal experiences we share.  Inherent in the philosophy of oneness is the idea that all living things experience a “belonging and not a separation from” things within this existence.

Carolina’s art makes her viewers aware of this oneness and depicts a world free of a “separation anxiety” of the soul.  In the end, she is painting an existence that can be.

Only One by Carolina Avalos.

Q:  What is oneness?

A:  That connection to one another.  We all come from one source and that one source experiences itself through multiplicity, we are the multiplicity.  When you are able to look at the soul of a person, then you can experience that oneness.

Q:  Explain to me your practice of Qigong and how it helps you focus?

A:  It keeps me aware of my thoughts, where they are coming from and which ones come from my internal voice and which ones come from an external influence.  Two years ago, I couldn’t concentrate on one thing.  [Qigong] helps me to discipline my awareness of my body.  It is moving meditation [that helps me] focus internally on my body movement.  You have to experience everything that is going on in your body.

Q:  How has society become fragmented?

A:  [Because of our] ego, we see with our eyes and not our hearts.  We are more than this external form.  Our behavior is what makes us.  Everything you do, it affects somebody..

The Cycles by Carolina Avalos.

Q:  What is spirituality and is this something that we all share?

A:  It is, essentially, our soul.  We are part of that oneness that is that one pure light of energy, and that is how we connect to one another.  I believe that we are all born knowing our purpose for being in this world, but along our life’s journey distractions blur and almost erase that knowingness.

Sharing?  There’s tons of ways, acceptance of the individual, tolerance, looking beyond the societal conditions we’ve been raised in…  Art, communication with music, science, writing etc…

Q:  How do you observe?

A:  I observe through my art.  The knowledge I’ve gained is what I am sharing  about acceptance, tolerance, understanding, whatever it is that I am observing.

Q:  Why is it important to be mindful?

A:  You have to be conscious of what you do.  Being mindful keeps you from being irrational, in a negative sense.

Q:  How would you describe your art?

A:  I am a maker of things, I create things.  I’m not someone who just has something show from my own emotions.  I have an intention and a mission to accomplish [that includes raising issues in] tolerance, education, etc…

But, I don’t want to make art that shows you what you are already living.  I want to show you what you could be living, beyond that.

What type [of creator] am I?  Whatever someone who is looking at my creation thinks, I suppose.

I don’t do realistic pictures of people, but I can.  I want to stray away from specific identifications of certain things.  I don’t have a specific color of skin.  There’s no identity, [the figures] all kind of look the same.  They may look different in proportion.  I don’t want to show a division between any one of them.  Because we should look beyond that.  Everything is kind of abstracted.  I want my art to be accessible to everyone.

I don’t really categorize myself, but I would describe my art as a progression, one piece leads to the next.  Currently I am focusing on tightening up my skill level and technique so that I can speak to the viewer of oneness, tolerance, spirit, and energy… that we are not what we see but how we behave and  that there are limitless possibilities if you so choose to take them.

Q:  What is your artistic mission?

A:  To speak to the viewer, provoke open-mindedness, awareness, and curiosity and have the viewer come out of their box and explore their own conditioning.  I don’t want to inflict my views on others, I want people to use the Socratic method of questioning and see the world through their own light.

Q:  How are you different than you were two years ago?

A:  I’m more aware of myself and why I tended to do certain things in the past.  Now I can deal with situations with mindfulness and know my true intentions from random thoughts.

Extended Out To You by Carolina Avalos

Q:  What has changed about your art since leaving art education?

A:  I read a lot spend much time outside observing, writing, and exploring people’s behavior.  I meditate and realize that I’m not this outside person, I’m a soul.  So I concentrate on getting to know myself better.  Been doing that for the past two years.  You can say my art has grown with me and I am not attached to making art just about me.

Q:  What types of societal divisions are you exploring?

A:  Classicism, racism, prejudice.  The same ones that have existed for years and add to our own duality, or separation, within our soul.  [I want to show people that] there’s no limit to what you can do.  We’re not the carnal superficial being.  We’re more than that.

Q:  Why is art important?

A:  Because it it’s a tool we can communicate with and describe what is external and internal.  It is an internal expression of the external, or vice versa, to bring about change.  With positive intention can bring about awareness.

Q:  In the last two months, what have you seen or had an experience of that makes you think your are justified in how you see the world?

A:  Synchronicity .  My grandfathers passing and my sister’s pregnancy.  Everything happens for a reason.

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What are you looking for in an art/science organization? What information or services would you like to see, that no one is providing?

Give us your input here, or join the conversation on Facebook.

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Post by Minna Krejci

Ok, ok.  So we’ve talked about art and science, we’ve talked about Chicago, we’ve talked about art and science in Chicago… but what have we missed?

Try googling “art and science and Chicago”.  What do you get?  A hair salon!

I guess it’s not terribly surprising, and I won’t deny that it’s clever marketing.  There is a measure of comfort you get from knowing that there’s some science behind your cosmetic and health products or services.  Science provides the impression of consistency, or a certain standard — somewhere along the line, a guy with glasses and a white coat marked his approval on a clipboard.  (Or something like that… I’m certainly not one to try to perpetuate the white-coat scientific stereotype.)  So combining science and art in the cosmetic world makes sense, since you most likely don’t want to be a walking art project, all the time.  Unless of course you’re Lady Gaga:

In terms of cosmetics, we all want to buy stuff that will work, make us more attractive, etc.  Because nothing will really work the way we want it to (as hard as we try, those wrinkles probably aren’t going anywhere any time soon), we rarely find that perfect solution that we stick with forever.  Instead, we’re always looking for new products with convincing claims, and shelling out more money than we should for them.  In doing this, we’re forcing cosmetics companies to keep developing new technologies and innovations, and we’re funding those efforts as long as we keep buying.

And how do we know that these products will work?  Someone gives us proof!  We’re all seen this before:

THIS PRODUCT IS PROVEN TO GIVE YOU X% MORE ___ (shine/volume/moisture/dryness/firmness/smoothness/workability/health/strength/curl/straightness/length)
AND TO REDUCE ___ (shine/volume/moisture/dryness/frizz/flatness/brittleness/stickiness/wrinkles/grease/cracking/wetness/redness)
BY Y%!

All right, I’m convinced!  I’ll buy it, and so will millions of others.  Does it matter that we don’t know exactly what studies were done to “prove” to us that this product will work, or precisely what “more volume” for my hair actually means?  Is each individual hair getting bigger?  Or maybe the distance between the hairs:

Problems with flyaway hair? (via http://www.phys.virginia.edu/Education)

We don’t seem to mind that the “science” of the cosmetics industry can seem a bit fuzzy at times, thanks to something called confirmation bias.  We want to know that the product works and we’ll favor information that “proves” that it works, while often ignoring evidence that says the opposite.

Just out of curiosity, I looked up the FDA requirements for cosmetic products.  I was kind of surprised to see that the FDA doesn’t have authority to approve cosmetics before they go on the market, with the exception of color additives.  FDA regulations just prohibit the marketing of adulterated products (that are somehow poisonous, injurious, decomposing, unsanitary, etc.) or misbranded products (that have improper packaging or labeling that is misleading or missing required information).  Interestingly, no one is really double-checking cosmetic science “claims” about how their products work — or their safety, for that matter.

There does seem to be a wealth of information out there about the science of personal care products.  For example, check out the websites for some of the prominent brands, like Pantene, which has a whole section devoted to science: “Our hair scientists shed light on the breakthroughs and debunk the myths surrounding your hair.”  This is actually a great idea, as long as the science that is presented is held to the proper standards (e.g. peer-reviewed, placebo-controlled, double-blind, etc.)  From my quick browsing through the Pantene site, it seemed that there may be a mix of both.

Now that I’ve gone completely off topic, let’s go back to Art+Science Salons and check out their website.

On the first page: “Our team of talented professionals blend art and science to create the ultimate look for you.”  Ok, that’s a good start!  Unfortunately, I didn’t find any additional direct references to science.  Art+Science does appear to stress the importance of advanced education and training for their stylists, in addition to keeping their clients “well-informed of product choices, home maintenance, and overall hair, scalp and skin health”.  Fair enough, but this doesn’t sound too much different than any other salon I’ve been to in a similar price range.

Art+Science Salons may not have an obvious science connection, but they bring me to another point: the term “salon” can refer to more than a hairdressers’ shop.  According to Wikipedia: “A salon is a gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine taste and increase the knowledge of the participants through conversation.”  Maybe we should hold our own “art and science salon” and show how it’s done!  Who’s in?

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Paraweekly Link Round-Up

Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve discovered some fun new resources. The Public Art in Chicago blog focuses on our city’s local sculpture, with side trips into all the other art you can see without going inside. Wunderkammer is a journal of art inspired by the environment.

Somehow we missed this when it first came out: the Brainbow neuron-staining technique is gorgeous and useful. Also gorgeous and useful: advanced 3D printers that produce artificial insect wings. And finally, on this week’s topic of museums and conservation, remarkable conservation work on a dress made with 1000 beetle wings.

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Join us for in-depth discussions next week on Museums and Conserving the Past.

The Oriental Institute Museum at the University of Chicago is a world-renowned showcase for the history, art, and archaeology of the ancient Near East.

Dr. Emily Teeter joins MASI on Monday to discuss her role in re-imagining how our ancient ancestors lived, worked, and socialized and the teamwork that goes into creating a museum exhibit.  She will also speak about the roles of art and science  in ancient Egypt.

Alison Whyte will provide her insights on working with faculty and staff to produce a museum exhibit, and what types of conservation techniques the museum is using.

Emily Teeter

Emily Teeter is an Egyptologist and Research Associate at the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago. She received a Ph.D. in Egyptology from the University of Chicago in 1990. Her area of specialization includes the history and religion of second millennium B.C. Egypt with emphasis upon popular religion and cult ritual. She has participated in expeditions at Giza, Luxor and Alexandria.

Emily Teeter. Egyptologist and Research Associate - Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago.

Emily is the author of a wide range of scholarly and popular articles and has served as a consultant for permanent installations of ancient Egyptian art at the Oriental Institute, the Seattle Art Museum and the Art Institute of Chicago.  She has been a consultant for numerous television and productions and multi-media projects.  She also services as the ARCE Chicago Advisor and OI Representative.

Alison Whyte

Alison Whyte holds a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of British Columbia, a M.A. in Ancient Studies from the University of Toronto, and a M.A. in Art Conservation from Queen’s University.  Alison is a Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation and works as an objects conservator at the Oriental Institute Museum where she specializes in the preservation of archaeological material from the ancient Near East.

Alison Whyte, Art Conservator for the Oriental Institute Museum. Photo courtesy of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago

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Post by Vijayalakshmi Kalyanaraman

We started this week with a tour of public art in Chicago.  It’s easy enough to find art, walking along the city streets, but what about science?  Often the combination is what draws people in.

Above, Buckminster Fuller poses with students in his geodesic dome at Chicago’s Institute of Design.  You can find a similar structure on the museum campus, just past the Field Museum, in a very science-influenced playground.  The C60 molecule shares the shape of Fuller’s dome, and is often called a Buckminister Fullerene or Buckyball. So children playing around on an odd-shaped jungle gym are also getting a feel for chemistry and design.

The Sears (now Willis) Tower is the second tallest building in the world! Architecture is a form of art that depends heavily on physics, and more so with such a large and impressive structure.  But the tower is perhaps best appreciated from inside, through the view from the top.  Science contributes to this as well.  A pilot project on the 56th floor will replace the windows with a special type of transparent photovoltaic glass. Their diffused light will increase the building’s energy efficiency, at the same time providing a clearer view out. The whole floor will be powered by solar generated electricity from the windows. How cool is that?

There are also many projects around the city that deliberately combine art and science. For example, in recent years, the Art Institute of Chicago has been working with Northwestern University to explore and conserve art through science.

Where else do art and science meet in the city?  What are your favorite examples?


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