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by Diane Calder

Nancy Macko, “Quintessence:
New Constellations” (detail),
mixed media, 60 x 168”, 2000.
"Invention is not the product of logical thought."
--Albert Einstein

"Organized perception is what art is all about."
--Roy Lichtenstein

(Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery, Scripps College, East Los Angeles County) Since ancient times, when the Greek goddess Techne served as the inspiration for science as well as for art, individuals willing to look at the bigger picture have acknowledged some degree of mutuality in these seemingly disparate fields. The Greek verb, tikein (to create), and the word "technique" are both derivations of Techne's name. As techniques are employed to make mechanical instruments such as telescopes and microscopes more sophisticated, our range of vision into worlds previously unimagined is extended, opening opportunities for creative artists and scientists to interact.

These sorts of interactions and the focus of In the Minds Sky: Intersections of Art and Science. Curator Mary Davis MacNaughton’s discerning catalogue essay investigates the fusing of inspiration and intellect that probes the fundamental structure of nature, alters views of space and time and formulates new visions of the world. The exhibition presents the work of six artists who take their points of departure from scientific phenomena at extreme scales--from the cosmic to the sub-atomic.

The surfaces of Nancy Macko's fourteen-foot long birchwood panels give birth to iridescent layers of meaning in Quintessence: New Constellations. Macko integrates her considerable skills as a painter, digital and graphic artist, as well as interpreter of feminist figuration into the creation of new galaxies filled with life giving, memory-bearing imagery. Constellations of winged beings light the way to free floating forms that suggest ancient ladder climbers searching out honeycombs, or tethered astronauts inhabiting Macko's vision of an egalitarian future.

Carol Saindon marks the entry to her dark-walled installation with the phrase, "Because Distance is Impossible to Perceive." Velvety charcoal and white chalk drawings of clusters of stars, inspired by satellite photographs, float on the black walls, suggesting a complexity of time and space. Saindon's vehicle for bridging ancient cultures and distant galaxies is a transparent glass boat projecting the sounds and undulating images of distant oceans as it rides a spiraling swirl of glistening fragmented glass.

Dennis Ashbaugh, "WYSIWYG",
mixed media on canvas,
114 x 114", 1991-2.

Susan Rankaitis/Dr. David Somers,
"Brain 2020 #2," mixed media,
20 x 20", 2000. Photo courtesy
Robert Mann Gallery, New York.

Claire Browne's modestly scaled, intuitive pencil drawings on canvas composed of patterns of circles, conjure images of expanding particles that could be cells or constellations. In direct opposition to Browne's subjective, repetitive surfaces are the large scale oil images painted by British artist Mark Francis. These masterfully rendered works pair groupings of dull surfaced black dots that hover above painterly blurred strokes, dancing across sensuously alluring surfaces. The dots resemble viruses, keys to life and death. They allude to the boundaries crossed by Francis in his search for similarities between viral decoding and the modernist grid.

The layered stains that float through Dennis Ashbaugh's two huge, color-drenched canvases are inspired by the most cardinal of human identifiers, DNA sequencing. Ashbaugh's gene sequence portraits reflect his fascination with a culture obsessed with science and technology. The less structured of the two works, Montecito Micropore, discloses a red field whose cracked surfaces contain iron filings, holding within it a suggestion of the possibilities and threats inherent in genome experimentation.

Recent advances position brain research on the brink of mind boggling revelations. This fact inspired an explorative collaboration between Susan Rankaitis and Dr. David Somers. Rankaitis, an esteemed artist/photographer who deftly seeds fragments of scientific imagery and codes throughout her layered, collage-like surfaces has found her reverse equivalent in Somers, a neuroscientist who studies brain processes with MRI imaging. Together they have fabricated a prototype for a learning lab inside curved grey walls fourteen feet in diameter. They trust the viewer to enter this waiting room and collaborate in the construction of meanings from the hundreds of 5 by 7 inch images that Rankaitis and Somers have fabricated. Manipulated MRI images inform schemes of brain mapping; suggested correlations between various parts of the body and mind mix with images influenced by mass media. Art and science indeed intersect.