Accelerator exhibit blends art and science

Lindsay Olson, the resident artist at Fermilab, explains her artwork to guests at a reception held in the Accelerator Art Space on Tuesday, March 7. Photo by Lauren Vana

Cole Sheeks, Sports Editor

March 7 marked the opening of EC’s latest art exhibition, The Elegant Universe: Art and Science presented by Lindsay Olson in the Barbara A. Kieft Accelerator Artspace.

The exhibit is a blend of both art and science that offers EC students a unique opportunity to learn about these diverse topics in a single location. Olson displays work inspired by her time spent as a visiting artist at the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District as well as her experiences as the first resident artist of the Fermilab research facility.

The featured art connects the unlikely pairing of textile artwork and particle physics, bringing them into one room in order to provide a greater appreciation of both.

“High energy physics can be kind of off putting for some people. It is a difficult, complex subject and using textiles is a way to invite people in,” said Olson.

There are additional mediums on display within the exhibit; however, Olson prefers the textile art form for a variety of reasons.

As Olson puts it, “Textiles are important to me because everybody wears textiles. I often use textiles because it shrinks the distance between the viewer and the art.”

The connection between art and science is not easy to master and it takes a great deal of research in order to create a scientifically sound work of art. Olson mentioned that she spent roughly a year and a half learning all of the science behind her creations.

In addition to researching the scientific background to her work, Olson also commits herself to studying art history as she travels to different art museums and libraries in search of inspiration.

“I went to the Martin Bodmer to look at illuminated manuscripts. [and] to the Newberry Library to study illuminated manuscripts and to the Art Institute,” said Olson. “I have been doing a lot of experimenting with materials and trying to figure out the best way to communicate the science using my whole art tool kit.”

When asked if she had one work that she took the most pride in Olson had a tough time picking a single piece, but she did acknowledge a few that she felt a particular sense of pride in. One such piece was a series of paintings depicting a particle beam as it felt the pull of magnetic force holding it together.

“I love this wet-on-wet ink technique with this piece about accelerator science, because it really tries to express the powerful magnetic forces on the particles that steer it around the ring,” said Olson. “The wet-on-wet ink really has a lot of drama and expresses the energy behind the particular engineering piece of the process.”

The Elegant Universe: Art and Science can be found on campus within the Barbara A. Kieft Accelerator Artspace and will on display until April 18.