On Art & Science
Equal and not so Separate?
Art and Science, the essence of C.P. Snow's "Two Cultures," are often considered to be opposite extremes, with little in common, hardly any communication, and sometimes antagonism. But there is a growing movement among artists not to just use the latest technology (lasers, computer painting, etc.) but to illustrate scientific principles in their art. And scientists make images of the world at scales from the atomic to the cosmic; some of these images are not just conceptually fascinating but visually stunning. We solicited both sorts of works from faculty, staff, and students at CU and its affiliates.
To our surprise we received images about which we still can't decide: Art? Science? Both at the same time?
For example: Look again at Carlyne Cool and Jane Parr's image "Plexiform Pulmonary Artery." It is a photomicrograph, enlarged 200 times, of a thin section of a human lung specimen, from a person with pulmonary hypertension. This disease is probably congenital, and involves the excessive growth of the cells that line arteries in the lung, narrowing them, increasing the resistance to flow (and thus the pressure), and frequently resulting in premature death. Such specimens are the routine stuff of pathology, but this image is by no means routine, as it was done not with the standard two (red & blue) stains, but with five. It is perhaps the most striking histological image I have ever seen. Not only is the pathology very clear: the central circle is an artery almost completely blocked by overgrown cells; but the image is incredibly beautiful, both in color and composition. Compare it to a detail from Jackson Pollock's "Number 8" of 1949. For the lung image, we know what it "represents;" for the Pollock, we aren't told. Does that make a difference? Science imitates art. —jjc
This page will soon contain more essays and thoughts on this subject, and links to interesting sites elsewhere.