Peruvian, Moche;Detail from Rattle-based cup in form of owl
Burnished gray ceramic, ca. 550-700 CE
Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. James F. Mathias (Barbara V. Lord, Class of 1934)

Transcending Boundaries

Apr 02, 2013 by Jane Gronau

Guest post by Natalie Kulikowski, Research Assistant

“So much of both art and science tries to take the complexity of the world and represent it two-dimensionally,” said Mark Peterson, Professor of Physics and Mathematics, at the first of a 3-part series of interdisciplinary talks that began last week at the Art Museum.  Joined by Professor of Asian Studies Indira V. Peterson—yes, the two are married—the Petersons, with their inherently interdisciplinary backgrounds, are an especially fitting team to kick off a lecture series that illuminates the intersections of science and art.


Left to right: Ashley Kosa '15, Indira V. Peterson, and Mark Peterson

Titled “Transcending Boundaries,” the series grew from a student-driven initiative coordinated by Ashley Kosa ’15, art history major and co-chair of the Museum’s student group The Society of Art Goddesses. The talks, delivered by MHC faculty, will focus on works of art in the Museum’s collection and the many lenses through which we can begin to appreciate them across different disciplines.


Professor Indira V. Peterson recounts the history of India's astronomical observatories. 

Last week, the Professors Peterson co-delivered a lecture titled "The Art of Indian and Islamic Astrolabes and Sighting Instruments" in which Mark explained their role as astronomical instruments while Indira described their cultural and historical context, from their depiction in a 17th Indian painting to their monolithic cousins still standing at the Jantar Mantar observatory complex in Delhi.


Professor Mark Peterson lectures about  Islamic astrolabes from the Museum's collection

We hope you’ll join us for the rest!

Upcoming Events:

Wednesday, April 3rd at 4:30 p.m.
"Using Light to Investigate Paintings"
Maria A. Gomez, Associate Professor of Chemistry
RSVP required

Monday, April 15th at 4:30 p.m.
"Art and Science in Giambattista Nolli's Great Plan of Rome (1748)"
Jessica Maier, Assistant Professor of Art History

Brave New Perspectives: This World Through the Lens of New Media Art

Apr 01, 2013 by Jane Gronau

Guest post by Natalie Kulikowski, Research Assistant                                                            

There’s something very new at the MHCAM this spring: a student-organized exhibition of digital art. Featuring works by four international artists, Brave New Perspectives: This World Through the Lens of New Media Art is the Museum’s first foray into digital media, coordinated by Maureen Millmore ’13. The works -- which are linked by their concern with modern technology’s relationship to nature and humanity--are borrowed from the artists via Streaming Museum, an institution devoted to digital media that, according to its website, exists “in cyberspace and public space on seven continents”. Millmore’s thoughtful curatorial choices are partly inspired by Aldous Huxley’s dystopic novel Brave New World and its themes, including advances in genetics and reproduction, the impacts of news, global data, and social media, and the effects of global warming on all residents of our planet.

In keeping with the digital theme, an iPad provides a virtual guestbook, offering visitors a place to log their comments and reactions in a dialogue with the layered questions posed by the exhibition: What do you think? What is your response to these works, and how do these artists’ views of the world compare to your own?

The reel begins with a piece by UAE-based artist Janet Bellotto. In Nile Blue, a digital animation of a nautilus shell in cross-section shows each inner compartment inhabited by a different endangered animal--a trumpeting elephant, a strutting egret--while ocean waves ebb against the shell’s aperture. 

Janet Bellotto (Canada/Dubai). Nile Blue, 2010. Digital video, color sound. On loan from the artist.

Within their niches, this collection of animals resembles a curio cabinet of disappearing species, or an encapsulating mini-Earth, a fractal in itself. Bellotto’s deliberate use of the nautilus, and the naturally-occurring golden mathematical ratio it epitomizes, is a further comment on the uncertain future of Earth’s ecosystems, a delicate balance jeopardized by global warming. 

French artist Maurice Benayoun’s piece, Emotion Forecast, draws real-time linguistic data from international websites to forecast the worldwide “emotional climate” in a nod to the stock ticker, likening the Internet to a digital nervous system that projects trends in global feelings. As adjectives and point values scroll across the screen, the viewer sees that some cities are having a better day than others, but the forecast (Happy: +3.1) looks bright.

American software artist Scott Draves muses, Do androids dream of electric sheep? His underlying answer drives the hypnotic renderings in Generation 244. Derived from an algorithm shared with an international network of 450,000 computers, Draves’s spectacular “sheep” are produced when any computer in the network enters sleep mode, evoking haunting images the recall cosmic phenomena and deep-sea life forms in psychedelic colors.

The theme of technological anthropomorphism reaches its height in Hi, A Real Human Interface presented by the Spanish collaborative Multitouch Barcelona. Hi, also short for Human Interface, is an unlikely butler of sorts who resides within a larger-than-life computer, turning the cranks to physically drive the computer’s operations per the user’s instructions. However, Hi’s comic portrayal of how computers might react to their daily tasks reminds the viewer that our personal computers are much less personal—and personable—in reality. 

Scott Draves (American). Generation 244, 2011. Infinite animation made with collective internet intelligence, mathematics, and Darwinian evolution. On loan from the artist.