Science and art collided at last weekend's Art of Planetary Science Exhibit

Science is an art, and art is a science. These seemingly contradictory ways of exploring humanity’s place in the world found common ground last weekend when the UA Lunar and Planetary Laboratory hosted the third annual “Art of Planetary Science” exhibition.

In front of the Kuiper Space Sciences building, where the gallery was housed, sat a star-speckled black chalk board about 5 feet high, prompting in white bold letters, “When I look at the sky…” Attendees were invited to share what about space inspired them.

Answers included: “Eternity,” “I feel at one with my astrological sign,” “The Death Star!,” “I can look at the past” and “SPAAACEE!!”

About 250 pieces filled three full stories of the bright atrium of the Kuiper Building. Hannah Pasternak, a junior studying family studies and human development, said she admired the variety of artwork, which included amateur work displayed beside professional pieces. Submission included oil, acrylic, digital renderings, photography, sculpture and interactive art.

One activity invited children to color in small, lined paper tiles. Tiles were identified by number and placed according to that number on a poster board. When the board was filled with paper tiles, the mosaic revealed a colorful representation of “plate flexure equation, which describes how the Earth’s crust bends under the weight of mountains,” according to Molaro.

Photography and astronomy student Jennifer Vezilj said her favorite part of the exhibition was listening to the sounds of Jupiter. Radio signals from celestial bodies were converted into pitches the human ear can detect with headphones and a tablet. The sound is eerie but captivating.

“It sounds like the ocean, but then you hear a strong gust of wind or something,” Vezilj said. “It’s beautiful.”

Exhibition attendee Miriam Zirato said she found a connection with the gallery.

“I’m not dogmatic in any form, but I think that science is religion, and it’s beautiful and it’s art,” she said. “They’re the same to me.”

The free, three-day event attracted 730 curious people who wanted to explore science from a different point of view, according to Jamie Molaro, a planetary sciences graduate student and organizational head of the event.

“I think that the reason why it appeals to people ultimately, and sort of the reason why we wanted to do it in the first place is that, … as scientists, we see what we do as being beautiful, but looking at a plot looks really different to somebody else. … They don’t see the meaning or the context in there,” Molaro said. “We wanted to find a way to show that to people in a way that wasn’t scary or that seemed accessible.”

Sarah Ukiah Hoy, a senior studying art and visual culture education who helped contribute interactive artwork with her classmates, said in an email that events like these strengthen communities.

“The College of Art is truly excited about this relationship and hopes to create a bond that promotes a sustaining relationship between Art and Science within the community,” she said.


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