The Cabinet Project April 6th-May 15th: Artist Profile

Article by: Nina Rafeek

Further to our previous article that introduced the Cabinet Project and its founding members, a date for the project launch has been set! The multi-site project will be on display at the St. George campus from April 6th to May 15th, 2017.  Using art as a medium, the artists will reveal, emphasize and engage in the various scientific disciplines such as microbiology, geometry, mathematics, geology, physics and acoustics.  Historically, art has been integral to understanding and discovering scientific processes.  Hand-drawn pictures, diagrams and models were used to study everything from the animal cell, to the multi layered strata of ancient rocks, to billion-year old fossils.  The Cabinet Project, however, hopes to take art into a space that is beyond education.   It aims to engage with the ineffable; to create a space where one can consider and ruminate upon our connection with ecology in innovative and creative ways. The Cabinet Project will show us that science can be personal with the use of artistic creativity.

The Science and Engineering Engagement had an opportunity to interview three of the thirteen local and international artists who will be populating the cabinets with their creations.

Nicole CloustonMud (UofT)

Nicole Clouston is a practiced-based researcher and is currently completing her PhD in Visual Art at York University.  Clouston’s work can be described as “Bio-Art”, where as a Bio Artist, she uses biological matter as artistic medium.  With the use of acrylic prisms and light, her art will expose the vast array of microbial life in mud, thereby demonstrating the human connection to it.  “‘Mud (U of T)’ uses mud as a medium to explore and contemplate questions surrounding interconnectedness: “Can encounters with microbial life help us come to greater understandings of our relationship with nonhuman subjects?”, Clouston asks.

While trying to find a way to work with microbes outside of the lab, Nicole discovered the Winogradsky column in a DIY science blog.  “I was really interested in how beautiful the columns were because they challenged my assumptions about both mud and microbes”, said Clouston.  Ultimately, Clouston hopes to challenge our perception of the barriers between humans and ecology and to consider our interconnectedness with the natural world: “by acknowledging our connection to a world teeming with life both around and inside us, we may foster a stronger, more empathetic relationship between ourselves and our ecosystem as a whole”, said Clouston.

Catherine BeaudetteCoaxing Coxeter

Catherine Beaudette is a Canadian artist and Associate Professor from OCAD University.  Beaudette uses scales and repetition to communicate the harmony and patterns in the natural world.  For one project, Beaudette used sea urchin shells: “their symmetry and pattern is multiplied because you see it in each one and you realize it’s not random, it’s actually incredibly designed, you know nature is very designed”, said Beaudette.

Of her creative and artistic process, Beaudette says “I’m studying anything, I’m more of a visual artist and I’m observing things.  I know that there is a lot of natural proportion and harmony in nature so I’m kinda playing with that”.  Although rules and equations are integral to the study of math and geometry, Beaudette enjoys expressing her artistic creativity: “When you use art as your delivering mechanism, you don’t have to follow any of the rules”, said Beaudette.

Beaudette divides her time between Toronto and Bonavista Bay, Newfoundland.  She collects old objects such as artifacts, shells and rocks from natural and obscure places, like the beach, old galleries and even garbage dumps in Bonavista Ba
y.  “When you isolate [the objects] from its usual environment, it’s more interesting”, said Beaudette.  She explores and integrates disciplines from art and science such as anthropology, archeology, art history and natural history, with her collection of objects: “It is about re-presenting the world back to us through this museological perspective”, she explained.  Beaudette says that she is excited to be a part of the Cabinet Project “because it is a great opportunity to bring art and science together and people think that they should be seen so far apart”.

On the topic of blending art and science together, she said, “There’s a lot of relationships between the two, and there’s a lot of artists who think scientifically, and there’s a lot of artists who think creatively, so I like the blend”.

Stefan HerdaA New Geology

With the use of geological specimens, Herda explores notions of the human concept of time and its insignificance in comparison to geological time.   He does this by simulating natural processes within very compressed time frames using domestic and industrial materials.  “I rely on a sense wonder and aesthetic intrigue that consider how we have affected the natural world”, said Herda.

“I have been very interested in the hotly contested idea that we live in a new Geological epoch, the “Anthropocene”, a measure of distinct and often terrifying changes to the earth influenced by human impact and technological advancement”, said Herda

Herda’s interest in the collection and study of rocks started in childhood: “In my younger years, my father, brother and I would visit Bancroft, Ontario every summer for the annual “Gemboree” and scour various quarries and rock dumps for unique findings”, said Herda

His childhood curiosity and love of the collection and study of rocks is the foundation of how Herda develops his new works. “I try to keep my eyes open on walks and hikes for various interesting wood growths, stones and other objects that could catch my eye”, he explained.

Along with the rocks and other objects, Herda uses chemicals from photo-supply shops, Home Depot, Bulk Barn, and “forgotten salts in the bottom drawer of the cupboard” to form the crystalline aspect of his artwork.  “I would hope that these hand-made gestures of natural and manufactured materials reinforce the idea that our understanding of the natural world will be inevitably mutated or modified by human impact for better and for worse”, said Herda.

Also, look out for specimens from Derek York’s laboratory.  He study has led to the advancement in geological and carbon dating methods!