Judith Ann Moriarty
The Little Eye

TINY art at MIAD

By - Jan 21st, 2011 04:00 am
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“Human Embryonic Stem Cells,” Melanie Ivancic, Joseph Kim and Laura Kiessling, Dept. of Biochemistry

When I was a mere teen, my pathologist dad began using one of the early electron microscopes to “read” his slides. He remarked back then that it “opened a whole new world” — and so does TINY: Art from Microscopes at UW-Madison, a smartly-presented exhibition sponsored by Madison’s Tandem Press. You can behold the results of visual art melded with science at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design at the show’s opening reception this evening as part of Winter Gallery Night.

The 30 models and images, most of which were collected using modern light microscopy and/or X-ray crystallography with associated digital imaging systems, possess “great beauty as a bonus,” or so says Tandem. If “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” this is a feast for orbs everywhere. You may exit the exhibition thinking that BIG, when compared to TINY, is of no consequence but perhaps not, for adjacent to the world of Tiny is a world blown bigger by far.

Leave it to the Italians to light the way: Galileo used his compound telescope (he called it his “occhilino,” i.e.“little eye”) to explore the vast heavens; Michelangelo combined art and science by studying anatomy, penning poetry and designing stunning architecture. Perhaps the greatest of all was Leonardo da Vinci who engineered canal locks, cathedrals and engines of war.

The world moved on, technology bloomed, and now, if you have the equipment birthed from their intellect and curiosity, you can (through the miracle of the Internet), explore the world of tiny.

“Early Zebrafish Embryo,” Bharti Solanki and Francisco Pelegri, Dept. of Genetics

On the west wall of MIAD’s Frederick Layton Gallery, a stunning black and white scan from an electron microscope stole the show, but then again, I am partial to black and white photography.

Titled Arabidopsis Trichrone, it’s the work of Brian Downes and Richard Vierstra from UW-Madison’s department of Horticulture. Behold the distorted leaf trichomes from the humble mustard plant. Nearby are a pair of electron tomography (similar to CAT Scans) images, all done up in hot pink and turquoise, splashed through with hits of lurid green and vivid blue, a contribution from the Department of Botany.

A Zebrafish Just Before Hatching was birthed under the guidance of Yevgenya Grinblat from the Department of Zoology and Anatomy. The screaming orange central circle pulsated with life and reminded me quite a bit of a Milwaukee Art Museum painting by American abstractionist Adolph Gottlieb. Polymazing was amazing from the Biology Department; a black and white  image with tones of gray that recalled the era of Op art.

A psychedelic Fruit Fly Wing whirled me into space, and then on to the quietest piece in the gallery…a lovely arrangement of nine patterns found in adult fly wings. It would fit right in at the Charles Allis Museum.

Centering the room are three vitrines encasing charming handmade models of various bits and pieces, the perfect marriage of art and science. Fanciful in the way that Dr. Seuss is fanciful, they begged to be touched. I exited wondering at the hours and hours spent sculpting their precious parts.

In a word, TINY is terrific.

TINY: Art from Microscopes at UW-Madison opens on Jan.21 and runs through March 5, 2011 in MIAD’s Layton Gallery. For more information, click here.

0 thoughts on “The Little Eye: TINY art at MIAD”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Nice review. Can’t wait to see this one!

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