The exhibit of works combining art and biology currently on view in the first floor of Wallenberg Hall (Gallery 160 – usually devoted to the “Your Art Here” program) provides an enticing taste of a new senior capstone experience offered by the Biology Department and compelling evidence that that tech / fuzzy distinction is, well, fuzzy. The Senior Reflection is a new program that enables science majors to pursue a “highly personalized creative project centered on any aspect of biology or the life sciences” (informational flyer). Projects can take the form of personal essays, works of creative nonfiction, musical compositions, photography, multimedia projects, or, it seems, just about anything else you can dream up.
The Senior Reflection show in the Wallenberg 160 Gallery showcases visual art projects as well as a few creative writing projects. All are well worth a serious look.
Two touch on issues pertaining to sustainability.
Julie Campbell’s “Frankenfoods” is a series of watercolors exploring the prominence of genetically modified foods from rice to tomatoes. Campbell’s watercolors are humorous mash-ups that visually exaggerate the genetic modifications. For example the watercolor of an orange shows it being squeezed and producing a pool of orange juice in which goldfish swim. The wall text explains that there is a variety of orange more resistant to freezing that incorporates a protein originally found in the blood of a deeps-sea fish.
Jeannette Lok’s “Fragments” explores the uncertain and fear-laden relationship between mountain lions and humans, particularly in largely urban and suburban Bay Area. Despite the millions of people, cars, and buildings, mountain lions survive in the hills and are regularly sighted on the Stanford campus and even in downtown Palo Alto. Lok has created a series of paintings that illustrate how mountain lions exist amidst landscape where they would seem to have no place. Mountain lions appear as road kill, hidden in the underbrush, as territories on maps, and only once in plain view.
The Senior Reflection program is directed by Susan McConnell a biology professor and Andrew Todhunter, an accomplished nonfiction environmental writer. The Senior Reflection website offers the following additional details:
“The Senior Reflection is a three-quarter series of courses in the Biology Department. BIO 196 meets in a small workshop format for 2 hours once a week, in addition to optional out-of-class gatherings. During the fall quarter (BIO 196A), students bond, brainstorm, explore various media, and develop a proposal for a specific project. They also identify appropriate faculty mentors both within Biology and in other departments to support their projects’ creative components. In winter quarter (196B), students focus on the creative execution of their projects. In the spring quarter (196C), projects are polished and prepared for public exhibition.”
I know that I will be on the look out for next year’s compelling crop of projects.
Mark Feldman is a co-director of SUSS and a lecturer in PWR. He’s particularly interested in environmental aesthetics – more particularly the role that art can play in letting us more fully see environmental problems and imagine or enact solutions. This post is part of an irregular series on art and ecology.