Visitors look at the installations that combine art and science in the "STEAM2017" exhibit, which will be on display in The Art Gallery at the University of West Florida until March 11.
The exhibit is the centerpiece of a program that is also called STEAM2017. It’s a five-week presentation of lectures, workshops and talks with artists and scientists. Activities explore how art can be added to the disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math to examine issues related to water and the preservation of a clean environment.
“It’s exciting seeing art and science come together,” said Claudia O’Steen. “I’m always looking outside the field of art.”
O’Steen is a postdoctoral teaching fellow in the art department at UWF, and one of her sculptures, “Physical Geography of the Sea,” is on display at the “STEAM2017” exhibit. The piece documents an expedition that moves from Pensacola to the island where Arctic explorer S.A. Andree built his balloon house during an 1897 expedition and then to the pack ice just 9 degrees away from the North Pole.
O’Steen and a colleague from the Rhode Island School of Design, Aly Ogasian, went on the journey during the summer of 2016.
On display as part of “Physical Geography of the Sea” are water samples from different locations along the route as well as rocks that O’Steen and Ogasian collected during the trip.
A three-minute video that runs on a loop is also part of the “Physical Geography of the Sea” installation. It features text from O’Steen and Ogasian’s personal expedition journals alongside entries from Andree’s journals. At the beginning and end of the video, there are excerpts from the journals of Matthew Fontaine Maury, the father of modern oceanography.
“I have a rich idea about what research is,” O’Steen said. “With this piece we focus on the idea of exploration and the idea that because of the Gulf Stream what we do in the environment can have a great impact on another part of the world. Seemingly disparate places are actually very connected.”
The interactive nature of O’Steen’s work is typical of many of the works in the “STEAM2017” show.
“Visitors to this exhibit can push a button, scroll with a mouse or maneuver a website,” said Nicholas Croghan, director of The Art Gallery.
Jiayi Young, professor of design at the University of California, Davis, and her husband, Shih-Wen Young who is a professor of astronomy and physics at American River College in Sacramento, California, also exhibit an interactive presentation called “Dance of a Tiger.”
Consisting of an eight-channel soundscape and a panoramic projection, the Youngs’ installation maps migration tracks of Bluefin tuna in the context of sea surface temperature changes and fishing vessel routes in the Pacific Ocean.
“The main goal is to communicate the urgency of the problem of overfishing,” Jiayi Young said.
The theme of stewardship runs strong through “STEAM2017” installations and artwork.
“By focusing on ecological and environmental issues and awareness, we create a more meaningful experience,” Croghan said.
Croghan also said the idea that art and science are connected is heavily emphasized throughout the show.
“Both disciplines have a sense of wonder and curiosity about them,” he said.
Croghan went on to paraphrase Buckminster Fuller, a 20th century architect, author, designer and inventor, to make his point about the connection between art and science.
“Both artists and scientists make observations and collect data and share the results with the public,” Croghan said.
The Art Gallery is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Saturday from noon-4 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, call 850.474.2696.
For a schedule of the free artist lectures and workshops that will take place throughout the duration of the exhibition at locations including the UWF campus as well as Artel Gallery and First City Art Center, both in downtown Pensacola, visit uwf.edu/steam2017.