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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Sciene meets art for "Soil Blind" installation

By Alex Zaragoza

Dirt plays a vital role in Barrio Logan sculpture

“Soil Blind” by Jeremy Gercke, Jonathan Austin and David Lipson
Walk into any gallery or museum with a clump of dirt in your hands, and you’ll likely be escorted out of the premises within minutes. Art and dirt don’t mix. That is, unless the dirt is a central part of the art on view.
Such is the case with “Soil Blind,” a sculptural installation at Woodbury School of Architecture in Barrio Logan. Dirt is a fundamental part of the piece, created by artist Jeremy Gercke, landscape architect Jonathan Austin and scientist David Lipson.
The sculpture features more than 100 cone-shaped clay modules hanging from cables suspended from a steel frame. Each unique module is filled with various types of soil and nutrient-rich composts found in gutters throughout Barrio Logan.
The piece is more than visual art, however; it’s also a scientific experiment. With “Soil Blind,” Gercke, Austin and Lipson created an environment ripe for germination and natural activity.
“It’s been an education for me,” Gercke says. “I always wanted to make artwork that isn’t necessarily something to be looked at. It is part of an environment, a site-specific piece that relates to the area.”

The installation was made possible by a grant from DNA of Creativity, through the  organization the San Diego Visual Arts Network that provides funding for projects that merge art and science. The grant went to a project called Urban Succession, which aimed to preserve and provide wildlife habitat in urban areas.
Gercke, Austin and Lipson are friendly with members of Urban Secession, and after a series of talks, the organization decided to get behind “Soil Blind” as a bit of a different part of the project.
“The idea of making a home for raccoons or possums didn’t resonate with us,” Gercke says. “These animals are going to go wherever they want. So we looked at the larger picture and thought about what activates the animals.”
“My compost in my backyard is the most active place in my house,” he adds. “Bugs, birds—they all hang out. We felt they needed environments the most.”
The crew set out to collect soil specimens for their installation. Lipson, a professor of soil biology at San Diego State University, ran tests on the dirt collected. He was surprised when one soil sample came back positive for E. coli.
“It’s part of our hope that this project is fruitful,” Austin says. “It can start a dialogue about these issues, like soil, Barrio Logan and the city in general—how the city is producing soil through unnatural processes.”
Since its installation in mid-February, the piece has been aflutter with activity: Plants are sprouting, spiders are spinning webs and birds often snack on bugs hanging from the sculpture. This is exactly what the team had hoped for.
“Soil Blind” can be viewed from the corner of Sampson and Main streets.

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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Art meets Engineering by Lonnie Burstein Hewitt

Art meets engineering in new exhibitions at UCSD
By Lonnie Burstein Hewitt
An engineering building may seem an odd venue for art exhibitions, until you realize that UC San Diego’s Structural and Materials Engineering Building (SME) is affectionately called “Bauhaus West.”
The Bauhaus was a German school that flourished in the 1920s, combining art and technology and setting the course for modernist architecture and design. That collaborative spirit is now in evidence at SME, where art studios, galleries and performance spaces co- exist with engineering research labs, and a new faculty exhibit, “Corpus,” which shows off some of the intriguing possibilities that can occur when art and science intersect.
Most eye-catching is VisArts professor emeritus Eleanor Antin’s large-scale 2008 video installation “Classical Frieze,” a behind-the-scenes look at Antin’s restaging of ancient Rome in modern- day La Jolla that combines a Fellini-esque use of color and costume with chuckle- worthy anachronisms.
But other pieces are equally attention-grabbing, if you stop to examine them — especially the work of Maurizio Seracini, adjunct professor of structural engineering at UCSD and director of the Center of Interdisciplinary Science for Art, Architecture and Archeology in Florence. Seracini uses a copy of a painting by Leonardo da Vinci to demonstrate an amazing application he has in development, which allows viewers to discover what lies underneath an antique work of art.
By zooming in on a section of the painting on an iPad, and rubbing the pad gently with your finger, there’s a magical reveal of beautifully-drawn faces that Leonardo decided to cover over, faces that have been unseen for centuries.
“It is like magic,” Seracini said at the exhibit’s Feb. 21 opening. “There is magic in any work of art, and we want to take back that magic, so that viewers will be not just passive, but curious and excited by what they see.”
For developing the app itself, Seracini credits grad student David Vanoni, on his way to a Ph.D. in Engineering Studies for Cultural Heritage.
“You won’t find a university department like this anywhere else in the world,” Seracini said. “We’re creating human beings, not specialists; we’re training engineers to work with works of art. Now people will be able to interact with artworks, and make their own discoveries.”
By the end of the year, they hope to present the app to the city of Florence. And you can say you saw it first at SME.
Other notable pieces: A small but attractive depiction of the fighting power of neutrophils (aka white blood cells, dyed red for better visibility) by Klaus Ley, head of the Division of Inflammation of La Jolla Institute of Allergy & Immunology. And the dance photos and videos of Babette Mangolte.
“Corpus” is an insightful and delightful body of work in SME’s first floor gallery, and there’s more to see on the fourth floor — “The Practice Series,” a student group show in Room 406.For even more art and a chance to interact with the next generation of artists, don’t miss Open Studio Day at the Visual Arts Facility, a stone’s throw from SME, on March 9, and be sure to visit the gallery there for “Metaphysics,” a nine-channel video installation by Adrienne Garbini.
If you go
■ What: ‘Corpus,’ on view through May 17
■ Where: Structural and Materials Engineering Building, UC San Diego, Voight Drive and Matthews Lane
■ Gallery Hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday-Friday; closed March 16-April 1
■ Open Studio Day: 3-8 p.m. Saturday, March 9, Visual Arts Facility, UC San Diego, Russell Lane, next to Gilman parking structure, visit studios of 37 grad student artists, 5-6 p.m. social hour/refreshments, 6-8 p.m. performances/screenings. Free weekend parking.
■ Contact: VisArts Chair Jordan Crandall, (858) 534-0418
Lonnie Hewitt
Author/Arts & Lifestyle Writer

Monday, March 4, 2013

His 3 cents on Cancer

My 3 Cents 0n Cancer: Jack Andraka at TEDxSanJoseCAWomen

Terrific story sent to me by Naimeh Tahna about the creative solutions possible in our future. 

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