Archive for the Art Category

Artist or Ape

Posted in Art with tags on February 9, 2008 by Mike Procario

I saw this quiz on Andrew Sullivan’s blog. He got 83% correct. I got 100%, and I don’t even like Jackson Pollack. The quiz asks you identify whether pictures were painted by a famous artist or an ape.

Quote of the Day

Posted in Art, Books, physics on August 12, 2007 by Mike Procario

“Across the campus trees broke out in absurd petaled profusion. Life returned to life, sporting a spin, strangeness, and charm that Spiegel had never suspected.”

Richard Powers, Plowing the Dark

Richard Powers writes literary fiction. He tackles hard subjects and his writing is dense with allusions. He frequently writes about the intersection of art and science, which is definitely true of this book. A physicist would recognize the spin, strangeness, and charm int he quote are quantum numbers of elementary particles. I wonder how readers will pick that up. What does that sentence convey to non-physicists.

Abstract Art

Posted in Art on April 17, 2006 by Mike Procario

I was flipping channels the other day, and I stopped on the local community college's channel. An art historian was giving a lecture. Normally, I would not be interested in that sort of lecture, but Kristen at has been giving science geeks remedial lessons in art. Her interest and experience in physics gives me confidence that art can be something both interesting and comprehensible to me.

The lecture was on how Mondrian and Kadinsky developed their abstract styles. In both cases early paintings were shown which were representational although impressionistic, such as Mondrian's The Red Tree. The lecturer than showed that they went trough steps where the image became more an more abstract. The Grey Tree shows a branching form that resembles a tree. This step looks to me like a process of abstraction that is familiar to physicists. Eventually Mondrian ended up with paintings that were purely geometric, and I am not sure if this is the result of refining an abstraction in the sense that I am familiar with or some other process. However recognizing the idea of abstraction in art might be the same as in physics was intriguing to me.

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Physics and the Arts

Posted in Art, Science on March 6, 2006 by Mike Procario

Most people do not think of science and the arts mixing much, but I have been getting many lessons lately from Kristin at So I was primed to appreciate the story on sculpture inspired by science in the latest issue of Symmetry magazine. The sculptures reminded me of the sculptures by Robert Wilson who was the first director of Fermilab. The lab has a variety of sculptures on the grounds done by Wilson himself, and the architecture was also influenced by Wilson's artistic side. The control room of the proton experimental area is described as

A stylized black pagoda sitting on legs twenty-six feet tall identifies the Proton Laboratory. A yellow spiral staircase, representing the double helix strand of the DNA molecule, leads from the ground to the second level.

I worked in that area back in 1978, and it was quite striking.

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