Art and Science Collaboration Explores Small Problems, Big Trouble

Posted on 4/1/2015 1:30:31 PM

IUP Geoscience faculty member Steve Hovan recently collaborated with Prof. Judith Waller from the University of Wisconsin at Fox Valley for “small problems, BIG TROUBLE,” a collection of paintings which explore current issues in global environments caused by very small-sized constituents. The exhibit is scheduled to open on April 11, 2015, at the Aylward Gallery on Fox Valley’s campus.

The collaboration began about a year ago after Waller exhibited a collection of paintings and drawings called “Layers: Places in Peril” at the University Museum in Sutton Hall. This exhibit grew from strong collaboration with Jim Brey, a scientist who works with the American Meteorological Society, and dealt with imagery that involves treasured landmarks and locations that face the perils of natural disasters or global climate change.

Waller continues to explore similar intersections of science and art with her new series titled “small problems, BIG TROUBLE” through extended collaboration with several scientists from various fields of study. The exhibit hopes to create awareness of subjects that are small in scale (e.g., soil, parasites, dust, viruses, micro pollutants, invasive species), yet which can pose significant threats to human life.

Painting from series “small problems, BIG TROUBLE”

Each painting in the “small problems, BIG TROUBLE” series is oil and mixed media—which includes a reflective material such as gold or other metal leafing—on an 18-by-18-inch canvas. According to Waller, each painting provides a glimpse of a “small problem” linked in a chain of causality to “big trouble” for humans. Many of the subjects have connections to or are emblematic of the changing climate. For instance, the image “Dust” reflects core samples dug from ocean floors in order to track historic climatic shifts. and was composed in collaboration with IUP Geoscience faculty member Steven Hovan.

When asked about the collaboration, Hovan said Judith is an amazing artist who understands the power of art and how it can be used to communicate important scientific information. He is looking forward to finding an avenue to exhibit her work closer to IUP and developing new opportunities for future collaborations that cross the traditional disciplines of art and science.