Tempe, Arizona / By: Alex M. Orozco / There is often an implicit divide between the arts and the so-called hard or quantitative (and highly mathematical) sciences. Yet, many of the most innovative individuals in either and/or both of these disciplines would likely deem this divide a silly pretense. For example, in the mid-20th century, two seminal thinkers, existential psychologist Carl Jung and Nobel-Prize-winning physicist Wolfgang Pauli, exemplified the rejection of a transdisciplinary schism. In short, Jung sought to incorporate the quantitative orientation that someone like Pauli could achieve into his (Jung’s) own psychological/poetical studies of acausality and dreams. On the other hand, Pauli desired to articulate the underlying beauty and sentiments of his own achievements in quantum theory, a task through which Jung provided insight. Believe it or not, the artists who currently have their work sanctioned and commodified in the STEAM gallery at the Tempe Center for the Arts (May 27th-September 17th) have accomplished, in their own way, a similar type of coalition between sentiment and science.
STEAM is an acronym that posits the type of aforementioned coalition; it aims to fuse the disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics. From even a quick and brisk walk through the gallery, you will be confronted by a variety of unique forms of artful representation, including those that regard the complex anatomy of the human body, entomology, conservation efforts concerning the conifer forests of Arizona, the history and current mechanical innovations of photography, 3-dimensional printers, and forensic anthropology. You will even learn esoteric vocabulary such as ‘tensegrity,’ which the architecture-engineering-specific exhibit in the back of the gallery denotes as the use (sic.) of the forces of tension and compression to support each other.
Now, it’s obviously a lot more fun to see a gallery than to read about one, so further description is probably unnecessary. Nonetheless, it is worth mentioning that the artists whose work appears in this STEAM gallery are also noteworthy figures in our community. If you like to attend the First Friday celebrations in the downtown Phoenix district, you have likely seen the work of Monica Aissa Martinez, whose highly intricate “landscapes” of the human body—including depictions of specific corporeal glands such as those included in the endocrine system—are verily stunning in their polychromatic allure. Martinez writes: “I am drawn to the language of myth and symbol: feminine and masculine principles, emotion and logic, circle and line, horizontal (heavens and spirit) and vertical (earth and body). I use line, shape, color, and space to represent complex connections between body, mind and connecting spirit…. In my studio, art and science connect.” Here is a link to a post from Martinez’s blog regarding her experiences at First Friday and, specifically, how she likes to watch the crowd engage with her work: https://monicaaissamartinez.wordpress.com/2016/04/06/phoenix-first-friday-comings-and-goings/
Just past Martinez’s section, on the left side of the gallery upon entrance, are a collection of macro-scaled photos of a variety of insects such as the African Goliath Beetle (among the largest and heaviest insects on earth, growing up to five inches in length), the Luna Moth (with light blue/green-yellow wings and plumose antennae), and the Tiger Beetle (whose body has a rainbow-like sheen). ASU alumni Gene Cooper devised the technology used to achieve such high-definition magnified photographs of these insects. Cooper’s nameplate in the gallery describes the following about his California-based company, GIGAmacro, which “builds robotic camera devices capable of capturing gigapixel photographs with microscopic detail for use in laboratories, museums, and schools. The core technology is a robotic camera system that takes thousands of digital images (of any small object) and automatically combines them into a ultra-high-resolution photograph or printable 3-D model.” Interestingly, because of the historical diagram of the progression of photography in the back-right corner of the gallery, you can see how state-of-the-art photographic processes have made advances from the daguerreotype in the mid-19th century, to the Polaroid in the mid-20th century, and on to modern technologies contemporaneous to those that produce Cooper’s gigapixel photographs.
The STEAM gallery at the Tempe Center for the Arts is open until September 17th and will also include a series of Family Arts and Sciences Workshops conducted by the STEAM gallery artists themselves, which will occur on Saturdays from Noon-2 p.m. You can find more information here: https://www.tempetourism.com/event/steam-at-the-tca-gallery/