Artists and scientists often work alone or alongside their fellow experts in their respective fields. It’s less common that the disciplines would have an opportunity for one to interpret the other’s work in a cooperative way. But that’s precisely what the “Science Stories” exhibition at The Evergreen State College provides, with book artists illustrating their construction of scientific research.
The interdisciplinary exhibit brings together local book artists and scientists. The exhibit is divided into topics highlighting water, ice, mountains, flora, fauna and human health. Subjects featured in the one-of-a-kind books and displays include native plants, Mount Rainier, Mount Saint Helens, cirrus clouds and more.
The exhibit has been touring colleges around the state. Its final stop is the college’s Daniel J. Evans Library in Olympia and will run through March 24.
How ‘Science Stories’ at the Evergreen College Came to Life
Creating “Science Stories” was itself a partnership between The Evergreen State College and the University of Puget Sound (UPS). The exhibit co-curators are Evergreen professor emeritus and artist Lucia Harrison, UPS Collins Memorial Library Director Jane Carlin and UPS Slater Museum of Natural History Director Peter Wimberger. The three met in 2019 to discuss asking book artists to use museum collections to inspire their work. From there, the idea developed into pairing local artists with scientists to produce unique books.
“We invited artists and scientists to do ‘speed dating’ where artists filled out cards and decided who they would like to collaborate with,” says Harrison. “We formed 16 collaborative pairs.”
While they planned to have the books ready in 2020, COVID-19 postponed that goal. Fortunately, the delay gave time to create a website with information and videos about the research and creative process and to schedule the traveling exhibition.
The ‘Science Story’ Books are the Evergreen College Exhibit’s Stars
Wimberger says the enterprise took scientific research projects and turned those into stories through artists’ interpretations. “The books are the stars,” he says. “Research and art interacted in a way to create these really striking books.”
Harrison says each book is a unique project. “For the artists’ books, the form of the book is involved in its meaning,” she explains. “They have a subject, a point of view, and are created with words and images. It was a challenge on multiple levels.”
For example, the “Emeshed” book uses illustrations and descriptions of lichens as a metaphor for other biological connections, including human relationships. Lichen species are autonomous but dependent upon each other for survival. This book’s scientist is lichenologist Lalita Calabria, a faculty member at The Evergreen State College. “The most profound part for me was sharing my research with her and seeing how it could be interpreted in an unexpected way,” says Calabria of illustrator Leanne Smith-Lucero’s lichen drawings. This book’s artists included Anne Greenwood-Rioseco and Daniela del Mar.
Evergreen State College Faculty and Local Artists Featured in the Exhibition
Other art and science experts associated with the college were instrumental in producing even more books in the exhibit. They include:
- “A Tahoma Reliquary.” This book uses archaeological work on Mount Rainier of native people encampments. This exhibit was inspired by “Tahoma and Its People,” written by Jeff Antonellis-Lapp, who taught Native American Studies and other Evergreen courses before retiring.
- “Bound/Unbounded.” This is a two-part work. The first is the artist’s notes and musings. The other is an accordion book with watercolor images of Mount Saint Helens before, during and after the 1980 eruption. The scientist partner is geologist, professor and Interim Academic Dean Abir Biswas at The Evergreen State College.
- “Cirrus Clouds.” This book concerns cirrus clouds and their role in climate change. Olympia artist Susan Aurand is a faculty emeritus from The Evergreen State College, where she taught interdisciplinary art/science programs.
- “Hair Today Gone Tomorrow.” This book illustrates a hair loss journey resulting from chemotherapy, made more isolating by the pandemic. The artist MalPina Chan’s work has been displayed in many collections and galleries, including The Evergreen State College – Special Collection.
- Pacific Northwest Native Plant Website and “Magic Books.” This project is Harrison’s work, using art to highlight the relationships between native plants and animals. The booklets feature drawings of a native plant during different seasons. Harrison taught interdisciplinary art/science courses at The Evergreen State College and is a The Puget Sound Book Artists founder.
- “Connections: The Willow and the Mountain.” This book is about Sitka willow trees and the ecological re-start on Mount St. Helens. The scientist for this book is Carri LeRoy, a freshwater ecologist and faculty member at The Evergreen State College.
Tour the ‘Science Stories’ Exhibit at The Evergreen State College
Stop by The Evergreen State College to view the exhibit. Or, to schedule a class visit, tour, or artist presentation, contact Ray Zill at firstname.lastname@example.org. Driving and parking details are on The Evergreen State College website.