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March 5, 2001

'Frontiers' patrols line between
art, science

By Michael Terrazas

Molecular biology has never been so easy on the eyes. Emory’s faculty and students have turned Woodruff Library’s Schatten Gallery into a testament to the aesthetics of discovery—and to the science of beauty—for the next three months, as “Science and Art: Shared Frontiers” fills the space through May 31.

“Shared Frontiers” encompasses the work of more than 30 individuals who accepted the broad charge of blending science and art. More than 100 pieces in an impressive array of media comprise the exhibit; there are images of microscopy, sculptures of wood and of steel, multimedia pieces displayed on iMac computers, paintings, photographs and much more.

The exhibit was born last spring in the mind of Juliette Apkarian, associate professor and chair of Russian and East Asian Languages and Cultures (REALC). Apkarian’s husband Robert, director of the chemistry department’s Integrated Microscopy and Microanalytical Facility, had been producing artistic images through the equipment in his lab and had even shown them at other museums. Her husband’s work gave Apkarian an idea.

“My hunch was there were a lot of other people on campus who might be doing the same thing,” she said. And she was right. Apkarian contacted Valerie Watkins, director of the Schatten Gallery, who “enthusiastically endorsed” the idea and urged her to pursue it.

She also put Apkarian in touch with Sidney Perkowitz, Candler Professor of Physics, whose interest and experience in merging the worlds of science and art is long established. Perkowitz even published a book on the subject in 1996, Empire of Light: A History of Discovery in Science and Art.

The two professors sent an all-campus e-mail soliciting contributions and then spent the next few months planning what had become an ambitious undertaking. The exhibit opened Jan. 26.

“We found creativity we didn’t even know existed,” Perkowitz said.

“It’s an opportunity to see another side of our faculty,” Apkarian added. “It shows the common ground between [science and art] and the creative fountain both share. It’s also bound in Emory’s interdisciplinary past.”

Finally, it’s a perfect event for the Year of Reconciliation, though Apkarian said this did not enter into her initial conceptions and was purely a “wonderful coincidence.”

“Shared Frontiers” is more than just a collection of art. Watkins said she has never seen an exhibit spur so much complimentary programming, starting with a series of Wednesday lectures and presentations on the subject. For example, this week, on March 7 at noon, Emory freshman Lauren Gunderson will present a staged reading of her one-act play, Background, about the scientist who developed the Big Bang Theory. The series continues through April 18.

There is also talk of turning portions of the show into a traveling exhibit in campus venues. After “Shared Frontiers” comes down, some of its pieces will hang in the new Emerson Hall, and Perkowitz said there might even be a future class that unites science and art students to work together on projects.

“In all my years here, I’ve never seen Emory faculty collaborate in such a way,” Apkarian said. “We often come together, but the response to this has been quite special.”

“On the creative side of the scale, this is simply a bringing together of areas in which Emory is already investing resources,” said Perkowitz, citing the construction of both phases of Science 2000 and of the performing arts center. “It’s a kernel of what’s going on at a macroscopic scale.”

Both professors and Watkins credit the physics and REALC departments, the college’s Science Council, the graduate school’s Burke-Nicholson Forum and the Information Technology Division for providing support for the project. Anyone wishing to learn more before visiting “Shared Frontiers” can view the exhibit’s website at


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