This past Friday afternoon, the Science as Arts competition exhibition and awards ceremony took place in the Hatcher Graduate Library for the fourth consecutive year to celebrate the collaboration between art and science. The Science Learning Center, ArtsEngine and Arts at Michigan sponsored the competition and celebrated a record number of 45 entries this year.
All current undergraduate students of the University of Michigan could participate in the competition, as long as their artwork represented a scientific concept or theme. Submissions were possible in all existing art categories and this year included prints, drawings, paintings, sculptures, poems and short essays, as well as time-based art such as videos and music performances.
Deb Mexicotte, the associate director of ArtsEngine and one of the collaborators and judges of the competition, explained all visitors of the exhibition could vote for their favorite piece of art through the “People’s Choice Award.”
“It allows to be really interactive with the crowd that has come out to see the exhibition,” Mexicotte said, explaining the award did not meet the same strict criteria the judges had to follow.
The winners of the competition were determined by six judges, who assessed the entries based on four criteria: scientific basis, aesthetic appeal, quality of explanation and quality of artistic explanation. They determined one grand winner for “Best Overall,” who received a $300 prize and winners for a number of categories, who received $150 each.
LSA sophomore Jesse Adler was the winner of both the “Best Overall” award and the “People’s Choice Award.” Her winning sculpture “Designer Drugs” blended chemistry and fashion. The sculpture was a pair of shoes that she modified by building models for two different molecules. The left shoe represents the molecule for meth and the right shoe the molecule for an ingredient in an over-the-counter nasal decongestant.
“I have always loved art and fashion, but I also have a big passion for science and chemistry,” Adler, who is majoring in neuroscience, said.
Adler said she learned about this idea of structure correlating with function in her organic chemistry class, and is interested that the two molecules have different biological effects, even though they have the same chemical formula.
“I wanted to incorporate that into my design … the same way our feet are mere images that these molecules are mere images,” Adler said, hoping to demonstrate that those two molecules imitate a left and right foot, since they both are mirror images of each other.
Art & Design sophomore Siena McKim won in the sculpture category. Her sculpture was a void piece of wood connected by wires that the visitors of the exhibition could cut through.
“The piece was inspired by the deforestation in the 1700 and 1800s,” McKim said. “I wanted it to be engaging because I wanted people to take away something from it rather than just looking at it.”
Mexicotte said she was excited to see a more diverse range of majors participating in the competition this year.
“The idea that many of these students are not studying art or seeing art as their profession, but are so interested in the way that art and science work together … (to come up with pieces that they put into this show) is just so gratifying,” she said.