Scientia Artifex

Berenice Abbott, Transformation of Energy, 1958-1961, from “The Science Pictures” portfolio

About the Exhibition

The exhibition Scientia Artifex searches beyond the role of photography as a passive record of the order of things to examine the ways in which it might shape representations of knowledge. The exhibition includes work by a number of accomplished artists, including Berenice Abbott, Kim Abeles, Catherine Chalmers, Linda Connor, Katherine Du Tiel, Harold Edgerton, Alice Hargrave, Michael Light, Susan Rankaitis, Meridel Rubenstein, Gary Schneider, Catherine Wagner, and Todd Watts.

Scientia Artifex presents a view of photography in the service of and engaging with the many fields of science, from physics to biology, zoology, medicine, astronomy, and earth science, among others. The photograph has a significant historical connection to science, frequently functioning as a tool for documenting scientific discoveries, illustrating scientific concepts and advances, and illuminating the patterns of nature that science explores. Certain applications of photography in fact serve as the means for scientists to see what the human eye cannot. Today, state-of-the-art imaging technologies, from the X-ray to CAT scans, magnetic resonance imagery, and electron microscopy, have created a new vision of the human body as fragmented, reduced, and demystified.

Such diagnostic imaging techniques will be repressed in Scientia Artifex, along with other uses of photography which expose generally unseen aspects of our world. For example, Kim Abele’s images, created through the accumulation of smog on selected surfaces, reveal the extent of pollution in the air, which Catherine Chalmer’s photographs of insects and amphibians reveal common but often hidden events in the life cycle. Other artists in the exhibition follow in the tradition of photographic classification of scientific information: Linda Connor has reprinted photographs of comets and constellations from nineteenth-century glass negatives, Michael Light offers a cataloguing of astronauts’ photographs from lunar landings, and the photographs from Berenice Abbott’s science portfolio, commissioned for a textbook, artfully illustrate the principles of physics. Together, these works offer varied approaches to scientific subjects and objects and illustrate the impact of science on contemporary society.