LiSci installation highlights the creative power of science

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Friday, October 6, 2006

Comprised of 140 window-squares made of up 600,000 pieces of glass, “Lines of Sight” is the installation piece that adorns a walkway in the Life Sciences Building, which will be dedicated today as the Sidney E. Frank Hall for the Life Sciences. Diane Samuels, an internationally acclaimed artist, presented the piece last night.

“Lines of Sight” was designed to illuminate the study of science at Brown. The installation piece – two glass panes flanking a walkway – was commissioned for the LiSci as part of the University’s “Percent-for-Art” program, which allocates a portion of each new campus building’s construction cost toward art installation. The work is decorated with images of microscopes as well as microscope slides.

Samuels hand-engraved the panes with quotations submitted by members of the Brown community. The quotations range from provocative statements by literary figures like Marcel Proust to insights from scientific thinkers such as Albert Einstein. The words of Brown students also grace the panes.

Additionally, each square was sandblasted with an icon of a hand. Samuels likened the image of the hand to the image of the collective Brown community.

“The heart of the University is the people, and the hand is similar to people,” she told the crowd.

The 170,000-square-foot LiSci is the most expensive building in University history and will be the center of teaching and research in the life sciences at Brown.

Samuels’ art is “a metaphorical bridge” between arts and sciences at Brown, according to Director of the Bell Gallery Jo-Ann Conklin, who introduced the presentation. Conklin is also a member of the University’s Public Art Committee, which selected Samuels for the installation project.

The power of its artistic expression is evident when one walks past the installation. Samuels said the text will speak to the creative power of the individual. Such observation will subtly remind the viewer “to look at the world closer,” she said.

Describing the two-year process of creating her installation piece, Samuels told the audience she prepared for her project by visiting two research laboratories. At the labs, she noted that observation and attention to detail are important to both the scientist and the artist.

“Both scientists and artists understand that the more we look, the more layers and interconnections are revealed among the layers (of reality),” she told the audience.

A Public Art Committee film, screened before Samuels’ lecture, spoke to the power of the inscribed text. “The formal beauty and discovery of the text delights and will enlighten viewers long into the future,” said the film’s narrator.

Samuels’ work uses art elegantly to synthesize scientific observation with humanistic study through an evocative expression of words and images. More importantly, she illustrates that the arts and sciences are not remote disciplines but rather rely on the same intuitive reflections.

Samuels indicated that her piece “makes you realize you don’t have to travel far and wide” to “find richness in life.” All that is necessary, according to Samuels, is to observe the “world that is right in front of you.”

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