At last night’s Phillips after 5, Michael Garstang, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Virginia’s Department of Environmental Sciences provided his perspective on the Kirkeby exhibition. He began his talk by making connections between art and science saying, “Both fields draw upon creativity as the prime motive. . . both are products of infinite, incremental steps, and both must be founded upon a preconceived framework.”
Per Kirkeby, Untitled, 2006. Tempera on canvas, 78 3/4 x 98 1/2 in. Courtesy Michael Werner Gallery, New York, London, and Berlin
Garstang talked about the infinite process of sedimentation, laying down grain by grain to form layers, strata, and structures in his discussion of this untitled work, which Kirkeby painted in 2006. He interpreted the parallel bands at the center of the canvas as possible “fossilized tree trunks,” citing Kirkeby’s writings on trees in which the artist explains, “I don’t think I have ever drawn a whole tree.” Despite the painting’s framework, Garstang noted that Kirkeby “interrupted the form with discordant shapes juxtaposed with a sphere.” He wondered “Is it detritus? Glacial till? Blue ice?” Like Kirkeby, Garstang was reluctant to interpret the end result saying, “I’ll let you sort this one yourselves.”
Director Dorothy Kosinski and Board member Caroline Macomber in the David Smith exhibition (Photo by James Brantley)
I’ve never had a great deal of patience. I like structure and thrive on organization. In my opinion one of the greatest gifts my fiancé has given me (besides the engagement ring and the promise to live happily ever after, of course) was a label maker. So, when I was asked to be one of the organizers of a program that aimed to create a profound experience of art through “slow looking,” I got a little nervous.
The second annual Art & Innovation Design Gathering held on Monday, March 14, at the museum, was a collaboration between the University of Virginia
and The Phillips Collection. We encouraged the scientists, artists, educators, and students who participated in the conference to think about how we perceive our visual world. How do our experiences affect the way we see the world? Have our preconceptions – whether you’re aware of them or not, constructed from experience – replaced our ability to visually interpret? The balance of disciplines represented at the conference helped to bring these ideas together in a relatable way.