Society features

New La Jolla Historical Society Exhibit Will Feature Science-Inspired Art

Using science to inspire art and art to bring scientific inquiry to the masses, the La Jolla Historical Society will open the “Trifecta: Art, Science, Patron” exhibit on Saturday, September 25.

The showcase, curated by Chi Essary, includes works by 10 regional artists who explored research conducted at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla and let science inspire art.

“Some artists are interested in trying to illustrate certain aspects of research, but more often than not it’s a more poetic expression of the work that would lead the viewer to ask more questions and dig deeper into that research,” said Lauren Lockhart, executive director of the La Jolla Historical Society. “The word ‘patron’ is included because private philanthropy has enabled cutting-edge research in biological studies, and this is very evident at the Salk Institute. … Thanks to private philanthropy, these scientists can follow an urgent line of questioning or research that could take much longer to obtain government support. I like the fact that it encourages risk taking and experimental research.

Each of the scientists holds a Joan Klein and Irwin Mark Jacobs Research Chair. The program began in 2008 to encourage donors to establish endowed chairs in support of Salk scientists for their contributions to biological research. For every $2 million in donor contributions to a chair, the Jacobs added $1 million to reach the $3 million required for a full endowment.

Essary has curated other exhibitions inspired by art and science, and in this one, the focus on philanthropy stood out.

“Scientists spend a lot of money writing grants for projects that don’t get funded,” she said. “So every time someone supports science, it’s a gift to humanity. Ongoing research at Salk is changing our understanding of biology.

“Fountainhead, 2020,” which will be featured in the La Jolla Historical Society’s “Trifecta: Art, Science, Patron” exhibit, features household cleaning products, ceramics, custom neon lights, and custom electronics.

(Philipp Scholz-Ritterman)

To create the exhibition, the artists spent an afternoon with the scientists in their lab or using their technology and discussed their research.

“Artists and scientists are diving into the ether in different ways to come up with something that’s never been done before, and for different reasons,” Essary said. “These two types of minds go into their studio and their labs and explore something as far as they can.

“Scientists have a moral obligation to discover facts and share them in an understandable way. For an artist, they access this other world and create things based on history, science, their experience and their reactions. This presents itself in different ways, depending on the artist.

For example, two artists (and brothers) participating in the exhibition worked with a scientist who studies the cellular role in aging. The artists used a doll nicknamed “Miss Mito”, for mitochondrial cells, and aged her into a frame that looks like a cell.

Another artist, working with a scientist whose research focuses on Alzheimer’s disease, made mirrors that gradually distort the viewer’s vision “so that when you see yourself, you see the mind distort,” said Essary.

“It’s a fun way to get people talking about science,” Essary said. “Artists have this dialogue with the public that scientists don’t. That’s why it’s such a good thing for scientists to work with artists. Not everyone is going to pick up a science journal, but everyone can see this exhibit.

Einar de la Torre, one of two brothers involved in the play ‘Miss Mito’, said he and his brother, Jamex, ‘both loved biology as kids’ and were ‘thrilled’ to be a part of it. of this exhibition.

“For us, we’re already collaborating because we’re two people doing art…and we do a lot of public art, which is a collaboration between us and a city, so it’s second nature to us. to work that way,” Einar said. . “But it was exciting for us because we were already interested in biology.”

Something about the collaboration of art and science has recently “resonated with people”, and other institutions are focusing on such collaboration in the coming years, he said.

“The beauty of a show like [“Trifecta”] it’s because it overlaps into two worlds, it has more opportunities for engagement,” Einar said. “You’re not just seeing art for art’s sake, which you should be doing, but you might get scientists interested in art and vice versa. You can see how science affects art.

Lockhart said the Historical Society’s exhibit program has been “focused on using our unique site, our residence, and the history of La Jolla to speak to the current way of life here. The Salk Institute is obviously an incredible piece of architecture, an incredible resource that happens to be housed right here in our neighborhood, and it’s a jumping off point to have those additional conversations with contemporary art.

Because artistic media and scientific subjects are diverse, “I think people will feel very concerned about their personal lives, their family histories, and it will inspire them to think more deeply about the research going on behind the scenes to help make some progress”. in these areas,” Lockhart said.

It will be the Historical Society’s first exhibit under Lockhart, who began as executive director Aug. 30.

“I’m thrilled to come to an exhibit that illustrates a lot of the things that appealed to me about this organization,” Lockhart said. “It’s interdisciplinary, there are so many different entry points for those interested in art, science, La Jolla history, etc., and I’m really excited about the quality and the depth of work of all the regional artists that are featured.”

‘Trifecta: Art, Science, Patron’

When: from Saturday September 25 to Sunday January 16; open to the public from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday
Or: La Jolla Historical Society’s Wisteria Cottage Gallery, 780 Prospect St.
Cost: To free
Information: (858) 459-5335, lajollahistory.org