Macrocosm - the science behind the images
This series uses images from science. I am fascinated with the
striking visual data that is being produced as scientists examine the universe
for signs of structure at the largest and smallest scales. Orbiting
scientific observatories such as the Hubble space telescope, COBE, YOHKOH, and
others are providing visions of the broader universe with unprecedented
clarity. At the same time, theoretical physicists are engaged in a project
to understand the smallest scales imaginable, where the fundamental forces unite
into a unified theory. As the energies required to probe these minute
scales are (for now, at least) unattainable, these new theories are judged in
large part by criteria of elegance and beauty.
All of the images in this show are seen from a perspective in space.
None of the images I am working from could not be seen by the unaided
eye (an interesting exception is the painting Hurricane, which is based
on an ordinary photograph taken by an Apollo astronaut in orbit around the
earth). Instruments can detect frequencies the eye can't see. The YOHKOH and TRACE instruments aimed at the sun reveal its complex, dynamic
structure in UV light.
Jonathan Feldschuh, Hurricane,
acrylic on canvas over panel, 78" x 72", 2001
TRACE satellite image
YOHKOH satellite image 12/30/2001
Multiple observations can
be combined, superimposed, and processed in ways that expand our "vision".
Many of the stunning Hubble images use color-coding to incorporate
information from different wavelengths into a single image. In this
image of the whirlpool galaxy, young stars have been color-coded in red by
superimposing Hubble measurements of hydrogen emissions onto ground-based
detailed description of this image from the Hubble website
A number of paintings in this series are based on the COBE (Cosmic
Orbital Background Explorer) project. The aim of the project was to
study the background radiation which pervades the entire universe, the echo
of the Big Bang. After a multi-year survey, the result was a series of
images: pictures of the entire universe, and even more remarkable, pictures
of the structure of the early universe, fractions of a second old.
Jonathan Feldschuh, Universe (DIRBE 100 micron data), acrylic on canvas over panel, 24" x
Mapping the Data:
Because most of the images that I am using were originally made with
non-visible frequencies, the colors in which they were first published are
somewhat arbitrary. In making the paintings, I allowed myself the
freedom of creating color schemes other than the conventional ones typically
used for presenting scientific imagery (such as the blue/red cold/hot
spectrum used here).
used for the painting
Note that although the second spectrum
may seem arbitrary or perverse, it is still a valid presentation of the
underlying data - it might reveal structure or pattern that is not as
apparent in the original.
In the painting Island Universe,
I substituted a deep sea-shallow sea-beach-forest-mountain spectrum
(such as a mapmaker might use to show elevation) for the original NASA
thermal spectrum to create an image that suggests the entire universe as a
coral atoll in the Pacific.
Cosmic Microwave Background as presented by
Jonathan Feldschuh, Cosmic Microwave Background,
acrylic on canvas over panel, 24" x 48", 2001
Island Universe (DIRBE 100 micron data),
acrylic on canvas over panel,
48" x 96", 2002
When I choose to translate a dataset into a painting (as opposed to a
digital representation of the data) I am adding noise to the signal.
The nature of this noise is what drives my interest in these images as an
artist. I allow the material qualities of liquid paint to play out in
the image, and I accentuate some of the swirling, mixing effects that result
with colored pencil lines. What attracts me to this approach is the
chaotic nature of the phenomena I am depicting - swirling, expanding plasma
and gas. I use the idea of fractal similarity to connect similar
patterns across vast changes of scale - from the microcosmic to the
detail of Solar
Flares (TRACE data) #1
detail of Cosmic Microwave Background
detail of Hurricane
|- Jonathan Feldschuh
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