Baton Rouge museum: Galileo's Vision in 21st Century Art
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The moon hides behind the clouds on this sunny morning, so artist Sallie Wolf puts her compass on a railing outside the Louisiana Art&Science Museum and faces opposite the needle's northward direction.
"The moon would be to the south at this time," she says.
She opens a sketchbook filled with handwritten notes, geometric measurements and sketches of the moon in various phases. It's part of a project she started 15 years ago, documenting the moon's position in the sky in a number of ways.
She's among eight artists whose work will be shown through Dec. 13 in the exhibit "Starry Messenger: Galileo's Vision in 21st Century Art."
"This is the International Year of Astronomy — the 400th anniversary of Galileo's telescope," museum curator Elizabeth Weinstein said. "Galileo didn't invent the telescope, but he was the first to write a treatise on what he was able to see."
The exhibit's title is the English translation of the book Galileo published in 1610 as "Siderus Nuncius."
"This is an interesting exhibition, something different from what we usually show," Weinstein said. "We are an art and science museum, and we're looking for more exhibits to go with our mission."
All eight artists study the heavens. One holds a degree in physics. All are known in artistic circles for their astronomical work, ranging from constantly changing digital displays to a 100-pound planet made of glass.
Weinstein said the most noted is Latvina-born Vija Celmins, who lives in New York and California and is internationally known for intensely realistic images of star-studded nighttime skies, ocean waves and desert floors.
New York artist Jonathan Feldschuh graduated summa cum laude from Harvard University with a degree in physics, then studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague.
For more than a decade, he has composed planetary landscapes in swirling, dense layers of paint, using scientific images as a starting point. His latest work is inspired by the Large Hadron Collider, the world's most powerful particle accelerator.
French-born Thierry W. Despont, now living in New York, is an architect, designer and artist. He was inspired tocreate his own interpretations of celestial phenomena after learning that the Hubble Observatory's photographs actually are elaborate composites.
In Galileo's day, stars and planets were considered heavenly — and therefore perfect.
"Their surfaces were thought to be smooth, whereas here on Earth, the surface isn't smooth, because we're imperfect," Weinstein said.
The Roman Catholic Church saw Earth as the center of the universe. Because Galileo documented the Copernican observation that the earth moves around the sun, he was tried as a heretic and sentenced to life in prison, changed later to house arrest.
Galileo di Vincenzo Bonaiuti dé Galilei was born Feb. 15, 1564, in Florence, Italy. He originally trained in art, but also became a physicist, mathematician, astronomer and philosopher.
"There were no lines drawn between art and science and math as there are now," Weinstein said. "Look at Leonardo da Vinci. He was an artist, a scientist — he was so many things."
Galileo has been called the father of modern observational astronomy, the father of modern physics, the father of science and the father of modern science.
"But before his death, he said he wished he'd been a painter," Weinstein said.
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