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BCA News: Winter 2018

Hidden Beauty on Tour

The artist/scientist collaboration on the book Hidden Beauty, which was published in late 2013, demonstrates the beauty and wonder of the scientific image. Even before the book was on the shelf, Norm Barker was already planning a touring exhibition of the images. Producing traveling museum exhibitions is a very expensive proposition. The framing and matting costs alone are thousands of dollars for fifty frames with 8ply archival mattes of various sizes. But, in Barker’s opinion, one of the best ways to promote a book is by getting the work out there in the public eye.

A book on the shelf, a website, and social media can only do so much. Getting the work into museums and high-end galleries is an important part of getting the book noticed. Norm applied to the BCA for an EFFE (Endowment Fund for Education) Grant to partially support the building of four custom museum transport cases. That was more than four years ago and the exhibit continues to travel. It has traveled to the William Harris Gallery at RIT and the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia and most recently the exhibit was very well received at St. Johns College in Annapolis. Hidden Beauty is on its way to the Syracuse University Art Galleries early in 2018.

See a video that the BBC produced about the project.

The Beauty of the Scientific Image

Earlier this year Dr. Christine Iacobuzio-Donahue and Norm Barker gave an invited lecture at Memorial Sloane Kettering in New York City. The talk entitled The Beauty of the Scientific Image was a look at the artist and scientist collaboration throughout history. For example, Andreas Vesalius and his masterpiece De Humani Corporis Fabrica, Basel, 1543, (On the Human Body) contains some of the most beautiful woodcuts in Western art, but the artist was never given credit in the book. To this day, it’s still not known for sure who made those incredible woodcut plates. Some say from the school of the painter Titian others say the German-born Italian painter Jan Van Calcar. Art historians have agonized over this valuable and unrecognized collaborator for centuries.

A survey of various optical devices such as the camera obscura and camera lucida were discussed and their influence on the invention of photography in the early 1820s and 30s. Taking into consideration that is was ironic that the photographic process was invented both by an artist and a scientist. The artist Louis-Jacques-Mande Daguerre with his self-named Daguerreotype process and the scientist William Henry Fox Talbot with his Calotype process, (positive/negative) changed the world. Also ironic, is the fact that the inventors were working on their own, in separate countries, and came up with two completely different processes. In the long run, Talbot’s process won out. For the simple reason of reproducibility. Daguerre’s process was a one-of-a-kind image. While Talbot’s process could be used to make multiple copies, and what better way for a scientist to reproduce their science than by distributing multiple prints hand tipped into a book. Remember this was before the invention of offset lithography.

As Barker sees it “as Biomedical Communicators, our role on a daily basis is that collaboration with the scientist. Figuring out what medium or tool is the best way to demonstrate the science. Good imaging, whether it’s Illustration, photography, time-lapse video microscopy, etc, all have the same goal and that is to make the science, clear, understandable, reproducible and fundable.”


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