Erasing the Lines Between Science and Art

Photo Credit: Kaitlin Moore, Lake Mendota Starscape, March 2022

Erasing the Lines Between Science and Art:  Kohler Fellows Cooperate to Bring Life As We Don’t Know It Exhibition to the Overture Galleries.  

Their journey began in the late summer of 2020 when Kaitlin Moore and Lena Vincent were paired up as a team under the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery (WID) Kohler Fellows program. With no prior acquaintance, Kaitlin and Lena quickly found harmony amid their interests in communicating science and art in ways that have cultural relevance. Kaitlin, a fourth-year graduate student in Literary Studies, turned a passionate hobby of astrophotography into a consequential study of humanities by examining the impacts of cosmology and theoretical astrophysics. On the other side of this team, Lena seeks to understand the non-living ingredients that were necessary to help give rise to early life on Earth while completing her Ph.D. in Astrobiology and Prebiotic Chemistry.

The two brainstormed and concluded that their project would revolve around the notion that there is no universal definition for life. This notion would allow people to explore the topic individually. From the onset Kaitlin and Lena acknowledged that for their project to have meaningful impact, they could not use their own artwork.  It was important for them to reach into the UW-Madison and greater Wisconsin community to find new sources for art and science collaboration.  

They sought out a combination of engaging and emerging artists and scientists who also represent the ethos and goals of the Kohler Fellow program. The call for applicants was a smashing success with 40 applications. Kaitlin and Lena carefully considered the applicants artistic skills, adeptness in science communication, and the ability to work in teams. The selected artists and scientists were then challenged to stretch the bounds of imagination and experimentation to explore the concept of ‘life as we don’t know it.’  

It took over two years for their project to take shape because of the unknowns surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic. Kaitlin and Lena doubted if their project would ever be presented to an in-person audience but were determined to find a meaningful venue. Fortunately, they found an opportunity with the Overture Galleries. “When we spoke with the Overture Galleries, we didn’t even have a physical manifestation of the project yet, we had to convey the principle and the merit behind the concept and hope that they took to that.”  

The Overture Galleries was delighted at their proposal, and provided the fellows with space and time on the famed Madison Gallery Night organized by the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art with a debut on May 6th, 2022. 

“To feel immensely huge and small simultaneously can awaken and encourage perspective building in each of our own lives,” is a goal that Kaitlin shared during the interview, and one that many of us can sympathize with during these past two-years.  

The Life As We Don’t Know It exhibit will be on display at the Overture Galleries from May 3-August 28, with the opening reception on May 6th from 5-7PM.  

This project is sponsored by the Marie Christine Kohler Fellows program under the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery’s Illuminating Discovery Hub