Bringing Disciplines Together with "The Living Canvas"

By Anna Viterisi

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

CEWiT faculty alliance member Margaret Dolinsky, an associate professor of digital art and research scientist at Indiana University, collaborates with professor of plant biology Roger Hangarter to create high-resolution, time-lapse movies that reveal the process of chloroplast movments, a project they call "The Living Canvas." 

The resultant images display how subcellular changes affect the optical properties of leaves, which illustrates how chloroplast positioning maximizes photosynthesis.

“One of the main goals of our work, besides creating art, is to make individuals aware of plants as entities that are aware and respond to their surroundings,” stated Dolinsky.

This presentation will give visitors the opportunity to examine the results of how chloroplasts act as living pixels that move in response to light to render the art in a living canvas. The exhibition will display a number of high resolution art images created in living leaves to illustrate the dynamic biology of green plants.

Dolinsky, through the collaboration with Hangarter, has incorporated her digital artwork into the leaves, and brought the idea of science intermixed with fine art into her courses. She has begun inviting students to include organic material into their own digital artwork.

“I want my students to incorporate other disciplines and allow different fields to influence their work,” said Dolinsky.

As both the process of art and science are in search of the truth, the collaboration allows Dolinsky to observe the synergy between art and science, while using science to help drive art and vice versa.

“Technology will not reach its full potential until it’s fused with creativity,” stated Dolinsky.

The Living Canvas was part of the “Imag(in)ing Science” exhibit and event series at the Grunwald Gallery of Art that highlighted collaborative projects by artists and scientist at IU. Currently, Dolinsky and Hangarter are working on creating a website to showcase "The Living Canvas" and archive the results of their work for the public’s viewing. They plan to work on future projects to educate people about photosynthesis and chloroplast movement.