Students blend art and science in collaborative art show

August 30, 2023

A cohort of students from Arizona State University have collaborated on a work that blends art and science in seamless harmony. 

As part of a course titled Art and Science, students have an opportunity to work with faculty members in the School of Life Sciences and School of Art. The students attend and observe several research labs spaced throughout the semester, and then draw from those experiences as inspiration to make their own creations.  Students creating artwork while sitting at tables, sculptures lined on shelves behind them. Students craft sculptured art inspired by science research and high-resolution microscopy in a course titled Art and Science. ASU photo Download Full Image

Those results will be featured in an art show, “Sculpting Science,” which will celebrate its opening night on Thursday, Aug. 31. The exhibit will remain on display during normal gallery hours through Sept. 9, at the Step Gallery, Grant Street Studios in Phoenix.

“Art, science and education all intersect with each other; I think a lot of people forget that,” said Xitlallic Ortega-Perez, who graduated this year with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in ceramics and particpated in the course.

“All art mediums have a science to it; for ceramics, that can be what materials go into glaze and how they react to a clay body. There is definitely a way that science can benefit from art; we see it used in models seen in textbooks and also technology — and we can further technology with both fields.”

The course is offered every other year, in the spring semester. Susan Beiner, a professor in the School of Art and an internationally known ceramic artist, teaches the course in collaboration with science faculty members, including Robby Roberson, an associate professor in the School of Life Sciences.

Roberson's interests include polarized growth in eukaryotic cells — specifically fungal hyphae — and his research focuses on elucidating aspects of cytoplasmic structure and motility. His research group has contributed to the discovery of unique mechanisms of cell growth in certain groups of fungi that have resulted in a wider understanding of cell diversity and fungal evolution. 

“The ability to share a creative and intellectual space alongside both art and science students was a wonderful opportunity,” said course particpant Nadia Lakovich, who also recently graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in ceramics.

“I didn’t quite realize the art bubble I had put myself in (only staying on one side of campus). It was pleasant to be able to hear perspectives from those of different focuses, and I hope to be able to do it more in the future.”

The Art and Science course is open to undergraduates and graduate students of any major, and the 2023 cohort is a fairly even mix of science and art students — the highest percentage of science majors the course has seen to date. 

“I had heard of this course before I even started graduate school, and I knew I wanted to take it if at all possible,” said Savannah Tallino, who is pursuing a Doctorate of Philosophy in neuroscience.

“I loved learning how much science — particularly chemistry — underlies the process of creating a ceramic piece and its glazes. It is a challenging medium, however, and the short timeline of the course made the execution of multiple projects a true test of time management.”

One assignment in particular invites students to select and submit an object to be viewed under an electron microscope. The extreme magnification and hyper-resolution of the microscope results in images of extraordinary texture and detail. 

A variety of subjects were submitted for microscopy imaging — dried rose petals from a wedding bouquet, a scrap of fabric from a childhood toy, a seashell fragment found on the beach, a shark’s tooth, a butterfly wing, a spider leg, even an Altoids mint.

“My idea to use baker’s yeast came when I was making pasta,” said participant Pranav Chhaliyil, who graduated in May 2023 with a Bachelor of Science in biological sciences and communication, and a minor in project management.

“I found the flaky texture quite interesting and thought I could incorporate it into my work. It was a bit challenging because sometimes the subtlety may not always show up after firing. Therefore, I had to increase the intensity of the texture in order to achieve the texture I was looking for, which took trial and error."

“My mother always tells me that no matter how far I pursue science, it’s important for me to stay connected to my artistic background,” Chhaliyil said. 

“Art can serve as something to create balance in life, especially for those studying science. As a biological sciences major, I try to study during the week and spend my weekends either creating art at home or viewing it at the various galleries and museums in the area.” 

Dominique Perkins

Manager of marketing and communications, School of Life Sciences


ASU professor examines intersection of dance, ethics in new book

August 31, 2023

Arizona State University Professor Naomi Jackson has been working in the area of dance and human rights since 2000. Recently, she published the book “Dance and Ethics: Moving Towards a More Humane Dance Culture,” which examines the ethical issues within the history and field of Western theatrical dance.

Jackson’s book emphasizes the importance of examining the ethics and changing values of the dance world, especially as they pertain to young dancers entering the field. Cover of the book "Dance and Ethics: Moving Towards a More Humane Dance Culture." Download Full Image

“I am interested in social justice and human rights and how they intersect with dance,” she said.

The inspiration for the book came from Jackson’s work with Margaret Walker through the Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics at ASU. Walker is currently the Donald J. Schuenke Chair Emerita in philosophy at Marquette University. Before her appointment at Marquette, Walker was the Lincoln Professor of Ethics, Justice, and the Public Sphere at ASU.

As part of her work with Walker, Jackson taught a course on dance and ethics. Her book was developed from her research and experiences in teaching that class.

“Dance and Ethics: Moving Towards a More Humane Dance Culture” is published by Intellect Books. It is available through the publisher and at booksellers online.

Jackson shared about her inspiration for the book, why she feels this topic is relevant today, the messages she hopes readers take away and the challenges writing this book posed.

Editor’s note: The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Question: Why did you decide to write this book?

Answer: I was interested in how ethics and dance relate to each other. I had been teaching a class called “Dance and Ethics” once a year. It’s a topic that I’m really passionate about. I started researching back in 2009, and it took over a decade to write. I decided to focus on each chapter, to focus on one topic and write a chapter on that. When the pandemic hit, I was encouraged to finish it. I spent a good part of the pandemic working on it. I wanted to write a book that wasn’t purely academic, that could reach a broader audience. I did a lot of revising, and I also worked with a professional editor. With her behind me, I felt like I could do it. 

Q: Why do you think this topic — dance and ethics — is so relevant?

A: There is a long history of abusive practices that have been normalized within the dance world, especially the elite world of dance. It crosses over all forms of dance, in one way or another, but especially across styles that are taught within typical Western studios. 

Also, there is a tradition of seeing dance as immoral or unethical, seeing it as sinful. I thought that was also very interesting. It’s true in places like Iran as well as in New York, where it took many years for a law to be overturned that forbade dancing in nightclubs. It’s fascinating. A lot of it goes back to issues around the body and seeing the body and dance as sinful. 

Q: What message do you hope readers will take away from this book?

A: That things should change. That you can be a decent human being and a talented human being as well. There’s a myth that in order to make work that is great, the artist has to be eccentric, so if they act abusively or weirdly, that’s just how it is. That somehow it’s part of their genius. In the dance field, that is still accepted because those ideas were handed down from teacher to teacher. 

The very first chapter is about what it means to be a good human being and how does that relate to being a good artist. That’s where I start from. I think of a young dancer and why would they care? How can we work with other people? How do you go through these transformations in a way that is much more civilized and humane?

Q: Were there any particular challenges that came from writing this book?

A: It’s a very complex topic. I wanted to present issues and encourage people to think about those and allow them to decide where they fit into it. That’s also how I teach. That is hard — to bring subtlety to this topic. One thing I found is that when you start to use the term “ethical,” some people think that means just one thing. There are many ethical lenses to apply. There are different ways of thinking about what is ethical. 

Another challenge is that I’m a historian by nature. The way I look at things is through a historical, ethnographic lens — looking at the time period, who is involved, what’s the situation — in order to make decisions about what is ethical. That creates an inherent conflict. Dance studies today are approached from a very historically rooted and politicized perspective. 

A personal challenge was writing in a way that was accessible. I don’t really know if I’ve achieved it. I’m looking forward to seeing if dancers say that I have accomplished that.

Lacy Chaffee

Media and communications coordinator, School of Music, Dance and Theatre