Every participant in the Center for Maine Contemporary Art’s Wednesday afternoon ARTLab has become a scientist in his or her own right. Kids who signed up for art here, no doubt realize that in this Lab they are dabbling in science too. After all, the two fields of study, considered by most to be at opposite ends of the academic spectrum, have more in common than meets the eye.
From the earliest days in elementary school science class, we teach kids to observe. We give them magnifying glasses, take them out in the field, and ask them to write about what they see. A bit further down the path they begin to make hypotheses and test them out.
Just like kids, scientists try their minds at one theory after another. Typically they follow logical lines of thinking. Sometimes insights stem from the gut. Ideas come from everywhere and strike day and night. Oftentimes stumbling, scientists get used to bouncing back. What comes out of this process can be something remarkable – or not.
So what about artists? Where do their ideas come from? For the most part they too start with observation, with hours and hours of drawing from close looking and repeated practice.The months and years Van Gogh spent making his detailed drawings from nature before he took to paint and canvas are unimaginable. Only after he’d looked and looked at (and drew and drew) living things could he take the leap to paint them how he pleased.
CMCA’s ARTLab classes are about observing, hypothesizing, representing – all processes scientists and artist use and share. Noticing specifics, looking for patterns, and making inferences are part of the gallery work. The more practice, the better kids get at thinking and talking about art.
When it comes time descend to the Lab, kids know they must roll up their sleeves. Ideas that were brewing “upstairs” are ready to take wing. Extensive materials inspire them to go out on a limb. New ideas surface. Often they find themselves modifying their initial thinking or reworking their plan entirely. Patience in art, like in science, pays off.
On Wednesdays in the ARTLab there are discoveries a plenty. After all, art is “a science,” not to mention that science is “an art.” In both arenas, the potential for “messing about” with possible solutions and synthesizing multiple ideas into a new whole offer some mighty rich experiences for the mind. It is a great privilege to be part of it. Nancy Harris Frohlich