IN THE STUDIO
with Jonathan Feldschuh
Jonathan Feldschuh is a data scientist and artist in New York City.
After studying physics at Harvard as an undergraduate, he turned his
attention to art, studying painting and drawing at Prague’s Academy of
Fine Arts. Feldschuh began as an abstract painter but his work later
gravitated toward themes in science.
By Ashley P. Taylor
Paintings from Feldschuh's "Large Hadron Collider" series, inspired by the Geneva particle accelerator where the Higgs boson was detected, appeared as a window display at Mixed
Greens Gallery in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood last year. This fall, "The World Egg", a
series of radiation maps of the universe, was on view at the Gallery at Skink Ink Editions in
Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I spoke with him in his Chelsea studio this October.
AT: You have a B.A. in physics from Harvard.
How did you get into science-based art?
JF: My junior year at Harvard, I had pretty
much completed the requirements for my
degree and was spending more and more time
making drawings and taking photographs in
my spare time. That spring I was in a graduate
seminar with Howard Georgi, who was a very
young, charismatic professor known for having
contributed to the Grand Unified Theory for
which his Harvard colleague, Sheldon Glashow,
had just won the Nobel Prize. I had just bought
the little yellow Verlag textbook that had a lot
of inscrutable equations for group theory and
particle physics and I thought this is it. I looked
at the textbook—I’d already underlined the
first chapter so I couldn’t return it—and I just
had this epiphany, if you will, that the answers
to the questions of physics, and just physics,
were not the answers I was most curious about
exploring with my life; that even if I were to
walk down this path and achieve the great
success of these people, it wouldn’t feel like
what I wanted to do with my life, so I walked
away from that class. I spent the rest of my
last year and a half at Harvard in the painting
studios, in the dark rooms.
My senior year, I handed in my course list to
my adviser in the physics department, and he
said, “But there’s only one physics course on
here,” and I said, “Well, yes. I’ve finished my
requirements, and I’m going to take all these
other things that I’m interested in,” and he said,
“Well… if this is your program for your senior
year, we’re not going to take you at the graduate
school, and no one else is going to take you.”
That kind of made me gulp, because I realized
that even before I thought I had to, I needed to
commit myself, that I wasn’t going to become a
physicist, and so that was it.
Photo credit: Koko Takeuchi
SciArt in America December 2013