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SPOTLIGHT The Chemistry Notebook of Maxfield Parrish By Raphael Rosen Contributor When you’re interested in the intersection of art and science, you can be struck by amazement at any time, in the unlikeliest of places. For me, my moment of revelation came in 2003, in The Booksmith, a neighborhood bookstore on San Francisco’s Haight Street. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been caught so offguard. I had been working at the Exploratorium for two years and was being exposed to SciArt wonders every day. (The Exploratorium is San Francisco’s museum of science, art, and human perception. It was founded in 1969 by Frank Oppenheimer, brother of J. Robert Oppenheimer, one of the architects of the atomic bomb. To get a sense of the Exploratorium’s atmosphere, imagine walking into a cavernous warehouse and encountering multimedia clocks, BioArt exhibits exploring how society perceives genetic manipulation, and a simple exhibit that lets one experience the visceral, almost orgasmic pleasure of rotating a giant ball bearing.) But on this day, on my stroll through one of San Francisco’s quirkier regions, I was looking forward to simply ducking into a bookstore and wiling away the hours browsing the shelves. I began by flipping through some oversized art books, the kind that seem to weigh a ton but whose large, lustrous pictures make the heavy lifting worthwhile. I eventually came to a book about the American painter and illustrator Maxfield Parrish, who made work in the early 20th century. As I recall, it was a survey of his life and works. At the time, what I knew of his work was limited to what I had seen on dorm-room posters: images of fairies and nymphs bathed in an ethereal light. Otherwise, I knew nothing about Parrish, either as a man or as an artist. Everything changed when I turned a page and saw images of Maxfield Parrish’s chemistry notebook from his days at Haverford College, in Pennsylvania. Interspersed 14 SciArt in America December 2013