SciArt Magazine - All Issues - Page 28

STRAIGHT TALK with Nathalie Miebach In the Shadow of Giants (2013). 32”x32”x25”. Reed, wood, rope, paper, data. Image courtesy of the artist. The Blizzard of 78 has remained a measurement pole against which all Nor’easter storms are compared. Every time a bad one hits New England, the memories of the Blizzard of 78 are awoken. The Blizzard of 2013 shared some eerie similarities with the Blizzard of 78 – similar wind strengths, high waves, and a development of an eye in the center of the storm. The piece translates wind, temperature, and snow data from both storms. Nathalie Miebach works with scientfic observations in astronomy, ecology, and meteorology, translating data into woven sculptural forms based on her own meticulous system. Recently, Miebach has begun to translate data into musical scores, delving deeper into the complexity of these sciences. SAiA: When did you start visualizing science through art, and what sparked your interdisciplinary practice? NM: I began working with scientific data in 2000, when I attended astronomy classes at Harvard University and studied basket weaving with a local craft artist. Astronomy was fascinating, but frustrating. I never seemed to be able to get a real sense of the time and space dimension we talked about in class, because everything we ever looked at was on the two-dimensional plane of the projector wall. At some point, the light bulb in my head went off and I 28 realized that I could actually use basket weaving as a three-dimensional grid through which to translate astronomical data to get a more tactile, physical sense of what I was learning about in astronomy. For my “final paper,” I turned in a sculptural translation of the HurtzsprungRussell diagram, which tracks the evolutionary stage of stars based on two values: their absolute magnitude versus surface temperature. I had a very open-minded teacher, Professor Chaisson, who was delighted and promptly invited me to show the work at a conference for science teachers. SciArt in America December 2013