Art Meets Science in ‘Floating Points’ Exhibition at AVS Gallery at Avery Point – UConn Today

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One might think that a photograph taken in the same place, day after day, would show a repetition of the same shapes, colors and shades.

But from day to day things change – dust accumulates, a person leaves his mark, plants grow new leaves. New York City photographer Oscar Landy’s nine “Slit Grid” tiles on display Alexey von Schlippe Art Gallery as if UConn Avery Point It could show better.

Each piece of the work shows the same image of a body of water when viewed from the sidewalk boards, but each section looks very different from the next.

Slit Grid by New York City-based artist Oscar Landy
Slit Grid by New York City-based artist Oscar Landy. (Contributed photo)

In shades of blue, gray and black, the color of the water changes according to the light. Floor tiles dance differently in response to wind. The intensity of the light stream that shines in the two plates depends on the atmosphere – the eclipse in one room is completely covered, which is the result of the smoke haze of wild fires.

This one painting is shown as part of the exhibition “Floating Points: Exploring the Plastisphere with NASA.” It’s exactly what UConn marine science professor Heidi Dierson describes as “rocket science.”

Simply, looking at the ocean floor or using superlative satellite images in space to make observations or conclusions is not as easy as one might think.

For example, she says, let’s take the idea that the earth is blue marble from space. Not for the reason one might think – from space, Earth’s oceans look midnight blue, maybe black.

“When a photon enters the ocean, it bends down, and it continues to go down until it’s absorbed by water, phytoplankton and other things in the water,” she said. “What you don’t know is that only 1% or 2% bounce back, and once they bounce back, they have to go through the air interface and then through this atmosphere and guess what color the atmosphere is?”

Light blue.

“The blue marble is blue because we have this amazing atmosphere,” she says. “Indeed, if our oceans were on Mars, we would call them red marble. The reality is that more than 90% of the photons coming out of the ocean come from reflections. Understanding how light interacts with the ocean floor is key to trying to look at white plastic floating in the ocean from space.

Diersson, who studies remote sensing of ocean properties, met Landin five years ago, shortly after leaving his residency with the Arctic Service, looking to photograph the presence of microplastics in remote bodies of water.

Yes, by proving that even the Arctic Ocean is polluted by human plastics, Landy and Diersson are connected to the idea that they can help each other.

Landy joined Diersson’s research team to bring a team of scientists to the artistic eye and specialized knowledge of how light affects a subject. Could it be possible for scientists to spot floating plastics from NASA’s high-powered color images of the ocean, as the technology is designed to detect ocean biology?

Floating Points by artist Oscar Landy exhibited at the Alexi von Schliep Art Gallery.Floating Points by artist Oscar Landy exhibited at the Alexi von Schliep Art Gallery.
Floating Points by Artist Oscar Landy at the Alessi Von Schliep Gallery of Art at Avery Point on November 14, 2023. (Sean Flynn/UConn Photo)

“There are literally trillions of tiny white plastics all over the oceans. In fact, they’re collected in the middle of these big ocean currents where water accumulates between ocean basins and we have to flow down. So, anything that floats collects there,” Dierson says, calling it the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” He explains that there is no large collection of plastic even in the area he calls it.

“There’s no island like Texas. If anything, my job was pretty easy. Instead, these are small whites; We call them ‘floating points of light’. And as you walk around this room, you’ll be inspired by what Oscar inspired,” she says, pointing to Landi’s photographs on display in the gallery’s main room.

One of the phenomena that optical oceanographers such as Diersson have to correct or remove from calculations when looking at images of the ocean floor shows things like solar flares.

“You think of sunlight when these giant rays come up,” she says. “In fact, they are tiny particles of light that are reflections of the sun on a much smaller scale. You can actually see these solar floating points. So it’s something I have to get rid of, saying ‘how much sun shines’ to see how many bits of plastic are left.”

She said she should also consider white caps, ocean foam that looks like white plastic from space.

Look at Landy’s photograph, “Foamscape #1239,” says Dierssen, whose black water that covers the entire image is painted in the center on a sea foam covered in waves and sunlight.

Dierson asked if there was a flash in the bubble, something she had wondered about for years.

Scientific models are not clear on the answer, and researchers hypothesized that the answer is no. Photographs like Landy’s provide proof of that assumption, she said, when you look at “Foamscape” you can see that the foam doesn’t have glitter. It is around the bubble.

“Someone with a special eye like you can make sure our models are doing a great job,” Dierssen tells Landy. “I never knew that. ‘It doesn’t even bubble up,’ I thought. But how do I know? “

“Art is different from science – but here we are.”

Adding an artist to the team of researchers was one of the best things Dirsson did, she says. Landi produced a video showing how a plastic reacts in moving water and is part of the exhibition.

She said the relationship inspired her to look at the natural world differently, to look at water — a subject she’s studied for more than 20 years — than he had.

“I’m a scientist, and art is different from science – but here we are in this collaboration,” she says, praising the relationship between science and art, one that complements the other.

Dierssen said she hopes to continue working with Landy, especially at the start of next year’s NASA PACE – Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, Ocean Ecosystem – mission, for which she serves as the leader of the science team. She plans to be at Cape Canaveral to begin with and hopes Landy will lend his creative eye.

“I hope my work encourages discovery and adventure, as well as reconnecting with the natural environment, a basic need that is often undermined by our modern lifestyle,” says Landi. “Nature is changing fast, but it’s still here. It’s everywhere. Let us remember that we are a part of it and always be aware of the beauty it has to offer.

Although she now has a greater appreciation for the beauty of the world, Dierson says she’s out of her comfort zone when it comes to making “floating points.”

Curated by gallery director Jeanne Ciravolo, the exhibit features Landy’s photographs, two of his short films, and at least one scientific chart courtesy of Dirsson detailing NASA’s Spaceborne Ocean Microplastics (SQOOP) project. It took into account atmospheric, wind and sea surface conditions to see if microplastics could be detected with current satellite technology.

The answer:

“Folks, I have good news. No, we can’t,” Dierson joked to a recent crowd for the exhibition opening and related gallery talk. “To really show up, they would have to be 100 to a thousand times more concentrated on the sea floor than they are today. And even under the best conditions…any way we’ve looked, and even in the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch,’ at this point, they’re not concentrated enough.”

Research will continue. More photos will be taken. And Dierssen and Landi continue to explore floating points in water.

Compatible with “Floating Points: Exploring the Plastisphere with NASA.” Aleksei von Schlieppe has an art gallery. “Body of Water: Works by Marsha Borden, Esto Lane, and Atty Yaniv.” On view. This exhibition features contemporary art that focuses on human damage to waterways and marine environments. Borden and Lane received 2022 Connecticut Sea Grant Arts Support Awards for their work. “Floating Points” and “Water Bodies” are open until December 10. Gallery hours are Thursday through Sunday, noon to 4 p.m., on the second floor of Branford House on the UConn Avery Point campus.

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