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Timken Exhibit Shows Art Inspired By War's Cruelties

George Bellows' "Massacre at Dinat," depicting the German invasion of Belgium during World War I. It is currently on display at the Timken Museum of Art.
Timken Museum of Art
George Bellows' "Massacre at Dinat," depicting the German invasion of Belgium during World War I. It is currently on display at the Timken Museum of Art.
Timken Exhibit Shows Art Inspired By War's Cruelties
Timken Exhibit Shows Art Inspired By War's Cruelties GUESTS: Derrick Cartwright, curator, "Witness To War" Nuvi Mehta, special project director, San Diego Symphony

t is often hard for a layperson to grasp scientific concept but you the mystery and wonder our experiences that everybody can comprehend. The new Infiniti Q exhibit blends Marine science with the mystery and beauty of the underwater world. They explore bioluminescent that ability of certain sea creatures to emit light. Joining me are artist -- artist Yvonne to and Marine biologist Michael at with the Scripps institution of oceanography. Could you describe what visitors see when they step into your Infiniti Q. First it will be total darkness. What they will see inside is a coup of projections of bioluminescence trickling down the walls onto the ceiling and reflection into infinite reflections of bioluminescence and pulsating to sound and reacting to pressure and water. That's what the visitor will see. Was there a specific moment to inspire you to create art based on bioluminescence. I was in a total factory and it was a very dark night and that my I could see the Milky Way and infinite and that -- amount of stars and they were just crashing onto the beach anything see this luminous glow of an infinite amount of tiny dots from the ocean so that was the moment that I realized that the microcosm macrocosm that is me right in the middle. That was my moment when I got the inspiration. Can you give us some of the science behind bioluminescence. What are some of the creatures that we see. It is created by tiny microscopic organisms called dinoflagellates. They are common members of the waters along the coast and they are just a natural part of the ecosystem and are able to grow them in a laboratory and I have them available for filming and overall organisms use bioluminescence for protecting themselves from predators for finding food for attracting food and for finding made. What sorts of stimuli did you use? I used glowing and water and also air pressure so to get an example I would place this plankton inside the crystal ball and I would hit the edge of the bowl with a mallet that would trigger the vibration and would make a sound and it would eliminate the fire lesson -- bioluminescent organism. As I moved around the rim of the bowl the pattern would follow my gestures. So I understand that Yvonne actually contacted you because you have a program to collaborate with artist Kind of a program is that. My artist in residence program is an opportunity for artists to come and work directly with the scientists to explore bioluminescence. My goal in establishing this program is to seek out innovative and creative ways of representing bioluminescent that as a scientist I am very good at doing that technically and in a way that reaches an audience but in terms of reaching the general lay audience. There is a challenge in communicating via The artist you work with ever influence your own research. I consider a true collaboration and that we bring our own expertise is not only inspiring for the artist and I have seen how it has changed the lives of the artist but it is also really inspiring for me. As a scientist I tend to to Walmart and technical aspects of things but it helps bring out the side of my own self. There is a natural synergy. We are both examining the world around us in the case of science we are trying to explain and in the case of artists they are trying to represent it. So it is really the same goal but from entirely different perspectives and obviously artist created but we typically show our creativity in completely different ways. So for me it is natural. Yvonne do you feel like you captured the wonder and feeling of you in the middle of the micro and macrocosm in this Infiniti Q. I would say so and I would encourage people to see it for themselves. I have been speaking with artist Yvonne to and Marine biologist. Still had the Timken Museum focuses on how an artist becomes a witness to our. You're listening to KPBS Midday Edition.

Three artists from three different centuries, all responding to the atrocities of war.

Jacques Callot documented the Thirty Years War in what's considered an objective series of etchings of the French invasion of Lorraine in 1633. Callot's works inspired Francisco Goya over 100 years later to take a more subjective view of Napoleon's invasion of Spain in the Peninsular War, depicting demons on the battlefield. Unlike Callot and Goya, American George Bellows didn't see war firsthand but was inspired by news reports of the German attack on Belgium in World War I.

"(Bellow's) lithographs are among the toughest to behold," University of San Diego art professor Derrick Cartwright said. "He’s depicting human cruelty in such a profoundly naked way. You can’t look at those and remain neutral."


Cartwright curated the Timken Museum of Art's "Witness to War" exhibit, collecting works from all three artists. But given how intense some of the drawings are, he sought to include music in the exhibit space that could help ease viewers into the stark depictions of war. So the Timken turned to San Diego Symphony special project director Nuvi Mehta to find some excerpts for the show. Mehta first tried music that was directly inspired by the wars Callot, Goya and Bellows were reacting to.

"There are artistic truths that can go back and forth if they’re from the same time period. But it didn’t work as well as I thought," Mehta said. "It’s so spot on that I felt I was taking away from the artistic experience a little bit. When you add that extra ingredient, you take away the observer’s chance to let their mind and body feel."

Instead he chose pieces by composers Gustav Mahler and Dmitri Shostakovich that seemed tragic and tense.

"I was seeking music that expresses the anguish within the human condition in a more general way," Mehta said.

Cartwright and Mehta joined KPBS Midday Edition on Wednesday with more on their collaboration.


The Power of Images + Music

Where: Timken Museum of Art, 1500 El Prado, San Diego

When: Thursday, April 13, 6:30 p.m.

Cost: $45