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The Art of Chemistry

Kat Andonucci and Dr. Andy Robak, associate professor of chemistry (Photo by Erik Holmes '13)

Start with a science lab. Add one chemistry professor with self-described “wacky interests.” Introduce a visual and verbal art major with a passion for photography and painting. Mix together a variety of chemistry experiments and have the student capture them on camera or canvas. What do you get?

The Art of Chemistry, an exploration into the beauty and form caused by a variety of chemical reactions.

Robak's hand pours a luminol solution into a narrow glass tube over a 15-second exposure (Photo by Kat Andonucci '13)

Student photographer Kat Andonucci completed a year-long independent study under the guidance of Dr. Andrew Robak, associate professor of chemistry. With Robak casting the vision and directing her in each experiment, Andonucci crafted the compositions, often using a tripod, a remote shutter and a long exposure to create the images.

“We wanted to treat it as a course, the chemistry of things that are neat to look at, to have a clue what they were,” Robak said, pointing out how many science textbooks use photography to illustrate experiments. The two received a $500 grant from Keuka College’s Division of Academic Affairs to help cover costs of printing and framing the images.

Glycerol makes glass objects dipped into it appear to disappear. (Photo by Kat Andonucci '13)

When Robak went in search of a student who could help illustrate experiments that would show “the fun side of chemistry,” he contacted Melissa Newcomb, assistant professor of art. Newcomb referred him to Andonucci, sparking the creative collaboration.

“I’ve always been interested in chemistry as art or science as art. You can see from the pictures that a lot of stuff I work with is really cool,” said Robak, who holds a Ph.D. in organic chemistry. He rattled off a variety of compounds, from mercury, with its shiny metallic texture that is “really fun to play with,” to flourescein, which turns neon-green when in contact with water, to glycerol, which refracts light in a way that seems to make objects submersed in it disappear.

The hand of Erik Holmes '13, holding methane gas bubbles, a quick-second experiment shot by Andonucci '13.

Andonucci had to be sure to take several shots of each experiment, capturing images on camera as experiments were conducted several times in a row. She brought fellow visual and verbal art major Erik Holmes ’13 into the process, putting him to work as a hand model in some of the images.

Robak managed to convince Holmes to paint a graffiti mural on a concrete wall.  The mural illustrated the chemical structure of concrete itself, and gave Robak an idea for a second creative collaboration with Andonucci.  The two teamed up again on a project to create the letter code of select elements of the Periodic Table with paint created from each of the scientific elements themselves. Another Academic Excellence Initiatives grant funded this second project.

Andonucci paints the symbol for Lead.

According to Robak, all of the pigments Andonucci used to paint the periodic table symbols contain the elements.

Egyptian blue in solid form, before baking to convert it to powder form to then mix into a paint.

Using stand-alone 12×12 canvas squares painted with each element, Andonucci arranged them to hang so that some of the squares appear to be raised and some depressed, creating a more dynamic artwork. As such, the oversize work, she described as “an abstract kind of 3-D Periodic Table” could serve as a permanent reference source in a classroom or lab. In fact, the piece served as the backdrop for a National Pi Day event. Meanwhile, several of Andonucci’s images are now gracing the walls within the science center as permanent installations.

“I’ve got too many ideas and not enough artists,” Robak said. “I’m totally looking for more people to rope into these kinds of things.”

 

Senior Art Show: Andonucci’s Nature

Natural landscapes are Kat Andonucci’s favorite subject to photograph, her homing beacon. Heading outside to take nature photos remains a comfort, she said.

"Farm" by Kat Andonucci

When she bought her first camera, Andonucci liked “nothing better than capturing a perfect photo, on a perfect day. My goal is always to preserve that moment in time as realistically as possible, sometimes it’s as simple as just taking the photo, while other times it can be much more complex.”

Each work in Andonucci’s senior exhibit, My Nature, which runs through Dec. 13 in Lightner Gallery inside Lightner Library, has some sort of connection to nature, she explained. From Adirondack Park landscapes, to places near Andonucci’s hometown of Chestertown, near Lake George, to locales visited, mountains hiked or even the nature of a human body, the works all carry the theme of nature.

"Cemetery" by Kat Andonucci

In her first photography class at Keuka, when she was originally a biology major, she walked into class with a new digital camera only to discover the course was in black and white film photography. Thankfully, her mother’s old Konica film camera sufficed and Andonucci fell in love with the entire process of taking images from film to print.

The exhibit features numerous black and white film photos, sometimes contrasted with digital ones.

“There is just such a dramatic change between the two, even though the photos are the same,” she described. “Not everything has to be bright and colorful. I enjoy finding the beauty in the odd things, things that people might often overlook or not necessarily consider to be beautiful.” (more…)

Simmons Showcases Photography at Keuka

Abby Simmons loves the Finger Lakes. Perhaps that’s why its rolling hills, rural landscapes and colorful foliage feature prominently in her photography.

sunset, tractor, silhouette, abby simmons, finger lakes, landscape, rural, field, orange

Simmon's sunset shot of a tractor in a local field

One night, heading to her parents’ farm in Bellona, Simmons crested a hill near Tomion’s Farm Market (off Route 14A) and noticed a tractor in a nearby cornfield. She pulled over and was absorbed in taking dozens of photos of the tractor’s silhouette against the setting sun, when her parents drove by.  They stopped when they saw her wading through the field with her camera.

“They catch me doing that a lot,” Simmons said with a smile.

The tractor at sunset image and many others will be featured  in the Lightner Gallery at Lightner Library at Keuka College Sept. 2 – Oct. 31. An artist’s reception will be held 4:30-6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 19, where light refreshments will be served.   Gallery hours may be found online at lightner.keuka.edu.

This will be Simmons’ first solo show. Her work first caught the eye of Melissa Newcomb, assistant professor of art and curator of the gallery, during last winter’s staff and faculty art exhibit. Simmons has worked as a staff member for Keuka’s D.R.I.V.E program for the last year-and-a-half. (more…)

Keuka Students, Teachers Embrace Eastern Europe

After almost two years of modern-day “pen pal” communication via Skype, a number of Keuka College education majors finally met – in person – the Slovakian high school students they previously saw on the computer screen.

Vrable high school students meet their American online "pen pals"

This group Field Period included education majors, taught by Dr. Denise Love and Dr. Klaudia Lorinczova, both assistant professors of education, and other Keuka students, including several visual and verbal art majors taught by Melissa Newcomb, assistant professor of art. The Keuka Field Period is a required annual internship or exploratory study of 140 hours.

Clock Tower by Michael Fisher

Seventeen students, two faculty members and two parent chaperones traveled overseas in early June to visit the cities of Prague, Nitra, Bratislava and Vienna. Over 11 days, Newcomb directed students in photographic study of architecture and culture while Lorinczova led an exploration of Slovakian education and other unique social, political and cultural traditions of her home country and its European neighbors. Students had already gone through weeks of “pre-teaching” in advance of the trip, learning from Lorinczova a number of cultural anomalies to expect and reviewing a manual on basic digital photography with Newcomb, as well as gaining a basic understanding of architectural styles such as Baroque, Gothic or Rococo.

A last-minute foot injury kept Love confined at home, but ultimately, she was able to coordinate from the couch, helping the two professors “on the ground” navigate unexpected challenges almost as soon as they cropped up. The first biggie: severe flooding in many portions of Prague – the first stop on the trip –shortly after the group arrived. Love offered advice and assistance with the travel agency as the group moved around Prague and then on to other cities, and communicated with Newcomb and Lorinczova via daily Skype sessions.

Floods by Sarah Hillman

All three professors recommended “an anchor” back home, given the benefits gleaned in this experience. The three professors had previously structured the trip to include student reflections in words and images, utilizing online blogs as electronic journals. The blogs proved a saving grace for worried parents back home who heard news reports of the flooding much earlier than the students themselves. And while students did post a few photos of flooded streets and commentary on dealing with nonstop rains, images of cathedrals, statues, gardens, public squares, restaurants and cafes far outnumbered them.

Keuka Group on tour by Melissa Newcomb

In the words of Sarah Hillman ‘13, a final, rainy day in Prague was salvaged with a spur-of-the-moment museum tour, where the whole group saw “paintings, sculptures, and other works from Alfons Mucha and Salvador Dali. They were great!” (more…)

Seniors Showcase Art ‘EXPEERIENCE’

A trio of seniors are presenting their final art projects – a closer look at their personal journeys – in an exhibit on display April 29-May 24 at Keuka College’s Lightner Gallery.

The Senior Art Show showcases the talents of Erik Holmes of Penn Yan, Courtney French (Massena), and Erica Ruscio (Middlesex). An artists’ reception will be held from 4:30-6 p.m. Tuesday, April 30 at the gallery in Lightner Library. Light refreshments will be served and the event is free and open to the public. The exhibit runs through May 24.The gallery is open during Lightner Library hours, whichcan be found online at: http://lightner.keuka.edu.

According to Melissa Newcomb, assistant professor of art and adviser to the student artists, each one had to prepare an artist’s statement, along with a “thesis” of sorts, representing the culmination of work produced over their time as a student. Throughout this semester, they met  weekly for senior art seminar, she said, and from those talks, a group consensus emerged: everybody’s grown.

This group has some of the strongest raw talent of students Newcomb has mentored during her four years at Keuka, she said.

According to Ruscio, the trio named the exhibit “EXPEERIENCE” because it’s “all about our experiences and we hope that people can see that by peering a little closer.”

“There are also a lot of eyes and faces, so we just thought it was a catchy title,” Ruscio added. (more…)