Are the people at Fermilab talented? Yes. And if you doubt it, visit this year’s Fermilab employee art show to become a believer.
The art show, currently on display in the Fermilab Art Gallery, will prove to you all over again that there’s more to your co-worker than a way with computing code or beam monitor.
“Seeing your co-worker’s art is like going to someone’s house for dinner, someone you’ve known only professionally,” said Fermilab technician Nick Gurley, whose artwork, along with that of his wife Sharon and son Will, is part of the exhibit. “You’ve known this co-worker superficially, but you go and see them at home, their environment. All of the sudden, this person’s life blossoms. It’s a different dimension.”
Those other dimensions are expressed in all sorts of materials, structures and arrangements of texture, color and form in the show, “50 Years of Science and Art.” An opening reception will take place on Wednesday, March 29, 5-7 p.m. in the art gallery, Wilson Hall, second-floor crossover.
For Elena Gramellini, a Fermilab user and graduate student at Yale University, it was a chance to flip roles. She recently translated into understandable science the artwork of last year’s artist-in-residence Ellen Sandor, serving as a guide for Sandor’s virtual tour of a neutrino detector.
Now, as an artist in the show, her artwork is the one being translated.
Her mixed-media collage, “Daily,” brings together research notes taken over the last few years — remnants from plans, drawings and calculations. These ultimately lead to an elegant mathematical expression, but the process is messy — just like making a collage.
“I like to get messy, and I like this medium,” Gramellini said. “The piece is not about any particular concept in particle physics. It’s about what working in physics means to me every day. There are a lot of little things — lists, practical steps — and all of it comes together to get to this other, deeper meaning — tiny objects, tiny truths.”
Fermilab welder Bill Gatfield’s piece, an interpretation of the Civil War ship the USS Monitor, demonstrates his admiration for the marvel of naval engineering. The Monitor, designed by Swedish engineer John Ericsson, was built in only 100 days, was the first in the world to employ a rotating gun turret, and boasted a deck lay a mere 12 inches above the surface of the water.
“Grown sailors wouldn’t sail on it. They were taking bets it wouldn’t float,” Gatfield said. But float it did, and its pioneering design was duplicated in later warships.
Gatfield’s stainless steel sculpture has three motorized parts, lights and officers’ quarters. Details both pronounced and subtle emphasize the technologically advanced design of the 1862 warship.
Technological advancements of a different kind were on Gurley’s mind when he created his watercolor-and-gouache-on-spruce work, “The Last Generation of Human Children to Laugh at Robots, Part 2,” inspired by his two-year-old son. Gurley supposes that robotic technology, developing by leaps and bounds, is quickly reaching a sobering limit.
“My son was walking around with a cardboard box on his head making robot sounds: ‘Beep boop beep boop.’ It was really cute,” said Gurley, who is participating in his third employee art show. “But by the time he’s an adult, robots are not only going to be more important, but the relationships with what we consider robots will be different. Now we laugh — robots are these caricatures — but he might be treating them like people soon.”
Gurley is devoted to drawing and painting, and he shows his work in other venues. But the Fermilab employee art show, he says, is different: It connects you with the other talented people you work with every day.
Gatfield, who is participating in his fifth employee art show, says that with all the abilities of people at the lab, there could easily be more participants.
“The employees out here have a ton of talent, aside from what they do in working-day life,” he said, adding that many of the lab employees assisted him in the construction of his sculpture. “A whole slew of people really helped me build it, and a lot of them came from the lab.”
And drawing out those people — like Gramellini, whose showing marks her first at an art exhibit — is what the show is all about.
The show is one of the highlights of the year for gallery curator Georgia Schwender.
“The works are extensions of people, and the exhibit gives employees a way to share a different side of themselves with the others at the lab,” Schwender said. “It builds and strengthens the Fermilab community. It brings people together.”