By Patricia Moss-Vreeland
The Esther Klein Gallery (EKG) is a unique nonprofit space and gallery in Philadelphia for artists that are involved in combining art, science and technology.
Twenty years after I first exhibited at EKG at the University City-based Science Center, I have another solo exhibition in that space. “In Search of Meaning: Memory Becomes Us” centers on our relationships to memory and its connection to the spaces in which we dwell.
My installation — drawings, paintings, prints, artist books, poetry and videos interlaced with science texts — encompasses current research on art and science research as manifested through a series of conversations with Dr. Dasa Zeithamova from the University of Oregon.
With Zeithamova as a partner, I explore the function of the human brain in finding meaning, in different ways of knowing and self-expression, and the importance of stepping out of our silos and forming relationships.
The Venture Cafe — a new EKG addition — works in tandem with the gallery to help the public make the connections between these disciplines via programming. I was invited to present some of the exhibit and my ideas there last night, and will be returning March 28, for another program.
The new installation builds upon my first exhibition at EKG, “Memory-Connections Matter,” 20 years ago. I had just completed a commission to design the Memorial Room at the Holocaust Museum in Houston, and the interlacing of memory and emotion in that work made it difficult to return to what I was doing before as an artist.
When I received a commission for the Millennial Art-in-Science Exhibition XIV at EKG, I thought it timely to further explore memory in my artwork. Besides being a pivotal time in my life as an artist, we were all entering a new century, and were in the midst of a quiet revolution in the field of neuroscience (the 1990s were referred to as “the decade of the brain”).
The art and science program at EKG, and the invitation to exhibit there in 1999, enabled me to research before designing and implementing my proposal. Part of EKG’s philosophy encourages process, taking the time to develop an idea, locate collaborators and advisors, and take the risks inherent in the creative process.
I was also lucky to find a wonderful neuroscience mentor, Dr. Barbara Malamut, who guided me in learning about memory and the brain. Our relationship illuminated for me the first connections between art and science (she went on to become an advisor for my 2011 book, “A Place for Memory: Where Art and Science Meet“), which is one of the goals of EKG.
After “Memory-Connections Matter” opened, my work kept expanding. I was invited to present at conferences and to join interdisciplinary art residencies, which led me to meet people I would never have come across otherwise. I spent time exchanging ideas in a serious platform and I welcomed this creative exchange, which inevitably enhanced my ideas and methodology of making art.
I am grateful that this public space continues foster dialogue between art and science as I keep exploring the relationships between memory, creativity, brain function and learning.