EXHIBITION BROCHURE TEXT
The book has long served as a container for scientific and technical knowledge. Vitruvius' ten books on architecture and Robert Hooke's book of microscopic views are striking examples. Both contain detailed illustrations which clarify the texts.
Artists have been involved for centuries in the process of creating books. They have served as illustrators for all manner of volumes (including scientific books) and have crafted beautiful bindings, alphabets, and page formats for an array of publications. But only recently have individual artists begun producing their own books as complete artistic statements.
The artist's book of today is often made by a single artist who assumes roles traditionally held by an assortment of people working collaboratively. Book artists may use unusual materials and nontraditional bindings to help convey their messages. Each element of the final book--visual content, words, and structure--helps convey the book's theme.
Science and the Artist's Book explores how science can serve as a springboard for artistic creation. A select group of nationally recognized book artists was invited to create original works of art inspired by the Heralds of Science, a 200-volume collection of classic scientific texts housed in the Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology, Special Collections of the Smithsonian Institution Libraries. Each artist has selected one Heralds volume and has created a book which reinterprets the subject, theories, or illustrations of the scientific work. The resulting exhibition is a surprising dialogue between science and the visual arts which may offer clues to the creative process itself.
Carol Barton, co-curator
As an electrical engineer, inventor, collector of books, and philanthropist, Bern Dibner combined the best qualities of an inquisitive thinker with the vision of a man determined to preserve the original sources of the past for future generations. In 1974, his collection of 200 Heralds and approximately 8,000 other books and 1,600 groups of manuscripts was donated to the Smithsonian Institution, to help establish a library for research in the history of science and technology.
As Dr. Dibner wrote in the preface to his catalog of the Heralds, "To live in this age of science without an awareness of its fascinating origins is to miss much of the spirit of its attainments." The Dibner Library of the Smithsonian Institution Libraries, located in the National Museum of American History, makes these treasures available for consultation by scholars and others interested in learning about the history of science from the original sources.
In uniting the two distinct disciplines of art and science, this exhibition reveals some of the common threads between the creation of art and the process of scientific investigation and technological invention. Scientists and artists both require a keen sense of observation, vital powers of imagination, the persistence to achieve their visions through hard work and perseverance in the face of many challenges, and the ability to communicate their discoveries to a broader audience. The arrangement of these scientific texts side by side with their artistic offspring is a way of emphasizing aspects of creativity that are common to science as well as to art.
Diane Shaw, co-curator
with assistance from
The Smithsonian Institution Libraries and the Washington Project for the Arts gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the The Glen Eagles Foundation and the Smithsonian Special Exhibition Fund.
Exhibition design, editing, and production