Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

January 06, 2004

U of G to unveil weather-operated sculpture

An outdoor sculpture that continually changes based on how the wind is blowing will be unveiled at the University of Guelph Jan. 15 at 4 p.m. Mounted on the northern wall of the Macdonald Stewart Art Centre, the sculpture is operated by an anemometer on the roof of the building that reads wind speed and direction. "As far as I know, it's the only outdoor sculpture in Canada that's operated by nature," said Judith Nasby, art centre director.

Eight rings forming an oval shape with a bar of lights down the centre will be visible to people driving or walking south along Gordon Street. The exterior of the eight rings will remain lit in primary colours, but a line through the centre of each ring will be illuminated only by wind direction. The bar of lights down the centre of the formation is an indicator of wind speed. "The fact that we have an operating weather station on the roof has intrigued everyone I've mentioned it to," said Nasby. "The sculpture is like a brilliant illuminated jewel that will be visible even during the daytime."

The permanent sculpture, created by Scottish artist Diane Maclean, is part of a new exhibition called "Lovely Weather" that runs until April 18 and also features the work of U of G scientists.

"One of my curatorial objectives is to encourage artists to engage with scientists to see what kind of new artwork might emerge from their involvement," said Nasby. "When I learned of Maclean's enthusiasm for marrying science and art, I knew there was a strong potential for her to develop an interesting project." Such collaborations have already produced two sculptures, she said.

In preparing for the exhibition, Maclean approached U of G professors about the possibility of featuring their weather-related work in the indoor component of the exhibition. Land resource science professor Terry Gillespie, who teaches courses in meteorology, has been taking photographs of clouds for years. He showed them to Maclean, who was keen to showcase two of them in a cloud exhibit that will be accompanied by a voice-over of Gillespie's poetic description of clouds and climate change.

Population medicine professor David Waltner-Toews, who writes poetry when he isn't practising veterinary science, has contributed pictures and poems to the exhibition that relate to his research. He studies the relationships between climate and water-borne illness to project the potential health effects of global environmental change. "I think it's really important to think about how we can bring together humanities and arts and science," he said. "This exhibition is a great start."

Computing and information science professor David Swayne connected Maclean to computing and information science adjunct professors William Schertzer and David Lam, who are also research scientists at Environment Canada's National Water Research Institute. Computer images their work will be shown on a large-scale DVD projection on a wall of the art centre. "They have instrumentation in lakes and rivers across Canada that send information back to their labs on weather, water temperature and currents," says Maclean. "What they're doing comes out as something you can enjoy visually, and yet behind it, there is all this quite complicated scientific research."

Seeing the art in science is something that comes naturally to Maclean. "Scientists are excited by what they're doing, and it's this kind of enthusiasm on the scientific side that I pick up on. I see their work as something very beautiful."

Judith Nasby
Macdonald Stewart Art Centre
University of Guelph
(519) 824-4120, Ext. 58681

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