Cordilleran Section - 115th Annual Meeting - 2019

Paper No. 42-3
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-3:30 PM


VAN WAGONER, Nancy A., Geology, Thompson Rivers University, 805 TRU Way, Physical Sciences, Kamloops, BC V2C 0C8, Canada

A goal of communicating science, whether through formal or informal education is for concepts to become part of the learners’ cognition, almost as a new intuition. The geosciences address the big questions of humanity such as origins, evolution, environmental legacies, and planetary endgames. The challenge of communicating in the geosciences is that, although these concepts are fundamental to appreciating the impacts of humans as geologic agents, they occur at rates and intensities and over periods of time that are well beyond human experience. What can be even more befuddling to the non-geoscientist is the way in which the smallest of minerals and their chemistries reveal epic stories about Earth, and how clarity about earth processes and events unfolds from fragments of Earth though most is hidden from view.

This paper presents the results of addressing some of these communication challenges through the integration of art and science to create an interactive art exhibition that is a is a geo-tour through Earth history to the ultimate extinction of the planet. The thesis and impetus for this work is that experiences in the visual arts engender emotional engagement with the subject matter that builds bridges between information, knowledge and cognition.

The art exhibition communicates the connections between the minuscule and the enormous, the vast yet fleeting trajectory of time, and individuality within a collective destiny. The purpose was to create an indelible context for contemporary life within the vast amounts of geologic time and complex bio-geological processes required to form modern Earth, in contrast to the impacts of humans in a short amount of time. Individual pieces are montages melding fragments of micro-imagery taken primarily from my research to produce new, imaginative visual narratives about Earth history. Each piece is presented with a “field guide” dissecting the story garnered from these fragments of earth materials, and a field guide to the entire show directs participants through the tour. Overall, the exhibition is a cathedral to the scientific story of creation and demise, deliberately blurring of the boundaries between art and science, gallery and museum, and intellect and emotion. Results of the impacts of the work will be presented, as well as current work with students.

  • Epic Tales of Earth N Van Wagoner GSA 2019.pdf (3.3 MB)