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Project Showcases Artists, Scientists

A few feet to the left is a tilted red chair in a pile of flour, below a slanted mantle, over which is a framed glass pane with the word, "see" printed over and over on it. The accompanying statement briefly explains general concepts of theoretical high energy physics.

The pieces are two of the seven works showcased in the first exhibit of the Synthesis Project, which opened Feb. 19 in the John and June Allcott Undergraduate Gallery.

The brainchild of Loren Clemens, a senior studio arts major from Durham, the Synthesis Project was created as an experiment to meld science with art.

"I thought it would be a really cool thing to do," Clemens said. "(Art and science) are really just two sides of the same coin."

About 40 people, artists and scientists from around the UNC community, paired up to discuss scientific concepts and compose artistic expressions of those ideas Each art piece has a statement from a scientist accompanying it about the scientist's research.

"You, as a viewer, read the statement, see the art accompanying it, and look at that relationship," Clemens said. "The show is just the results (of the project).

"The most important stuff that's going on is the collaboration, when these people are getting together, talking and making each other think -- the artwork is just the byproduct."

Cariana Rambuski, a second-year graduate student of fine arts, is one of the artists whose work is featured in the show. She was paired with Bill Shively, a third-year graduate student studying physics at UNC. Rambuski said the pairing and subsequent collaboration seemed very natural.

"At the first meeting, the scientists introduced themselves and their projects and I immediately gravitated towards (Shively)'s work on String Theory," she said. "He's a theoretical physicist. All he does is think. I'm a conceptual artist. All I do is think. It's just a really good match."

Shively agreed, noting the many similarities between art and science. "The creative process and the creative search, what you're looking for in my research and in areas of art are not too different. It's searching for the truth; what is hidden that you're trying to reveal," he said.

Most people outside the project seem to assume that the juxtaposition of art and science would be tense and awkward. However, those involved agreed that the project was a fascinating and highly rewarding endeavor.

More than anything, they viewed their work as a refreshing pooling of intellectual creativity.

"Artists and scientists are both actively involved in investigating the world and reality, but they don't interact with each other that much," said Clemens.

"I think they have a lot to teach each other and a lot to gain from each other."

The Synthesis Project will be showing at the Hanes Art Center through March 3. Another Synthesis Project exhibit will be held in late April.

The Arts & Entertainment Editor can be reached at

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