Karl Gaff, "Botanical Perfumes," 2021. Color print on Hahnemühle fine art rag paper. Courtesy Karl Gaff.

What to expect at LASM’s ‘Iridescence’ exhibition opening July 17

Iridescence is present in the world all around us. Soap bubbles, butterfly wings, gemstones–even the color-changing helmets the Tigers wore during the 2018 season. At the intersection of science and art, “Iridescence” is a fitting theme for the Louisiana Art & Science Museum’s latest art exhibition.

“I cannot think of a better subject to highlight the LASM’s mission: to connect the worlds of art and science and to explore all that they have to teach us,” says curator Lexi Adams.

“Iridescence” developed from a proposal from Nathan Lord, assistant professor of entomology and director of the State Arthropod Museum at LSU. At the time of the proposal in 2019, Lord was seeking an exhibition space to display his work understanding iridescence from an entomological standpoint: why some insects display iridescence, how insects view iridescence, and many other scientifically-based questions, Adams says.

Since the time of that proposal, the exhibition has grown significantly. The year-long installation features works of fine art by seven artists from across the country and beyond. From the East Coast to the West Coast and all the way to England and Ireland, each distinct artist creates art from his or her own scientific research.

“Artists working with iridescence must understand the science of iridescence to incorporate it into their work,” Adams explains. “Likewise, scientists working in the field of  iridescence need only to examine the visual elements of their research to begin their artistic journey.”

Soo Sunny Park, “Spectrum Specter,” 2015. Stainless steel, glass, natural and artificial light. Photo by Nash Baker and Peter Harris.

At the exhibit, visitors will experience all forms of iridescence in multiple areas of the museum including the Irene W. Pennington Planetarium, the Ancient Egypt Gallery and the Solar System gallery. From preserved natural insect specimens to state-of-the-art paintings and scientific imagery, examples of natural and manmade iridescence are everywhere. And of course, Tiger fans will be able to get an up-close look at that LSU football helmet from 2018.

While iridescence is the undeniable theme, not every work incorporates it in a straightforward or even visual manner, Adams says.

“Some of the works on view explore the tools and techniques that reveal iridescence,” explains Adams. “Jennifer Robison incorporates jewel beetles and morpho butterflies on the surfaces of her photographic works, so that the creatures appear to come to life from the image. Kate Nichols uses nanoparticles to mimic the physical properties of natural iridescence in her glass paintings.”

“Iridescence” will be installed in several phases. The first phase will open on July 17 in the Main Gallery; the second phase will open August 14 in the Soupçon Gallery; and finally, an installation of work by Soo Sunny Park, in partnership with the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge’s Ebb & Flow Festival will be on view from September 14 to 17.

The artwork will be on view until July 31, 2022, and will be highlighted at the 36th Annual Gala on October 8, which will also take on the exhibition’s theme. Although this year’s gala will be limited to sponsors and committee members only, online content and a silent auction will be online for everyone to enjoy.

A juried competition incorporating works inspired by “Iridescence” will also be on display in LASM’s Universe Gallery beginning on August 7. The exhibitions will be available for viewing online at virtual-lasm.org.