On Exhibit: ‘Iridescence’ at LASM

Jennifer Robison, “Wavelengths Between Us,” 2020. Archival pigment digital print with morpho butterfly and jewel beetle inclusions. Photo courtesy Jennifer Robison.

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 other scientifically based questions.

The concept grew significantly from there. The yearlong 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 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.”

Visitors will experience forms of iridescence in multiple areas of the museum, even 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. “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.”

The artwork will be highlighted at the virtual version of LASM’s 36th annual gala, which will feature the “Iridescence” theme. The gala’s online auction will begin accepting bids October 1, and the gala will be broadcast at 7 p.m. October 8 at lasm.org/gala. View the exhibitions online at virtual-lasm.org.