KS: How did you arrive at the multidisciplinary concepts you convey in your work?
PG: I have been a multidisciplinarian in science and art since high school where I conducted experiments with polymers in physics projects and used my artistic interests in the biological science courses. The ability to develop multiple skills and interests also came from the experience of having three professional artists in my extended family, grandparents who had a working farm where I learned to use a variety of tools and materials, and parents that let me pick my own path through guided trial and error, or as I like to say, I backed into science by avoiding other areas. My diverse interest continued through graduate school where I earned a degree in biomedicine and concurrently exhibited sculpture and paintings that often had a conceptual basis derived from my research. I often use the inherent beauty of genetics, microbiology, and neuroscience in bronze and steel sculptures with the goal to create something that has both an artistic value as a sculpture and also leads to further questioning by the viewer.
My satisfaction is highest when nonscientists and those who forgot nearly all their science education recognize something in my works, or when students in my Sculpture & Genetics program created beautiful pieces based on biological structures. I once did a three dimensional wall collage that adults thought was a conceptual volcano and teenagers immediately recognized as a Herpes eruption. I often felt provoked by the artistic qualities of the images I encountered whether it was via 3-D electron microscopy or theoretical RNA structures derived from thermal spectrometers. Artists, scientists, and technologists look at structure and pattern in the universe, whether visible or invisible to the naked eye, and I think it is a natural transition to transform these into art.
KS: What is the significance of the different types of materials you use?
PG: Like many artists I tend to pick up stray materials along the road (literally) and eventually incorporate them into my sculptures that include new materials. Using my hands and learning new techniques are important to my practice, hence the incorporation of wood and/or stone with steel or bronze. The significance is a reflection of my vocational experiences. By wandering through pharma, polymer, packaging, food and fabrication trade shows, I sequester a variety of materials not usually perceived as art opportunities. I learned welding while in the military and bronze casting when I had a studio in and worked at a bronze foundry casting for other artists. A forgotten piece of a bridge demolition in my neighborhood became core DNA in a bacteriophage. A collection of used sleep apnea tubes becomes brain gyri. Bronze floor splatters turn into HeLa cells in culture. Bubble wrap can have the look of virus capsids.
KS: What are your thoughts on sci/art discourse especially as it relates to public art?
PG: It is absolutely essential. My sci/art work has been described as conceptual (although all art starts from a concept) and it generates a good dialog with the public, either through accompanying informational materials or direct conversation. I believe we have a responsibility to open as much discourse as possible with the public by using our artistic skills. It would be wonderful if we could emulate some of the European sci/art programs in which small cities and towns create inclusive key event involving scientists, artists and the public along a specific theme that includes residencies, creation and public display with discussion opportunities. Another way to increase discourse involving public art is the use of smartphone apps that let the viewer listen to the artist describe their work and motivations. Chicago is using this technology with over 100 new public art pieces throughout the city in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the installation of Picasso’s major sculpture in front of City Hall.
KS: What current projects are you working on?
PG: As of last year I am working on the expression of geometry and algebra as structural creations that may not be obvious to the general public; however, I offer brief explanations of real world applications; combining art appreciation and science. Recent pieces addressed parabolic curves, hyperbolic curves, primary shapes with primary colors. These are fun to make and enable me to make smaller pieces as well that are more accessible to urban dwellers. Genetics and neuroscience remain my central foci and we’ll see where that leads.
Check out more of Peter's work at www.metal-i-genics.com. To contact Peter email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.