Today on Symbiartic, we're happy to present a Guest Post by Lisa Gardiner.

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In an effort to turn the proverbial lemons into lemonade, Los Angeles-based artist Kim Abeles is turning air pollution into art.

For her current exhibit in Boulder, Colorado, Kim worked with middle school students to capture and create art from smog. They placed stencils on white dinner plates, and placed those plates on the school’s roof. Seven months later the stencils were removed. Left on the plates were smog images composed of particles that had settled out of the atmosphere. Unappetizing, yet beautiful.

Bike made from smog © Kim Abeles

The plates are part of “the invisible connectedness of things,” a multimedia solo exhibit that combines a wall of video, large-scale photos, puzzles, paintings, and the pollution-coated plates to capture the multifaceted ways in which air pollution affects people and ecosystems. The exhibit, commissioned by EcoArts Connections, is on display until August 8, 2012 at the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History with satellite exhibits at the National Center for Atmospheric Research andAir Care Colorado in Boulder, Colorado.

Featured prominently in Kim’s photo and video pieces are close images of lichens, the green-yellow-gray crust often found covering rocks and tree trunks. Because these fungi and their symbiotic alga or cyanobacteria are often long lived and exposed to the elements, they collect air pollution over time. And because they are slow growing, pollutants become concentrated within the lichens. Kim’s digital images combine lichens with some of the sources of air pollution - people and their cars and trucks, in particular.

© Kim Abeles

Combining art and science, Kim’s work is part of the conversation about air quality. In her presentation at the exhibit opening, Kim said that art and science aren't that different. They are both about collecting, organizing, and presenting data, she noted. They are both about curiosity, and they both involve a willingness to mess up and get dirty.


About the author:

Lisa Gardiner (@lisagard2) is a Science Writer and Content Creator at Spark, UCAR Science Education (@SparkSciEd) in Boulder, Colorado, where she develops resources for the public, students, and teachers to learn about the Earth and the research going on at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. She has a background in geology, ecology, and paleontology - receiving her B.A. from Smith College and her Ph.D. from University of Georgia. She is currently an M.F.A. candidate in nonfiction writing at Goucher College. Lisa started Citizen Science Buzz, a TalkingScience blog, to share stories about how the public is getting involved with science and she is a contributing blogger for SciStarter. She is the author and illustrator of several books and articles about science for children and creates mixed-media paintings that link nature and geography.

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