Clemson University’s Kinard Laboratory of Physics and Astronomy now features an art installation as unique as the student who crafted it.
“Horizon” is a piece of public art created by Aidan Rhoades, a dual-degree student with majors in both art and physics, and the work perfectly incorporates his interest in both disciplines.
“Horizon is inspired by blackbody radiation. This is the phenomenon that explains why hot objects put off electromagnetic radiation, including visible light,” Rhoades explained. “As a metalworker, this behavior is fundamental to the way I interact with my medium because it allows me to judge the temperature of my workpiece, and it has been colloquially understood for tens of thousands of years by people practicing my craft.”
The partnership to have an art installation in Kinard began with the Presidential Leadership Institute bringing together two department chairs: the Department of Art’s Valerie Zimany and the Department of Physics and Astronomy’s Sean Brittain.
“It fulfills exactly what PLI is supposed to do, which is to bring different parts of the University together for new collaborations and exchanges,” Zimany said. “I think that our college (the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities) and College of Science have a lot of things in common with cultures that prize inquiry and problem-solving, and Aidan is a great representation of how that can manifest itself in different disciplines.”
Brittain echoed Zimany’s thoughts on the unity between disciplines.
“While many may not think of art and science having a lot to do with one another, the insights from each sphere of intellectual endeavor are mutually beneficial,” he said. “Both art and science elevate humanity by harnessing our creativity and curiosity.”
For Rhoades, the pursuit of dual degrees is both a passion and a challenge. He began his college career in engineering but found that the interdisciplinary nature of the physics degree allowed him to craft a schedule that allowed him to pursue his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. His love of science and art are reflected in his work in equal measure.
“Horizon plays on that relationship of my two interests by using loose, expressive linework to capture the gesture of a radiating particle, which mirrors the observed forms of celestial bodies as viewed across their radiation spectrum,” he said. “I aimed to draw a line through the colloquial knowledge and mysticism of craft toward the more rigid understanding of the universe through physics.”
Horizon was unveiled on April 1, prominently mounted in the entrance of the building. Brittain said that Rhoades’ art has already been a conversation starter.
“As Henri Poincare noted, science is grand because it raises us above ourselves by revealing the dazzling immensity of the cosmos and the power of humanity’s intellect that is able to comprehend the harmony of it all,” Brittain said. “Aidan’s creative work symbolizes the dynamic nature of the scientific enterprise, and the skills necessary to craft his piece were informed by the principles of physics.”
Established in 1996, the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities celebrates a unique combination of disciplines—Architecture; Art; City Planning; Construction Science and Management; English; History; Languages; Performing Arts; Philosophy; Religion; Real Estate Development and interdisciplinary studies—that enable Clemson University students to imagine, create and connect. CAAH strives to unite the pursuit of knowledge with practical application of that knowledge to build a better and more beautiful world.
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