From the President







  My Response

  Letters to the Editor

  Online Bulletin Board

  Contact Response

  Submit Footnote

  Submit Letter to Editor

  Address Change

  Back Issues

  Response Home

  SPU Home

Winter 2004 | Volume 26, Number 5 | Faculty
Talk About Imagination

Physicist and Artist Probe the “Brilliant Bridge” Between Two Disciplines

IT’S NOT EVERY DAY that a professor of physics and a professor of art undertake a joint project.

Lit by their slide presentation, professors Lasworth and Vokos discuss the art and physics of sculpture, such as Friedman’s “Memory of a Piece of Paper” (shown).

The teamwork of Seattle Pacific University scientist Stamatis Vokos and artist Laura Lasworth began in early 2003, when they pored over photographs of sculptures by Tim Hawkinson and Tom Friedman. Vokos observed that the sculptors celebrate properties of physics when precisely fitting together their work.

Says Vokos, “People think scientific discovery is something that builds on reason. But there is a moment of intuition when the mind is not reasoning; the mind just knows. The mystery is, how do scientists and artists translate these eternal truths for the rest of us? Where do they get this imagination?”

Talk about imagination! Even in their playful names, Hawkinson’s “Dorito Polyhedron” and “Spoon Ball” hint of new geometric forms that common materials can take. One of Friedman’s untitled sculptures — a long, crooked pencil made with real pencil sections — hangs from the ceiling, the point of the pencil just touching the floor. Another Friedman sculpture, a prickly sphere made of thousands of glued toothpicks, shows in its mock explosion “the direction of force from a single point,” according to Vokos.

Lasworth remembers, “When Stamatis got to the pages in the Friedman book with the balancing pencil and exploding toothpick sculptures, it was natural for him to give me a basic lesson in physics. We talked about how in both art and science the element of mystery enters into the process of imagination.”

For Vokos, Friedman’s “Memory of a Piece of Paper” created what he calls “a brilliant bridge” between art and science. “You’re looking at a black, rectangular spot,” explains Vokos, “and you have little torn pieces of paper around that central spot. Where that empty spot is, there used to be a piece of paper. From a physicist’s point of view, this is what we do: We smash particles against each other to reconstruct a story of what happened in the beginning.”

It was not the first time Lasworth had taken a personal interest in physics. “Many years ago,” she says, “I wanted to understand Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, so I could try to depict motion in some paintings.”

Lasworth and Vokos developed these ideas in a team-taught workshop during the Day of Common Learning, where the Seattle Pacific community celebrated imagination and curiosity. Students, staff and faculty colleagues, including Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Bruce Congdon, were inspired by the scientist-artist partnership. Says Congdon, “I’m excited about the possibilities of placing disparate departments like physics and art together and seeing what creative collaborations — like this one — come out of it.”


Back to the top

Back to Faculty

From the President

With years of experience in business and higher education, President Philip Eaton brings a unique perspective to the subject of good business. “For me,” he says, “business is all about investing in a worthy vision.”

Circle of Influence Grows
Nearly 4,000 new donors have supported The Campaign for SPU, including those with no previous connection to Seattle Pacific. [Campaign]

Planning for Casey’s Future
SPU faces challenges in its efforts to retain and maintain Camp Casey while working to preserve its historic and environmental resources. [Campus]

You Can Go Home Again!
Hundreds of SPU alumni and families returned to campus for Homecoming. See photos of “Discover More in ‘04.” [alumni]

Legends of the Falcons
The Falcon Legends Athletic Hall of Fame inducted the Class of 2004, including a celebrated coach and four honored athletes. [Athletics]

My Response
Professor Rick Steele writes a letter to SPU community members about the “divine grace” he and his daughter, Sarah, experienced at “The Sacred Sounds of Christmas.”