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Art and Science: Creative Solutions, cont.

Scientist, philosopher and artist Daniel Kelm turned to the ancient study of alchemy to synthesize his interests in physical and intellectual matter. During the Middle Ages, alchemy involved the quest for the philosopherís stone, the universal cure of diseases, and the transmutation of base metals into gold. The alchemist perceived that the workings of the physical environment were extensions of a mental process. Mind and body were regarded as a connected unit. During the Scientific Revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, that unity was dissolved into a hierarchical philosophy of mind over body. In the years he taught organic chemistry, Kelm experienced firsthand the dominance of the intellectual over the physical. Leaving academia, alchemy provided ďa historical model of a physical existence infused with spirit.Ē2 Kelm combines ritual with the physical in his sculptural bookwork Templum Elementorum [Sanctuary of the Elements]. The work is informed by Kelmís experiments with alchemical materials and their referents-air, earth, water and fire. These elements are represented in four brass-covered books, housed separately in glass cylinders. Symbols for each elementís associated metal, season and planet are inscribed on the cylinders. They are arranged with Fire at the center, a reminder of the reverence accorded it by the medieval alchemist. The sense of ritual is continued inside the books, where Kelm uses ceremonial language to introduce each element. He weaves the words together with pop-up and printed symbols for the materials used to make the piece- iron, copper, solder and flux. The unified intellectual and spiritual matter is embodied in the physicality of the book. Although the references may be archaic, Kelm uses them to build a relationship to the present. The work is a complex mediation on the material world we live in and the meaning we ascribe to it.

Elizabeth Hart strikes a balance between science and superstition in her multicolor prints. The scientist has expertise, but not necessarily all of the answers. They may be found in the authority of folk remedies or faith healing. The need for balance was brought home when Hartís mother was in a major car accident. In The Resurrection, Hart interprets the medical technology that saved her mother. The multilayered screenprint also depicts the emotional bonds between family members. A winged female figure rises to the top of the composition, not as an angel but as a moth seeking the light, or a human in a near-death experience. Medical diagrams of the internal organs of the body counter the spirit world. These physical and spiritual symbols rise above images of root vegetables, seen in cutaway views growing in the ground. The roots are a visual metaphor for the familial connection between a mother and daughter. The imagery is layered like floating bits of information and emotion in a collaged landscape. They interconnect to tell the whole story. The Healing Machine series of woodcuts is about the intersection between the rules of science and home remedies. She seeks to correlate the emotional and intuitive side of human nature with the scientific and rational side. We see the overlap in the images of strange gadgets, such as a gizmo wrapped in tinfoil to gather energy rays. There is an antiquated look to the work that stems from Hartís interests in old woodcuts and outdated science books from the 1950s. The work conveys a sense of bogus science, a fascination with quaint ideas that have proven false but continue to resonate beyond the limits of exact science.

First published as an exhibition catalog for Art and Science: Creative Solutions, curated by Karen Wirth for the College of Visual Arts, St. Paul, Minnesota, 1996