Researchers: Women Artists Inspired by Science


John Brady Print gallery

February 14, 2020 – May 10, 2020

This exhibition of drawings, photographs, and prints explores the work of women artists from the 17th century forward who use research into biology, physics, engineering, astronomy, and other fields as fertile ground for aesthetic inspiration.

The histories of art and science are filled with women whose contributions have not been fully recognized, and this exhibition bridges nearly 400 years of their creative investigations, from Maria Sybilla Merian’s biological insect studies to Mary Mattingly’s poetic collages based on geology and environmentalism. Buildings and machines, both fantastical and realistic, appear in the works of Lee Bontecou, Rita McBride, Mary Miss, and others. Anna Gaskell, whose film Judith Loves Martha is concurrently on view in the Bookey Gallery, presents a photograph based on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, a book that not only helped establish the science fiction genre but raised ethical questions about the limits of science that are still relevant two centuries later.

The work in Researchers celebrates women who bring these subjects and many more together in beautiful ways, celebrating both the scientific and aesthetic inspirations made possible by the process of discovery. Artists in the exhibition include Alice Aycock, Nancy Graves, Julie Mehretu, Bridget Riley, and Kiki Smith, among others.

Researchers: Women Artists Inspired by Science is organized by Curator Laura Burkhalter.

Mary Mattingly (American, born 1978)
Over and Over and, 2018
Chromogenic dye coupler print
Des Moines Art Center Permanent Collections; Gift of Mary Mattingly, 2018.14
Photo Credit: Rich Sanders, Des Moines

Related Exhibitions
Karla Black: 20 Years

Anna Gaskell: Judith Loves Martha

Hedda Sterne: Imagination and Machine

Related Programming

Gallery Dialogue
Thursday, March 26 / 6:30 pm
John Brady Print Gallery

Film + Discussion: Chicken with Plums
Sunday, March 22 / 1:30 pm
Levitt Auditorium

Download Gallery Guide

View Photography Inspired by Researchers

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