Art as Bridge to Science

Posted on November 15th, 2015

photo © Hartford Courant

“The stunningly beautiful way in which art and science intersect”

These are the words Dennis Bisgaard, Kingswood-Oxford’s Head of School used to describe the sculpture that now inhabits the entrance of their new Science building.

I chose the double helix form to emphasize life in it’s myriad forms. Each turn of the steel and paper form reveals new creatures and colors as it moves and the viewer moves around the space. I wanted to encourage students to think about the interconnections between species and to be curious about how our ecosystems work in the web of life.

Art as a bridge to science, science informing art.

Please see the article about the sculpture in the Hartford Courant here www.courant.com/community/west-hartford/hc-west-hartford-kingswood-oxford-kate-chappell-art-1114-20151113-story.html

Singers, Strings, Sculpture

Posted on October 3rd, 2015


Kingswood Oxford School in West Hartford, CT threw open the doors of their beautiful L.E.E.D. Certified Science building on Friday, September 25 for the opening and dedication of my hanging sculpture, All Life Interrelated. As students sang a cappella or played the Wyvern Waltz on strings written for the occasion, school leaders welcomed the crowd, among them three of my five children, my husband Tom, classmates and friends. It was a mild and magical evening, and as night fell, lights from the big starfish support illuminated my three double helices “Air”, “Earth”, and “Water”. The steel and paper sculpture is 15′ x 5′ x 5′ (100lbs) and incorporates images on both sides of creatures from these realms, and reflects my concern for the care of the natural world. My hope is that the piece will be a bridge between art and science, and generate lots of teaching opportunities at this rigorous private day school. Years ago as a student myself there, I had written about the discovery of DNA’s structure. For me, it felt like coming full circle after working on this piece for the last four years.

Open Studio Celebration

Posted on July 14th, 2015

My Open Studio to Celebrate All Life Interrelated

Maine artists, friends and families gathered at my studio on the 3rd floor of the Dana Warp Mill in Westbrook June 25 for a farewell look at the hanging sculpture I have been working on for the last four years. Inspired by the double helix as a symbol of the continuity of life, All Life Interrelated is a steel and paper sculpture (approximately 14′x 5′ overall), now safely installed in its permanent home in the new science building at Kingswood Oxford School in West Hartford, Ct.

Many people who helped me with the project were there to celebrate: Nelson Bruns, who constructed one of the steel armatures and the starfish holder, and did the final hanging; Laura Savard, who helped with many aspects of the fabrication including the hand-cut matrices based on slime mold that are a motif throughout; Dawna Bemis, our prudent project manager and keeper of the timeline, and Sharmon Toner, my intern from USM who did all the UV varnishing.

Thanks to son Matt and friend Wendy for delicious nibbles from his restaurant, Gather ; and Vena’s Fizz House for delightfully composed natural mock-tails and cocktails. Among those attending were art friends from Peregrine Press and Kennebunk, daughters Eliza Chappell and Sarah Armentrout, with husband Nick, Gabrielle Melchionda from MadGabs and other neighbors in the building, Jan Piribeck and Becky Goodale from USM, Amy Woodhouse from South Freeport, Beth Stoddard, Peter and Pam Plumb, Scott Teas and Pamela Hawkes and Alice Spencer from Portland, Mary Jewel from California, Michael and Leona Bruns, and many others. Thank you all for coming and supporting me along the way!

Installed at Last

Posted on July 9th, 2015

Photos above from left to right: Starfish; Nelson on the Genie; Three Armatures

Installed at Last

Four years in the making, my hanging sculpture, All Life Interrelated, is now happily installed in its new home, the foyer of the Chase-Tallwood Math Science and Technology building at the Kingswood Oxford School in West Hartford, CT. It hangs from the tall ceiling down through a mezzanine floor to the entrance below. When I first saw this stunning new L.E.E.D. Certified building, I was impressed by the lightness of the space and the quiet lines, and was excited to design a sculpture that would relate to the big natural landscape and views of the sky while reflecting the biology of small life and the continuity implied by the DNA structure. I did a lot of research into the science of slime molds, foraminifera, and phytoplankton. I read avidly about the connection between the Red Knot bird (longest migrating bird in the world) and the horseshoe crab that lays the eggs which give the shore bird sustenance on its long flights. All these references to interdependence found their way into my printmaking and construction for this piece. I like the idea of bringing science and art together, and my work reflects my concern for humankind’s depredations on fragile ecosystems. I hope that the students in the school will see creatures in my work that engage them and become platforms for learning that ”what we do to the earth we do to ourselves.”

Photos above from left to right: Nelson and Kate take a breather on the mezzanine; Overview from above with ladders; Detail of “tuxedo” frog that Kate made on site for the “earth” crossbars.

In the Home Stretch

Posted on June 7th, 2015

All Life Interrelated

I am in the home stretch of making a public installation for the science building of Kingswood Oxford school in W. Hartford CT. It is a first for me, and I wanted to share it with friends in Maine before it goes to its permanent home. “All Life Interrelated” (taken from a Rachel Carson quote) is a hanging mobile sculpture, comprised of steel and paper double helices, 12′, 8′ and 6′. Two-sided monoprinted images form a paper “skin” that runs up each side of the “DNA” armatures. They reflect the interconnectedness of creatures of the sea, air and earth to their environments and to each other.

Concern for the environment has been a theme in my life and work. As Rachel Carson pointed out, “man’s endeavors to control nature by his powers to alter and destroy the world, inevitably evolve into a war against himself…”

Below are photos of the installation in process;
Top row from left to right: Crosspieces drying in studio. The runes are a code ( like DNA)- they spell out the Rachel Carson quote: “all the life of the planet is interrelated…each species has its own ties to others, and all are related to the earth; and test hanging in the science building in April. We had only 2 of the 3 armatures and used a 12′ rule as a placeholder for the long “sky/air” armature.

Bottom row: The earth armature with part of “sea” in foreground; and assembling the test armature on site.

Poetry: Uniting Commerce and Verse to Enhance Life and Work

Posted on February 27th, 2015

How I Used Poetry and Art to Foster Creativity in business.

I will be speaking at Poets House in New York on a panel which explores the way poetry and art can be mined to enhance creativity and innovation in business. This panel is sponsored by the Harvard Business School Club of New York. Poets House is in an elegant LEED certified building at the tip of Manhattan that houses the country’s largest collection of poetry and sponsors readings, exhibits and events that bring poetry to the people. Check it out!

For more information:
about the event: http://www.hbscny.org; and/or
about Poets House: http://poetshouse.org/.

Women Artists of Monhegan

Posted on January 5th, 2015

Movie night at the Portland Museum of Art

This is a movie about my artists friends on Monhegan, the women who have mentored me. We have shown together on and off the island over the years since I joined WAMI in the early 90′s. Sadly, six have died since then, two this year: Frances Kornbluth and Elena Jahn. This film is a testament to the “art spirit” (as Robert Henri called it) alive and well in these indomitable women.

The Portland Museum of Art will be showing the movie on Thursday January 8 at 6:30 PM. The doors open at 6, film starts at 6:30, and lasts a little over one hour. A discussion with Mike Boucher, the filmmaker, Carl Little, author, and me will follow the screening.

The DVD will be for sale both in the PMA gift shop, and on-line via PayPal through Sonic Pictures: www.sonicpictures.com

My California Girl

Posted on January 4th, 2015

A Star for Eszti

Over the holidays, my California girl—granddaughter Eszter—made monoprints with me. Without a press or inks, we used what was at hand: cardboard, heavy paper, scissors, glue sticks, poster paint and a wooden spoon- what I call “Kitchen Printmaking.”

Eszti’s repeating matrix was an 8- pointed star- her name in Hungarian means “star.” And a beautiful image it is, in all its variation, for the epiphany of new insights in a new year.

Going Home Again

Posted on November 20th, 2014

You don’t get to ” go home again” too often, but I had the pleasure and privilege of teaching printmaking at the Kingswood-Oxford School in West Hartford Ct. recently, a school where my first art teacher befriended and encouraged me. Returning to amazing new facilities, and working with their gifted teacher and printmaker, Katherine Nicholson,  I taught Middle and High School students, the age I was back then. It brought me full circle. We had a furiously creative 3 days making collagraph and intaglio plates, and printing some of the stunning results you see here. It meant a lot to me to be able to pass on my knowledge of nontoxic and creative printing techniques to bright, inquisitive students at the school that educated me. Give and take, risking the new, welcoming the surprise of the printmaking process- all good!

Intaglio Workshop for One

Posted on November 20th, 2014

Grandson Jake Armentrout shows off the foam core intaglio print he made in my studio. He agreed to be my “stand-in” for the class of Middle schoolers I taught at Kingswood Oxford School as part of a short residency in printmaking there in November.

This low tech non- toxic intaglio technique uses recycled foam core board for plates and Akua (water soluble) inks. Peeling away sections of the shiny paper outside layer create areas of dark plate tone while the remaining shiny part (incised or marked on) can be wiped for etching effects.

It’s quick, fun, and easy to clean up. The plates can be used multiple times, and in combination with a paper template of the positive/ negative shapes that can be used to mask or reveal areas of color on layered subsequent pulls.

© 2017 Kate Cheney Chappell - All Rights Reserved.