Nanoart

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NanoArt is a new art discipline at the art-science-technology intersections. It features nanolandscapes (molecular and atomic landscapes which are natural structures of matter at molecular and atomic scales) and nanosculptures (structures created by scientists and artists by manipulating matter at molecular and atomic scales using chemical and physical processes). These structures are visualized with research tools like scanning electron microscopes and atomic force microscopes and their scientific images are captured and further processed by using different artistic techniques to convert them into artworks showcased for large audiences [1].

NanoArt should not be confused with photomicrography which is performed using an optical microscope with a photographic camera attached to it and renders flat images at low magnification. The depth and three dimensions achieved in NanoArt sets this imaging process apart from Photography where images are created by photons (particles of light) rather than by electrons (electrically charged particles) as in NanoArt. The electrons penetrate deeper inside the structure creating images with more depth, more natural 3D-look than the photographic images. Due to the quality of images obtained by studying the nanostructures, most people perceive them as artistic objects. One of the aims of creating NanoArt is to familiarize people with the omnipresence of the nano world and raise the public awareness of the impact of nanotechnology on our lives. There are legitimate concerns about nano products from health and environmental point of views, and nanotech companies should develop their products responsibly. NanoArt can be considered one of the best vehicles to promote a responsible scientific and technological development to the general public [2].

Once the electron microscope became commercially available (late 1930s) we could talk about the first NanoArt works. Even though the scientists who were imaging those small structures apparently didn’t have any artistic intention, they created images that could be considered artworks. One of the first nanoartists in the history, probably without his intention to create art was George Emil Palade (1912 – 2008), a Romanian cell biologist. Described as “the most influential cell biologist ever” (Hopkins, 2008), he was awarded in 1974 the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine [3], together with Albert Claude and Christian de Duve, for innovations in electron microscopy and discoveries concerning the structural and functional organization of the cell that laid the foundations of modern molecular cell biology; the most notable discovery being the ribosomes of the endoplasmic reticulum – which Palade first described in 1955. The George E. Palade Electron Microscopy Slide Collection [4] of electron microscopy images at Harvey Cushing / John Hay Whitney Medical Library, Yale University, derived from high-resolution images scanned by James D. Jamieson is freely available to students and scientists worldwide [2].

Modern NanoArt is created intentionally by individual scientists who deliver artworks, artists with interest in science, and teams of scientists and artists. The micro and nano worlds bring forth aesthetically sound imagery. A multitude of scientists manipulate the scientific imagery they capture and create artworks. Some artists alter the scientific images using traditional painting or sculpture, animation, digital drawing (Chris Robinson), fractals, digital collage, digital painting and manipulation (Cris Orfescu), colorized electron micrographs, and paper collage. Other artists are using video (Hugh McGrory), installation art (Victoria Vesna and James Gimzewski), and multimedia (Cris Orfescu) to bring the NanoArt works to the public at large. Web exhibitions of NanoArt included pioneers such as Donald Eigler, Anastasios John Hart, Jack Mason, Tim Fonseca, Robert A. Freitas Jr., Joe Lertola, to name only a few who started producing works in the early 1990s and some of them even earlier. NanoArt has been exhibited in many venues all over the world [2]. In the last few years there was an abundance of online competitions hosted by universities and organizations, such as the “NANO” 2003 show at Los Angeles County Museum of Art followed by a publication by Victoria Vesna and James Gimzewski (2011), and “Nanomandala,” the 2004 and 2005 installations in New York and Rome by Victoria Vesna and James Gimzewski [5].

In Italy, artists Alessandro Scali and Robin Goode are creating nanometric artworks like nanosculptures and nanolitographies, invisible to human eyes. Artworks are made with the collaboration of a team of scientists from Politecnico of Torino, Italy.

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