Kohler Fellow Blog Post: Inclusive Art, Aedan Gardill

My name is Aedan Gardill and I’m a physics graduate student at the UW, as well as an artist! I am very excited to join the Kohler fellowship as one of the art fellows to use both my science and art backgrounds!

For the past 5 years I’ve been making two-dimensional art – with painting, printmaking, and other mixed media – that highlights the work of underrepresented scientists. I strive to make inclusive art, with a goal to increase the visual representation of non-male, non-white scientists.

(In 2018, I made a series of oil paintings,  Innovating a Legacy, that celebrated and highlighted the work of four African American women innovators from the turn of the century; Madam C. J. Walker being one of them. Along with the paintings, I displayed information about their lives, their inventions, and even an object that exemplified how their inventions impact the modern world.)

In my physics research, I’m in the Kolkowitz optics lab, where we study a specific defect found in diamonds and use them to make measurements of magnetic and electric fields in other materials on a nanometer scale. There are strong connections between the optics that I use in my lab and the how we perceive and view the world and art around us. Light and color – our lab relies on the physics behind these concepts, but so does art! love to explore topics like these in science that overlap with art – blurring the boundaries between the two.

(In my research lab, we use lasers and optics to study a defect found in diamonds (some thin diamond samples that we use are shown on the left!) )

In my most recent art project, which was funded from a Madison Arts Commission grant this year, I use the polarization of light to make hidden portraits. These vibrant portraits only show their color when looking through a polarizing filter. A person viewing the art has to interact and reveal the true portrait with one of these filters. I’m really happy how this project combines the science, the art, and the subject matter of the portraits – three female professors here at the UW who all use light and optics in their research!

(My most recent work, Revealing Science, is comprised of three portraits made from layers of polarization filter and cellophane to create vibrant colored images. In this image, a polarization filter is placed in front of the camera)

I’m really looking forward to creating more art and science fusion projects that take advantage of a lot of these aspects!

(Another view of the portraits, where I’m holding up the polarization filter to only reveal part of the portrait!)