Laura Skinner holds a BA in literature from Kenyon College and an MFA in photography from the Rhode Island School of Design. Her photographs have been featured in online publications including Wired Magazine, Lenscratch and American Photography, and have been shown in solo and group exhibitions at venues in New York, Massachusetts, Illinois, Ohio, Vermont and Kentucky. Photographs from her series, “Experimental,” are currently on view at the SFO Museum in San Francisco, and will be included in the exhibition “Seeing is Understanding” at Wayne State University in September.
Images from the series “Experimental” are based on science experiments found on the Internet and in elementary school science books. Most of these demonstrations are aimed toward young children, and are designed to teach simple but fundamental scientific principles. I adapted and performed more than a dozen experiments for the camera.
The images demonstrate concrete principles and ideas: the density of salt water versus fresh water, the reaction of certain metals to heat, the way light responds to different surfaces, etc. They also seek to recreate, on a small scale, directly observable phenomena, such as the formation of a tornado and the appearance of a galaxy in space.
As illustrative as the images are, they remain mysterious. They monumentalize and obscure these principles simultaneously. They are both forthright and totally unreliable. Through smoke and mirrors, as well as photography’s tenuous relationship with “truth,” they generate more questions than answers, even as they seek to represent science as a form of the absolute.
It’s well known that women are underrepresented in the hard sciences, and though this is not the overt theme of my series, it is implicit in the work that science and women, as well as science and art, are not in opposition or estranged. They both call for equal engagement, and result in equal wonder and accomplishment. They are both profound human approaches to exploring the universe.
Ultimately, science can tell us the how of the universe, but never the why. I hope to place this series of images somewhere in the gap that falls between these two cardinal questions.
To view more of Laura Skinner’s work please visit her website.