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BCA News: Summer 2019

6&6: An Art/Science Collaboration
Charles "Chip" Hedgcock, RBP, FBCA

In mid 2014 I was invited to submit artwork for consideration for an Art/Science collaboration project being developed by a group called Next Generation Sonoran Desert Researchers or NGEN.

NGEN is a multinational community of approximately 900 leading researchers, working in a wide variety of disciplines, all focused on the Sonoran Desert, including the Gulf of California. The Sonoran Desert encompasses approximately 100,000 square miles in Arizona, California, New Mexico, and northern Mexico.

NGEN Co-founder, Ben Wilder, Director of the University of Arizona's Desert Laboratory, conceived of a project that would be both educational and inspirational, and would promote the NGEN mission to communicate and engender amongst society in general "a conservation ethic that matches the grandeur of the Sonoran desert region". The project would later be called 6&6: Art/Science and it would bring together six artist and six scientist to work collaboratively, in artist/scientist pairs, on personal projects relating to the Sonoran Desert.

Our first meet-and-greet/pot-luck/hike at the Stone House, an abandoned homestead in the Tucson Mountains outside of Tucson, Arizona.

In March 2015, our fledgling group held its first meeting in the Tucson Mountains outside of Tucson, Arizona. This was the first of many such sessions, an opportunity for the group to meet each other - some for the first time - talk about our art or research, what drives us in our work, what our interests are, and to discuss this still nebulous project and how it might develop. Over the next year, many other gatherings occurred. We camped on the beach and kayaked along the Gulf of California, we held pot-luck dinners at each other's homes, and visited archeological sites in the desert outside Tucson. We spent quite a bit of time getting to know each other, tossing out ideas and talking about our individual projects as the concept developed and collaborations emerged.

In December 2016 we had our first group meeting with the University of Arizona Museum of Art staff. Despite the  lack of preliminary artwork, the museum staff  had faith in us and were excited about the concept and possibilities of this art and science collaboration. It was an exciting meeting for the group as well, if a bit intimidating to see the gallery, which felt huge at the time. We had only two years to flesh out our projects and fill the gallery with something amazing.

Group photograph at our final meeting just before the show opened. Left to Right: Sarah Clark digital marketing guru, Heather Green, Tom Baumgartner, Ben Wilder, Scott Bennett, Ben Johnson, Chip Hedgcock, Kathleen Velo, Mark Dimmit, Taylor Edwards. Missing are Eric Magrane, Maria Johnson and Michael Bogan.

At the opening of the final exhibition on December 22, 2018 at The University of Arizona Museum of Art, the entire group was excited and amazed to see what they and their peers had created. It is one thing to talk about your project and see its various components in your studio, Here, at last were the fruits of our labor, hanging in the gallery, along with the other projects. Abstract concepts and ideas became suddenly real, truly a proud and amazing moment for us all.

Hidden Water: Pozos of the Gran Desierto by Ben Johnson, Visual Artist and Ben Wilder, Desert Ecologist. Photo by Tim Fuller.

Visual Artist Ben Johnson and Desert Ecologist Ben Wilder used time-lapse photography, videography, painting and re-photography of original expeditionary images from 1912, to tell the story of these amazing freshwater springs in the middle of the largest dune field in North America.

Isle of Sauromalus by Heather Green, Mixed Media Artist and Taylor Edwards, Herpetologist, Geneticist used genetics, found objects and handmade paper journals to tell the story of an isolated population of large chuckwalla lizards, Sauromalus ater, near Bahia la Cholla, along the northern coast of the Gulf of California.

Bycatch by Maria Johnson, Marine Ecologist, Illustrator and Eric Magrane, Poet, Geographer. Photo by Tim Fuller.

Maria Johnson, Marine Ecologist, Illustrator and Eric Magrane, Poet, Geographer used Pen and Ink drawings, videography and poetry to tell the story of Bycatch, and the complexity of the shrimp trawling industry in the Gulf of California, where 85-90% of the sea life captured in shrimp nets are bycatch.

Visual Artist Tom Baumgartner and Geologist Scott Bennett created Paleogeographic Rendering of the Ancient Gulf of California by using backlit display panels and digital illustrations to create artistic renderings of how the physical landscape of the Gulf of California evolved over the past 11 million years.

Living River: Flow of Life in the Santa Cruz by Kathleen Velo, Photographic Artist and Michael Bogan, Aquatic Ecologist. Photo by Tim Fuller.

Using underwater photograms and photomacrography, Photographic Artist Kathleen Velo and Aquatic Ecologist Michael Bogan to tell the story of  perennial, temporary, and reborn waters of the Santa Cruz basin near Tucson Arizona.

Charles "Chip" Hedgcock and Botanist Mark Dimmit used a cameraless photographic process called lumen prints which were scanned and then printed onto translucent silk veils to share the story of diaphanous plants of the Sonoran Desert.

A Desert Veil: Soft plants in a harsh landscape by Photographer Charles "Chip" Hedgcock and Botanist Mark Dimmit. Photo by Tim Fuller.

Sarah Clark developed a web based touch screen to supplement the exhibition, allowing visitors to go deeper into the exhibition and it's participants.

The completed 6&6: Art/Science exhibition hung in the University of Arizona's Museum of Art.

For more information on the 6&6 project you can visit http://nextgensd6and6.com.

For more information on Next Generation Sonoran Desert Researchers, visit the NGEN website at http://nextgensd.com/.

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