Tiny World, Big Art in Madison


If you happen to find yourself waiting out a flight delay at the airport in Madison, Wis., look on the bright side: You’ll have more time to browse an exhibit that unites art and science.

This isn’t your normal art display; the magnified images of cells, molecules and nanoscale structures were snapped by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to show the public — and possibly younger students thinking of going into art or science or both — that there’s plenty of creativity in research.

The exhibit “Tiny: Art From Microscopes at UW-Madison” has been the Dane County Regional Airport’s most popular art display, and the exhibiton has been extended.

Wing Development in the Butterfly 'Bicyclus anyana'[Watch a slide show of ‘Tiny: Art From Microscopes at UW-Madison,’ narrated by the exhibition’s curator and two of the scientists-turned-artists about the project.]

Madison-based printmaking studio Tandem Press coordinates exhibits at the airport, and it helped plan the project and print the images. Paula Panczenko, director of Tandem Press, said they started by connecting a group of artists with scientists who were interested in presenting their imagery as art.

“The whole idea behind this whole project is that all of these images are original data from many of the labs on campus,” said Steve Paddock of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and a professor of molecular biology at UW-Madison. “And they all have meaning scientifically. And the nice collaboration behind the Tandem Press is to see how the public reacts to the images when they frame them up as original pieces of artwork.”

The exhibit, which showcases 40 images, as well as antique microscopes and 3-D models, is free and will be on display through Dec. 31.