College of Visual and Performing Arts

Rebecca Kamen: Merging Art and Science


By Liz Connor ('15) 

Sculptor and painter Rebecca Kamen is making her name known on the campus of James Madison University. Kamen is exhibiting a retrospective of her work from the past 20 years in the Duke Hall Gallery through December 5th. She is also participating in a residency, which means students get the opportunity to interact with an expert in her field. I was one of those students, and learned a great deal about the artist through a lecture and classroom visit. 

Rebecca Kamen

Creating “Magic”

Kamen has exhibited and lectured in places like China, Hong Kong, Chile, Korea, Egypt and Spain, and is a professor emeritus of art at Northern Virginia Community College. Science is the main inspiration for her work; she plays with many different fields of science to help create what she calls “magic.”

Kamen has no formal training in any field of science, but is curious about the way our world works. She collaborates with scientists from esteemed research institutes like Harvard and MIT.

Using research from physics to chemistry, Kamen creates pieces relating to solar flares, black holes and periodic elements. She believes there is a connection between the invisible world of science and the visual world of art.

Kamen’s travel experience also influences her work. She incorporates many stylistic elements from China, and is fascinated with the idea of sacred geometry. She used terms from the spiritual realm to explain the fundamental laws of the universe. The centerpiece of the exhibition at Duke Hall Gallery displays a square as earth, a circle as heaven, and a triangle as 10,000 possibilities. Kamen believes that science and art connect through the invention of our own thoughts.

Many art education students attended Kamen’s lecture because of the artist’s background in teaching. Senior Jilly Falle says she enjoyed how she “combined science with art in an unexpected way.” “As an art education student, I am encouraged to incorporate different subjects into my art curriculum, so it was inspiring to see how Kamen did this seamlessly,” exclaims Falle.

Rebecca Kamen talks to JMU sculpture class

Leaving Her Mark

Kamen worked with faculty and staff in the School of Art, Design and Art History (SADAH) to schedule a series of classroom visits. She explained her exhibition to students, while sharing her experiences as an artist. Kamen spoke of her journey through the collections over the past two decades, and students responded positively to her message.

“I normally think of science as the enemy, but this exhibition changed my view. I can see art and science working as a cohesive element,” reveals senior art studio and art history student Nicole Ciehoski.

Kamen will be back on campus on November 6th to give a lecture to the Astrology and Physics departments at JMU.

Published: Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Last Updated: Wednesday, August 9, 2017

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