The HUB-Robeson Center is the epicenter of student life on Penn State’s main campus, featuring major stops for food, drink, books, and even the HUB-Robeson Galleries — which bring “contemporary art to the Penn State community.”
Art by faculty, students, and other groups can be found in the HUB Gallery, Art Alley, and display cases, as well as projects on public display throughout the building.
Exhibits on display rotate throughout the year, and the HUB’s newest exhibit, “Over & Over Again,” brings together the works of Penn State faculty Tom Lauerman and Rebecca Strzelec, as well as Jose Pinto Duarte and Shadi Nazarian, and their fellow engineers Sven Billen and Ali Memari, by the way..
These works were curated by visual arts and productions specialist Dani Spewak and first opened in the HUB galleries on July 23rd.
Within the larger exhibition “Over & Over Again,” selections from previous work titled “From Earth to Mars and Back” showcase work from the interdisciplinary research collaboration that was originally used in NASA’s 3D-Printed Mars Habitat Challenge in 2019 with international teams focused on sustainable and efficient housing through 3D printing.
Featured selections from Earth to Mars and Back demonstrate the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration in advancing innovative solutions across fields including visual arts, architecture and engineering.
Nazarian is an associate professor of architecture and a key faculty member involved in the creation of From Earth to Mars and Back.
“One thing we would really like to communicate is that such research cannot happen without interdisciplinary participation,” Nazarian said. “The words ‘architecture’ and ‘design’ belong to all these disciplines.”
Nazarian and her colleague Duarte, the Stuckeman Chair for Innovation in Design and director of the Stuckeman Center for Design Computing, said innovative technology informs art, and similarly, art helps explore innovative technology.
Duarte said art and technology have always gone hand in hand, crossing disciplines to achieve innovation in all fields.
“Art has always been in tune with the technology of the time,” Duarte said. “The amazing thing about art is that you use technology to make art, but you also use art to interpret technology.”
Penn State reported the first case of monkeypox in University Park on August 17.
Both Nazarian and Duarte said that interdisciplinary research and the fusion of art and technology can help create accessibility within advanced fields, as the exhibit showcases advanced technological innovation through means that are easily understood or accepted by those who otherwise cannot seek knowledge in these more scientific fields.
“The average person won’t go near reading a scientific paper because they’re intimidated by it, but if they see a piece of art that has this technology built into it, it makes them curious,” Nazarian said. “Engaging that sense of curiosity is already starting to introduce knowledge.”
Duarte said he believes knowledge is one.
“The division of fields — science and art — is fictitious,” Duarte said. “We need everyone.”
Sven Billen, head of the School of Engineering Design, Technology and Professional Programs and professor of engineering design, electrical and aerospace engineering, worked as a systems engineer for this project and said his work included “[pulling] together many different entities to work together in a new and different way.’
“When you do things from an interdisciplinary perspective, that’s really where innovation happens,” Billen said, noting that when we look at advances in the visual arts, it’s important to remember that artists can use new techniques as a result of new materials and developments in engineering.
“I think engineers can be creative and artists can be innovative,” Billen said. “We may use different words and different language, but many times we do very similar things.”
The use of innovative technologies within Earth to Mars and Back has a focus on real-world application — aiming to revolutionize construction and sustainability while addressing larger societal issues, such as housing insecurity, according to Duarte.
Duarte finds beauty in the combination of real-world applications and visual arts.
“When an object of work expresses its own time, it is about reflecting society, including its technology, so if it uses the most advanced [technology] from that time, I think that’s when it becomes very beautiful,” Duarte said. “It uses all the power available at the time to express ideas.”
Nazarian and Duarte’s work is just one of the selections featured in the Over & Over Again exhibit.
Lauerman, assistant professor of art at Penn State, works within the overlap of sculpture, craft and design.
Lauerman’s selected installations seek to explore the visual, tactile and visceral experience and emotional capacity of built places while working with innovative 3D printing and sculpture.
Strzelec, Distinguished Professor of Visual Arts and Visual Arts Program Coordinator at Penn State Altoona, is another featured artist in the exhibit.
Strzelec’s work is an “ongoing exploration of the ways in which wearables interact with the surface of the body,” according to her personal statement.
Her work is composed of wearable objects that have been created through computer-aided design, 3D modeling and 3D printing, again emphasizing the commitment to innovative technologies and reimagining the objects of this exhibition.
The exhibition “Over & Over Again” will be on display until September 4th at the HUB Gallery at the HUB. A formal reception will be held on August 31 from 5 to 7:30 p.m. in the HUB Gallery.
The HUB-Robeson Art Galleries in University Park recently announced five exhibitions in the summer of 2022.