PART 1

RENAISSANCE TEAMS:  

ART AND SCIENCE COLLABORATIONS 

Though interdisciplinary coalitions are central to the first selection of interviews, women’s motivations differ and complement each other. The title “Renaissance Teams” captures the spirit of these collaborative endeavors among artists, technologists, and scientists working together toward a common goal. Part 1 opens with Ellen Sandor and Donna J. Cox, who have made collaborative means primary to their “artist as producer” modus operandi. Drawing from the roles of filmmaking producers, they not only contribute aesthetic guidance within a team setting, they also help to organize, direct, and operate within highly shifting and dynamic environments. Both women actively assemble teams, sometimes with international contributors, while realizing final artworks or visual products within collaboratory settings. Colleen Bushell’s orientation is more focused and directed as a visual designer who helps to advance innovation. With Marc Andreessen, she helped invent a visual design for the first visual browser, Mosaic, a transformative technology that had global impact. In contrast, Nan Goggin, who pioneered ad319 and early web art experiments, describes how collaborations naturally formed out of mutual academic goals and needs. Maxine Brown and Dana Plepys operate within a highly interdisciplinary academic environment and connect large communities of practice. On the other hand, Mary Rasmussen preferred the social benefits of working with small collaborative teams. Carolina Cruz-Neira was motivated by the necessity to solve complex virtual reality problems. She forged new entrepreneurial partnerships in commercial as well as academic endeavors. Finally, the late Martyl closes the chapter with her last oral history interview and provides a personal glimpse of the end of World War II, emerging feminist art, and attitudes that marginalized women in the history of art. She collaborated out of a sense of duty to bring together early artists and scientists in a critical time to create the Doomsday Clock, which ushered in the modern era of social responsibility during the nuclear age. 

Intro_Fig37.jpg

Commemorative photo of the first digital PHSCologram, Etruscan Venus, NCSA. Left to right: Tom DeFanti, Donna J. Cox, Ellen Sandor, and Larry Smarr, circa 1986 

Courtesy of Ellen Sandor, (art)n 

Sandor and Cox connected on a shared appreciation for photography combined with original concepts of collaboration that harnessed the advancing supercomputer technologies and engendered new forms of artistic expression. It was a cultural renaissance in the making that has fundamentally changed the way people live and learn, while empowering women to achieve in the workplace and to create businesses of their own. NCSA director Smarr was exceptionally supportive of this interdisciplinary group’s goals and was part of the influential team at SIGGRAPH. The Venus collaborators exhibited the PHSCologram series at the SIGGRAPH ’87 Art Show. SIGGRAPH attendance exceeded twenty-seven thousand people and showcased the Venus PHSColograms to a record number of attendees. 

This PHSCologram collaboration is historically significant in two ways. The Venus series served as a practical data visualization that improved research in mathematics, supercomputer graphics, and stereo 3D; at the same time, Venus represented an emergent supercomputer sculptural art form that embodied feminine qualities with reference to historical art and Renaissance precedents. These PHSColograms reflected new digital methods and were distinctive from other computer art because the artwork was a result of collaborating inventors who were leaders of the emergent communities of scientific visualization, supercomputing, virtual displays, and the high-art scene of Chicago’s video, film, and photography arts. This collaborative Renaissance Team leveraged and anticipated some of the most advanced display technologies of any institutional artwork at the time, including precursors of virtual art, and represented several emerging fields of art and science.