Falling in love with snow by Ekaterina Smirnova

I often meet people who tell me that they do not like snow and I am always surprised to hear that. To me, snow is something so beautiful and magical, so hard to describe. I understand, that large amounts of snow over long period of time might be very hard to handle. It causes various problems. It is especially hard for people who are forced to physically interact with snow: shovel it, clear off, dig out their cars... Snow always comes along with cold, one is impossible without another. Cold weather is not making things easier. But with all of those difficulties comes the beauty, purity and shine. I always wait patiently for the first snow of the winter. Will it snow today? Did I miss it at night? Oh, wait, here they come, so slow and lazy, one, another, many. They don't rush to land. The air becomes milky and objects start to disappear in a white, still translucent, fluff. While I was watching snowflakes fall, I did not notice, that a whole bunch is already covering the ground and other surfaces. Very fresh and crips veil is now covering everything around. Winter is putting on her delicate lacy lingerie. Then she slips on her undergarment, then a blouse, jacket, coat and her diamond jewelry as a final touch. 

Ice Village on Lake Shikaribetsu, Japan

Ice Village on Lake Shikaribetsu, Japan

I am measuring the ice level. 52 cm (20.5").

I am measuring the ice level. 52 cm (20.5").

Did you know that snow can sound different? When I landed to my hometown in Siberia, Russia, as soon as I stepped out of the airplane I noticed, that the sound under my feet was different from the sound I've heard in Hokkaido, Japan. Siberian snow that day sounded very bright, like a bell. The temperature that day was well below zero, so the snow was very hard and dry. Thousands of snowflakes were crushing under my weight and sound was traveling fast in a crisp air, resonating a cheerful bright music. Hokkaido snow was more moist, due to the higher temperature and increased moisture of Japan, so the sound was rather more dull like hitting a wooden bowl with a wooden spoon. Do you hear it? It's very rhythmical, matching the pace of the foot steps. 

Do you taste snow when no one is looking? I do! I especially like to eat if off fir-tree branches when available. The flavor of snow varies from place to place. For example in Hokkaido it taste synthetic, I explain it with the location – Hokkaido is an island in the middle of Pacific ocean, evaporated from the ocean water later turns into snow. Seawater is rich in magnesium and dissolved salts like Sodium and Chloride, in small parts it remains in snow, which effects the flavor. In Novosibirsk city, in the middle of Siberia, on the other hand, snow taste like Turkish dessert with nuts called Halva (щербет). There is no salty seawater anywhere around, even the closest ocean (Arctic) is fresh, so the flavor of snow is rather sweet.

Every time when I look at snow I observe something new. And there is no end to these observations. If one would want to argue, I will give a good example - each snowflake is unique, as documented by W. A. Bentley in his Dover Pictorial Archive. By the way, "Wilson Alwyn 'Snowflake' Bentley (February 9, 1865 – December 23, 1931) is one of the first known photographers of snowflakes. He perfected a process of catching flakes on black velvet in such a way that their images could be captured before they either melted or sublimated" (wiki).

I am of course not as good as Mr. Bentley photographing individual snowflakes, but I am trying my best to document snow in a large scale. During my two month travel in the subarctic climate areas of Canada, Siberia and Japan I've collected tons of photographs, videos and sound. I am starting to work on a series of books names "Frozen Waters", focusing on snow and ice in its different shapes and forms, on water or land, on fields or mountains, I will explore how human and animals interact with snow and I will observe the climate change. 

Lets think about our environment, consider what we are doing wrong and correct our mistakes while we can.

Fall in love with snow with me.

 

Frozen Waters, show in Japan by Ekaterina Smirnova

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During my stay at Tenjinyama art studios in Sapporo (Jan 2017) I was doing research of snow. The goal is to present the fragility of snow due to the rising temperatures globally. At this show I am displaying a series of works on paper that were created with snow.

My viewers are invited to download a free app Blippar and experience augmented reality (AR), though which paintings come to live. Each of these pieces was recorded during it's creation over a period of few hours (up to a whole day), during which the snow was melting on paper and leaving patterns as the water dried. I am creating a utopian experience imagining a future where you will no longer be able to see snow in person and will only be able to experience it via recordings, videos and photographs. 

For my creations I chose different types of snow. Dirty snow from the roads made the ugliest mark on paper leaving behind all of the dirt, that it originally absorbed. Because of the overuse of salt in the cities in winter even the snow carries large amounts of salt, large enough to leave behind crystallized salt patterns which are presented on the picture below.

Varies sound recordings associated with snow and ice are accompany each artworks as well.

Try Augmented Reality now:
1. download Blippar app on your smart device
2. turn of sound
3. point of any of the artworks below wait for the system to recognize the image
Note:
you can flip your phone vertical or horizontal. To see the next image close the previous (x)

Try AR on this image

Try AR on this image

Try AR on this image

Try AR on this image

Try AR on this image

Try AR on this image

I am continuing my research on this subject. So please stay tuned, there is more work to come.

Exploring subarctic snow in Japan by Ekaterina Smirnova

Why snow? 
There are a few reasons why I am interested in snow. Besides enjoying the obvious beauty and purity of snow, I want to look at it from a different perspective: environmental. Snow and ice are very sensitive to the temperature change. In the global scale of climate change where Earth's temperatures are keeping on rising, world's snow is melting and I am scared to imagine a utopian future where we will never see this natural beautiful phenomenon.

I traveled to Japan, it's most Northern part – Hokkaido, to research snow in subarctic region. During my residence at the Sapporo Tenjinyama Art Studio I was collecting a lot of photo references, sketching, brainstorming and developing ideas on how to represent the fragility of snow. 

Prof. Shigeru Aoki, Physical Oceanography, Antarctic Cryosphere.

Prof. Shigeru Aoki, Physical Oceanography, Antarctic Cryosphere.

I visited the Low Temperature Research Institute of Hokkaido University and talked to scientists to study more about their research. When meeting with glaciologist Prof. Shegeru Aoki, who has helped with IPCC Report (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), I've learned about concerns of melting snow in Antarctica. The continental snow there is slowly moving off land towards the ocean, which did not happen before. Besides increasing the level of world's ocean, melted ice is also releasing trapped CO2 back to the atmosphere, which of course makes things worse. 

In - 50C room: Prof. Naoki Watanabe, Astropysical Chemistry, Ice and Planetary Science group.

In - 50C room: Prof. Naoki Watanabe, Astropysical Chemistry, Ice and Planetary Science group.

Japan is famous for drilling ice very deep to collect samples of glacier. Prof. Naoki Watanabe was very kind to give me a tour to the -50C room!!! where I could observe glacier samples from 740 000 yr. B.P. (3000 m deep)! 

Samples of glacier in various depths.

Samples of glacier in various depths.

Very thin layer of glacier ice with special light. Deeper ice has stronger pressure – crystals become larger.

Very thin layer of glacier ice with special light. Deeper ice has stronger pressure – crystals become larger.

Later Prof. Watanabe showed to me current experiments researching ice crystals in Oort cloud. Impressive and very complicated machines take few rooms. Exploring Oort cloud helps us to understand the formation of the Solar System. Ice in very primitive form is acting very slowly in extreme temperatures of deep space (-263C). Prof. Watanabe and his team running various tests to understand the composition and processes in molecular cloud at the edge of the Solar System.  

Studying from professionals I would like to implement my knowledge to the future artwork. I even would like to make my own tests, such as growing snow crystals and exploring the composition of collected samples of snow.

 

Art world is not very supportive of environmental art by Ekaterina Smirnova

There were only a hand-full of artists who actually did something meaningful and wanted to address the environmental issue. I would like to celebrate them in this post. 

Read More

Participating at the science symposium: DPS 48/ EPSC 11 by Ekaterina Smirnova

In October 2016 I went to the science symposium where the Division of Planetary Science came together with the European Planetary Science Congress (DPS 48/ EPSC 11). There were over 1400 scientists from various institutions such as NASA, ESA, SETI, JAXA, SwRI and others. 

I came to the symposium as an artist, to present my works inspired by the space mission Rosetta of the European Space Agency. I displayed my poster in the poster session with other scientific posters. In my poster I outlined the ways I explore the comet 67P, through bodily senses: vision, touch, smell and hearing.

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Along with my poster I brought three of my 67P paintings to be included in the exhibition organized by the International Association of Astronomical Artists (IAAA). For the first time I was presenting my latest project – augmented reality (AR), inspired by the spectroscopic data of OSIRIS, an instrument onboard the Rosetta spacecraft. My viewers were invited to experience a virtual colorful layer on top of my paintings, representing RGB data. A special AR app could be uploaded for free to your smart device and by directing it to my paintings you would be able to view an additional image, as well as to hear sound. As an artist I have a goal to represent the scientific research in an artistic way, while explaining to my audience the complexity and the vast variety of the data gathered during each mission. By including the AR into my project I try to show that some data could only be viewed via special instruments, in Rosetta's case it is the Optical, Spectroscopic, and Infrared Remote Imaging System (OSIRIS), in my case it is your cellphone. 

67P III, original artwork

67P III, original artwork

         67P with an AR layer

         67P with an AR layer

I was very happy to see that this project attracted a lot of attention and that scientists and guests of the symposium enjoyed playing with AR. 

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At my display you could also find postcards that included the smell of the comet 67P, which were kindly provided by the Open University (read more about these cards: www.newscientist.com). Even though the smell is very unpleasant, those cards were a big hit! 

Events of this scale are very important in my opinion, not only can you study a lot during the lectures that run from 8.30 am till 5pm for five days, but also meet many fascinating people and discuss their research in person. I made a lot of new connections and of course got inspired for new work. I treasure my time with the specialists from the Rosetta team, who help me to improve my knowledge about the mission, which allows me to make better art more closer to the science. I spent some time with scientists working on spectroscopic data and I am planning on continuing working on my AR project improving it with information I learnt from them. 

Matt Taylor is giving a talk at PDS/EPSC about the Rosetta mission

Matt Taylor is giving a talk at PDS/EPSC about the Rosetta mission

 

 

 

Giving a talk at NASA, JPL. Oct 2016 by Ekaterina Smirnova

You know when your dream comes true... that tingling feeling like on the 1st day of the year, very bright and light. Visiting NASA, was just that for me. Growing up we all hear this abbreviation of 4 letters N.A.S.A. It associates in your mind with something grand, space exploration and technologies on the edge of our time and the future.

I was so honored and humbled to be invited to give a talk at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) of NASA in Pasadena, CA. My talk was about the art project 67P, which is inspired by the space mission Rosetta, ESA, as well as the connection between science and art, it's mutual relationship and importance to each other. During the Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS/EPSC) symposium, the week prior to my talk, I found many pieces of evidence that scientists need artists to translate their work to the rest of the world. Likewise, artists often get inspired by the research that is done by the scientists. During the talk I underlined that my goal was to present the data about the comet 67P in an artistic way. I explore the comet through different perspectives: visually, three-dimensionally, virtually (Augmented Reality, AR) and even through hearing and smell, while basing my project on such data as spectroscopy, magnetometry, chemistry and more.

At the end of the 30 minutes slide-show presentation I invited my listeners to interact with my paintings using AR - my latest project, based on spectroscopic data by OSIRIS (an instrument on board of Rosetta). My guests were able to use a free AR application to view a virtual layer on top of my paintings, to reveal hidden data. I create a parallel between the information that could be viewed only via special instruments, to build an awareness of the amount of research that is done to observe the otherwise invisible. *AR experience will be soon available on my website!

Bonnie J. Buratti, PhD

Bonnie J. Buratti, PhD

Prior to the talk my host and the organizer of this event Bonnie J. Buratti, PhD, Senior Research Scientist, Principal Scientist and Supervisor: Comets, Asteroids, and Satellites Group, invited me for a tour around the JPL site. I was very excited about this tour, it is very hard to get to visit NASA, the security is very strict and you can only visit JPL by a special invitation or with an organized group tour, that must be done months in advance. The JPL site is like a small town with 15,000 people. There are many buildings and it seems to be very confusing, Dr. Buratti for example had a map which we used often to get to one place or another. In the center of the town there is a garden, which sometimes gets wild animals like deer and even a wild panther! I have no idea how animals are able to get in, there is a wall around the site and the security is letting in only humans that have ether their passes or have their names on the list of guests.

I visited the Space Mission Control Center! They call it "Dark Room" for a reason, it is indeed very dark inside. Only the large monitors and LED blue lines that repeat the shape of the tables seem to provide light. All operations and communications with the spacecrafts happen there. On the monitors you would see the data sent/received from various missions including Cassini and Voyager! I did not want to leave there, just sit and observe from above what is going on for hours. 

I was of course very interested to visit the Spacecraft Assembling Room. Sadly there was not actual crafts in progress there, I was luckier at the European Space Agency where I saw BepiColombo in progress. But it is still very exciting to see the scale of the room and it's organization. It is very bright there and very clean. A mannequin in the center of the room was dressed in a special suit and a mask that reminds of a surgeon outfit in a way.

Next exciting stop of my tour was the Mars Yards. Everyone knows the Mars Rover. I was surprised to find out that it is much larger than I thought it would be. I saw a full model with all of the instruments and solar panels on display at the Museum at JPL, but here at the Mars Yards there was one that was actually operational. Six wheels are designed to be very flexible so the rover could move easily on any ground and here at the yard you would find a landscape that resembles Mars with various samples of sand, rocks and pebbles. I could not stop myself and took a picture with this fascinating machine.

My trip was almost like a trip to the future, and yet it is our present, with the technologies moving fast forward and our explorations reach far outside of the planet Earth. Science is AWESOME! And arts... arts help the science to be heard and understood.

I would like to thank Bonnie J. Buratti for this memorable visit and thank everyone who came for my talk.

 

 

Discovery Channel visiting my art studio by Ekaterina Smirnova

When I heard that the Discovery Channel wants to visit my art studio, I was puzzled. When later I asked what made them do it, the answer was that I am that artist who bases the work on the scientific data, collected during the Rosetta mission of the European Space Agency. At that moment talented documentary film-maker Shelley Ayres was working on the 2nd film about the Rosetta mission and was looking for non-scientists who got inspired by the mission. 

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When the visit was arranged to my temporary art studio, kindly provided by MANA Contemporary, I was blown away with the level of professionalism and the attention to details that Shelley and her cameraman Mark Foerster presented. Impressive equipment, efficiency of actions and many other factors were pointing out that this is a pro team! 

The focus of this filming was to see my creative process from the beginning to the end. What made me work on this project and how I approach it? My project 67P is based on the photography by the instruments on board of Rosetta spacecraft, that was exploring the comet. A research has been done and I started with creating special water that was close in amount of D2O to the comet's water consistency. Mark was already setting up one of his cameras focusing on the bubbles that were produced by the electrolysis, my way to enrich water with Deuterium.

Shelley told me that the landing site of the spacecraft was already announced and in preparation for the Rosetta finale we both chose this to become one of the paintings. For the second subject I chose a study of 67P vapor in red color wave length, thinking of spectroscopic analysis by OSIRIS. 

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A fancy camera on a rail that takes pictures in time laps was set up a few yards from my canvas and I was ready to start. Mixing my pigments with the generated water and the 1st splash to the paper... A few hours of work, mixed with interviews while waiting for paper to dry. Both of the paintings were developing fast. Even though, I must say, that performing in front of the camera makes the experience different. I had to be aware of where the camera is and what should I be doing at any particular moment. My actions were sometimes guided. At times I would not hold a brush this way or wouldn't splash that way as I would normally. But overall paintings came out just fine. I was able to bring them to the final stage later on after the filming.

In the evening of the 1st day I had my studio open. The guests were invited to observe complete 67P work and see the creative process as well. The conversation about the relationship of art and science was held. For the 1st time I demonstrated my augmented reality in front of the audience (an extension of this project, based on the spectroscopic data by OSIRIS instrument). An expression of amazement and excitement that followed next, made me think that I am on a right track. We even compared the smell of the comet 67P (a collaboration project with the Open University, UK) with the smell of Moon that was brought by one of my guests. 

Just 2 days before the finale of Rosetta mission a full feature short film of this studio visit was streamed on the Discovery Channel, Daily Planet show. I am so fortunate to meet these amazing dedicated to science film-makers who work hard, travel a lot with heavy equipment, spend hours to make a few minutes long films empowering other people to shine for a brief time, and their work, there for, is shared across the world.

Study more about Shelley Ayres and Mark Foerster.
Special thanks to Denise Kimmel, Discovery Channel producer, who put this film together. 

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Rosetta Mission Finale by Ekaterina Smirnova

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Rosetta – a historic mission that won the world's hearts – just came to its finale (September 30, 2016). I traveled to Darmstadt, Germany to join the scientists and everyone else who was involved in the mission to watch live from the European Space Mission Control Center the final moments of the Rosetta spacecraft that was to land on the comet 67P. It was a very sensitive moment for everyone, especially those who were working on this mission for 20 years. "The signal is lost" – was announced when hundreds of eyes in the auditorium and thousands online were glued to the screen. It was a moment of silence, it took a while for everyone to realize THAT WAS IT, the spacecraft was on the comet, it can not communicate to us any longer. A tornado of applauds followed next. Everyone on the screen and in the room were hugging and congratulating each other. A few tears were easily noticed. 

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What we saw on the screen was green colored schematics of the signal sent by Rosetta spacecraft. Comet 67P was as far as Jupiter from Earth, it takes 40 minutes to receive the signal that travels at the speed of light. So technically we were waiting to hear from the past. 

13:18 CEST the signal is still there

13:18 CEST the signal is still there

13:19 CEST the signal is lost

13:19 CEST the signal is lost

Later on I had a chance to visit the Space Mission Control room. It felt very special. A magical place indeed, that makes dreams happen far away from Earth.

The data received during this mission will keep scientists occupied for a very long time. We are now closer to answering questions of how water came to Earth and how life travels through out the Universe. 

I would like to extend my special thanks to so many people who supported my artistic work inspired by Rosetta, especially:
Claudia Mignone, an astrophysicist, science writer for ESA and co-manager, author and editor of the ESA Rosetta blog, based at ESTEC, The Netherlands. 
Mark McCaughrean, Senior Scientific Advisor, ESA
Matt Taylor, Project Scientist, ESA Rosetta
 

With Mark McCaughrean

With Mark McCaughrean

With Claudia Mignone

With Claudia Mignone

With Matt Taylor, showing off his real tattoos and my temporary ones inspired by Matt and Rosetta

With Matt Taylor, showing off his real tattoos and my temporary ones inspired by Matt and Rosetta