Sarah and Sean looking at melting ice.

Sarah and Sean looking at melting ice.

This week I had the pleasure of being a visiting artist at College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine. I was invited by Professor of Painting & Drawing, Sean Foley, who is a former professor of mine and an amazing painter whom I admire greatly. Sean and I had a fascinating time looking at ice and snow melting under a petrographic microscope, alongside fellow COA faculty geologist, Sarah Hall. As a geomorphologist, Sarah's research focuses on the processes that shape the surface of the earth, which of course made me swoon.

 Sean and I were like little kids watching cartoons, utterly transfixed!

Sean and I were like little kids watching cartoons, utterly transfixed!

 We took screenshots from the microscope's camera.

We took screenshots from the microscope's camera.

During my artist talk I showed images from Qatar that have influenced my current work looking at the surface of the earth, the moon, and Mars. I showed some examples of how those images come to be assembled and how we can derive strategies for abstraction from these methods (scale shifts, perspective, use of mediating devices, and compressions of time). I've been thinking a lot about Mars analogues, places on earth that have features or conditions that mimic Mars itself, and it turns out that Sarah has done a lot of research in one of the most important Mars analogues - the Atacama Desert in Chile and Peru. In talking with Sarah I learned that her research on the Atacama also involves techniques used by planetary geologists to study Mars. I was delighted.

At the end of my visit, I was able to participate in a mini-critique during Sean's Abstraction class and got to hear from students about current projects relating to biomorphic and Suprematist/Futurist influences. Because of COA's interdisciplinary curricular structure, students bring a wide range of expertise to the discussion referencing topics from statistics, philosophy, and literature. Even though we were running out of time at the end of our day, it was great to hear, if briefly, so many areas of knowledge coming together. Hooray for abstraction!

Big thanks to Sean Foley and Sarah Hall for their generosity during my visit. COA is a remarkable place.