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URI Student Turns Love of Science into Art

University of Rhode Island art student Chelsea Fredrikson has long believed that art and science should be combined in classroom lessons.

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KINGSTON, R.I. – July 31, 2012 – University of Rhode Island art student Chelsea Fredrikson has long believed that art and science should be combined in classroom lessons. That philosophy served her well at URI, as she has created a variety of works of art that incorporate artifacts of nature or are based on scientific investigations.

“I wanted to show that you can bridge the arts and the sciences to create an interesting and educational project,” said Fredrikson, a Wakefield resident who graduated from URI in May. “The subject matter in most of my work is usually related to the natural world, like landscapes, inhabitants of the deep sea and microscopic creatures.”

URI student Chelsea Fredrikson busy at work merging science and art. University of Rhode Island  

Her senior honors project was what she called “a moss mural,” in which she formulated a paint-like substance out of moss and other organic materials. On the resulting mural, the moss continued to grow.

Fredrikson was awarded an Undergraduate Research Grant from the URI Research Office to complete her final art project at URI in collaboration with a postdoctoral researcher at the Graduate School of Oceanography.

“The project came out of a meeting I had with John Kirkpatrick, who studies sediments deep in the seafloor,” Fredrikson explained. “He looks at whatever creatures live down there at the microscopic level to find out what life forms can survive there. He sent me slides of some of his samples, and I used those for my inspiration.”

Fredrikson typically makes prints by rolling ink onto sheets of plexiglass and using a press to transfer the image to paper. With this project, she decided to let the ink dry on the plexiglass and let that be the finished product.

“On the slides that John gave me of his research, you can’t really see anything that you would identify as a creature, just light blurry spots that might represent oxygen or bacteria or something that isn’t sediment,” said Fredrikson. “As images, they are almost reminiscent of the night sky.”

The URI alumna spent a considerable time studying the slides before she began her work.

“My work is usually created out of a memory of what I have seen,” she said. “I never refer back to an image as I’m working. The application of the ink reflects my memory of the slides.

“Usually when I do a project, the actual process has to happen all at once,” Fredrikson added. “It’s very loose and spontaneous. The urge to do it will hit me, and I’ll do it all in one sitting and then it’s done.”

Fredrikson's final product on display. University of Rhode Island

The final product is two 4-by-4-foot plexiglass sheets that are displayed standing vertically on the floor with lights illuminating them from behind. Both are painted in what Fredrikson describes as “watery, dark, rich colors; deep blues, reds, black and brown.”

Fredrikson is working at Yawgoog Boy Scout Camp this summer as she figures out her next steps. She said it’s a fun and rewarding job, but she plans to move to Providence in the fall to become part of the arts community there and make connections with gallery owners and other artists.

“I’m not sure what I’ll be doing in a few years. I’m not much of a planner, and my art reflects that.” Fredrikson concluded. “I just want to do something that makes me happy. I have so many interests that I don’t think it will be a very difficult thing to do."