The Art of Science

While chemistry often plays a silent role in art, sometimes artists or scientists have consciously chosen to intersect the two.

Episode 15 | March 21, 2008

Episode 15: The Art of Science by Distillations Podcast

While chemistry often plays a silent role in art, such as synthetic additives in acrylic paints, both artists and scientists have consciously chosen to intersect the two. CHF’s Erin McLeary was astounded by the work of Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge, who created images with filter paper and called them “self-grown pictures.” In this week’s episode, Erin tells us how Runge discovered the colorful pictures that grow themselves. We also visit two present-day New York artists — Steve Miller and Dove Bradshaw — who have chosen different routes to incorporate science into their art. And this week we learn about neon and how it found its way into popular art. Element of the Week: Neon.

Show Clock

00:00  Opening Credits
00:32  Introduction
01:09  Element of the Week: Neon
03:37  Commentary: Self-Grown Pictures
06:54  ChemArtists
10:51  Quote: Bo Malmstrom
11:04  Closing Credits

Resources and References

Neon as art: Eric Ehlenberger’s virtual art gallery and the online gallery of Craig Kraft.

On Runge: Bussemas, H. H., G. Harsch, and L. S. Ettre. “Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge (1794-1867): ‘Self-Grown Pictures’ as Precursors of Paper Chromatography,” Chromatographia 38 (1994): 243-254.

For more about the ChemArtists: Steve Miller and Dove Bradshaw.


This show was researched by Erin McLeary and Audra Wolfe.

Lisa Gray produced the segment on ChemArtists.

Our theme music is composed by Dave Kaufman. Additional music was provided from the Podsafe Music Network. The music at the end of the Element of the Week is Neon Baby, by The Bad Touch. The music for the commentary is Mysterious World, by If. The music for the quotation is Fire against the Sea, by Ichiro Nakagawa.

Photo credits, from top to bottom: Six Continents, art and photo by Dove Bradshaw. Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge title page from the author’s 1858 book Der Bildungstrieb der Stoffe: Veranschaulicht in selbstständig gewachsenen Bildern (Fortsetzung der Musterbilder). Image courtesy of The Othmer Library of Chemical History at CHF, photo by Rosanne DiVernieri Cook.