Interstellar dust and oceans by Melissa Gwyn

Interstellar dust and oceans

Interstellar dust and oceans (2014) 9″ x 10″ (oil on panel)

Inspired by molecular models that litter grade-school science fairs, Gwyn’s Interstellar dust and oceans presents a buckyball (a Buckminsterfullerene) trapped within another buckyball. This piece is informed by experiments where scientists place metal atoms inside the empty space naturally enclosed by fullerenes, or buckyballs. Instead of metal, Gwyn depicts an Emiliania huxleyi caught within the cage, a variety of plankton whose structure parallels buckyballs. Although the plankton is millions of times larger than the fullerene, in this painting the dimensions are skewed and reversed as the interstellar particle captures the plankton, whose position is off-centered, creating a sense of imbalance. The physical size of the painting counters the sublime nature of its content, again dimensions are at play.

A further connection is crafted through these two particles as Emiliania huxleyi sometimes form algal blooms so large they can only be viewed in their entirety from outer space where the Buckminsterfullerene is created in interstellar dust. A surrealistic realization emerges from the scene—all of the depth and potential of our vast oceans are enclosed within the sphere occupied by these fullerenes, and infinite cages upon cages reveal a Matryoshka universe.