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Black Hole Mystery Anticipated by Artist

Black Hole Mystery Anticipated by Artist

“Event Horizons are Orange-- Just Like My Painting!” -- Crystal Edwards.

On the day that astronomers produced the first photograph of a black hole

my friend and artist colleague Crystal Edwards sent me a Facebook message.

“Black hole event horizons are orange, just like my painting!” she said.

Five years ago Crystal wrote a book collecting her thoughts about physics and art. She then created a series of seven paintings entitled "Quantum Paint” based on her study of quantum physics. She was inspired to produce images that visualized what physicists were discovering about the strange ways sub-atomic particles act. 

Entanglement is more than just a theory, she says.

Experiments proved that when bits of matter touch they share a reality no matter how distant they might become.

If you split a particle in two, one part of the pair is forever connected to the other -- so that if you change the polarity of one, the other will flip in the opposite direction even when separated by million of miles. The connection occurs faster than the speed of light.

(Illustration Delft University of Technology)

While the quantum effects are microscopic, Edwards believes it all adds up to form the macro world in which we live. Everything we do and experience is forever entangled into one big whole.

Crystal tried to visualize reality as a network of bits, all connected so that if “viewed from above” creates a pattern. She developed an original method of paintings strands of yarn to represent the quantum principles.

The seven paintings each took the form of a different spectrum of light.
I helped curate a show of the Quantium Paint Series now showing at the Hurst Gallery in Kirkland, WA.

One of the paintings entitled “Event Horizon” is Crystal’s interpretation of what a black hole might look like. When friends asked her why she made the halo of a black hole orange, she said her understanding of color theory played a role. “I don’t know why I picked orange exactly. It just occurred to me that it must be orange.”

(Event Horizon by Crystal Edwards.)

As it turned out, an international team of radio astronomers on April 10 released their findings that showed a gigantic black hole in the center of the Messier galaxy 87 is in fact orange. 

(Credits: Event Horizon Telescope collaboration et al.)

In the book  Art & Physics: Parallel Visions in Space, Time, and Light, (1993, Harper Perennial) physician and science author Leonard Shlain argues that the two fields are connected. He observed that major discoveries in physics are usually anticipated by new kinds of art.

According to one review, the author “proposes that the visionary artist is the first member of a culture to see the world in a new way. Then, nearly simultaneously, a revolutionary physicist discovers a new way to think about the world.”

To prove his case, Shlain “juxtaposes the specific art works of famous artists alongside the world-changing ideas of great thinkers. Giotto and Galileo, da Vinci and Newton, Picasso and Einstein, Duchamp and Bohr, Matisse and Heisenberg, and Monet and Minkowski”.

Artists are the antenna of culture, the first to grasp an inkling of revolutionary changes that lack representation in the imagination or mind.

Or as Shlain says, “In addition to illuminating, imitating, and interpreting reality … artists create a language of symbols for things for which there are yet to be words.”

Apparently Crystal Edwards “Quantium Paint” series is another example of Shlain’s thesis.

She “just knew” that the event horizon of a black hole is orange.

See the show until May 17 at the Hurst Gallery in Kirkland, WA. MORE. 


Crystal Edwards is an artist and President of VALA, Venues for Artists in Local Areas, a Kirkland Washington based non-profit organization that helps connect community, art and artists together.  Check out her other visions here. 

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