Ellen K. Levy, Messenger, 2021, acrylic and gel over print, 40 x 60 inches

Wired and CERN

STEVE MILLER, "Quantum System," 2020, 39 x 69 inches
Quantum System, 2020, 39 x 69 inches

On a trip to Brazil, artist Steve Miller was captivated by the tangled web of power lines in Rocinha, Rio de Janeiro, the largest favela in the country. Lacking access to basic services, residents tap into overhead cables, risking electrocution in the process. He photographed the wires and incorporates those images in his prints and paintings, thinking of the wires as “human drawings in three dimensions in space, based on our urgent need for resources.”

On the other side of the world, in Geneva, Switzerland, is CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, where physicists and engineers use some of the most advanced scientific instruments to study the basic constituents of matter: fundamental particles. In Miller’s works, he incorporates mathematical equations and diagrams sketched out on chalkboards in CERN laboratories, making connections between the rapidly drawn chalkboard lines and the complex electrical networks that power CERN’s vast magnetic fields.

STEVE MILLER, "Crisis Led To Insight," 2019, inkjet, pigment dispersion, silkscreen on canvas, 22 x 29 inches
Crisis Led To Insight, 2019, inkjet, pigment dispersion, silkscreen on canvas, 22 x 29 inches

The electrical wire imagery and CERN equations coexist in Miller’s layers of ink and paint. The highly organized conduits that power CERN may seem like the antithesis of the chaotic, impromptu power lines of Rocinha, but both explore energy on a macro and micro scale. From an aesthetic perspective, the CERN chalkboard diagrams and the favela wires contain the same visual chaos. “Where a physicist sees knowledge, this artist sees abstraction,” Miller writes.

Based in New York, Miller is recognized as an early pioneer of the “SciArt” (science-based art) movement. In 2013, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) mounted his exhibition Crossing the Line, featuring paintings based on his collaboration with neurobiologist Rod MacKinnon. In 2017, NAS mounted his exhibition Health of the Planet, which included paintings, prints, and sculptures exploring the deforestation of the Amazon and the impact on the fauna living there. His forthcoming book is Surfing the Cosmos (G Editions, 2022). Follow Steve Miller on Instagram @stevemillerdotcom and see more of his art at https://stevemiller.com.

Cite this Article

Miller, Steve. “Wired and CERN.” Issues in Science and Technology 38, no. 2 (Winter 2022).

Vol. XXXVIII, No. 2, Winter 2022