If you're a fan of the Large Hadron Collider, you might see something familiar when driving around the streets of historic Charleston, South Carolina. Mural artist Josef Kristofoletti spent three weeks in September 2008, just after the LHC's highly publicized launch and subsequent shutdown, painting a representation of the ATLAS detector on the wall of the Redux Contemporary Art Center.
A lifelong fan of science, and a fan of CERN since an introductory physics class in college, Kristofoletti wanted to create something timely and CERN-related for his part of the exhibit The Sun Machine Is Coming Down.
"What got me painting murals was working in Italy for a couple of years and seeing the murals of the Renaissance. The subject of most of those works is religious mythology. When I think about the LHC it always seems like an unprecedented cathedral of science. I thought this would be a modern-day version of a Renaissance mural."
As with the creation of the real ATLAS detector, Kristofoletti faced a few setbacks along the way. Approached by a policeman who thought he was covering the wall with graffitti, he explained what he was doing and that the painting was of one of the particle detectors at CERN. The policeman had heard of CERN and the LHC, and let the painting continue, but not without a quick discussion of much-publicized doomsday scenarios.
Kristofoletti arranged for the head of the physics department of the College of Charleston to attend the exhibit opening and give a brief introduction to the LHC. "People enjoyed having something that touched on both art and science," he said. "Humans have always tried to find out where we came from and where things originate, and I think that's why this captures people's imagination."