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Ellen Sandor Oceans of Change
Ellen Sandor

Fermilab brings in new artist-in-residence

Chicago innovator Ellen Sandor will create new works based on her experiences at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.

Chicago artist Ellen Sandor, founder and director of the collaborative artists group (art)n, will be Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory’s artist-in-residence for 2016.

Sandor has spent her 40-year career visualizing the invisible using a unique combination of tools and materials. For the next year, Sandor will spend time with researchers at Fermilab—who use massive instruments to visualize invisible subatomic particles—and will create several new works inspired by the science happening at the suburban Chicago laboratory, using the latest new media technology.

“My goal, as always, is to create pieces that are scientifically correct as well as classically beautiful as a work of art,” Sandor says. “I’m excited to get started.”

Sandor is perhaps best known as the inventor of a new artistic medium called PHSColograms. These three-dimensional pieces combine photography, holography, sculpture and computer graphics to create immersive experiences. Sandor and her team of collaborators have used this patented process to visualize everything from the Ebola virus to architectural renderings of buildings that were planned but never constructed.

Sandor’s early work with PHSColograms was on display at Fermilab’s art gallery in 1987. Included in that show was Sandor’s 3-D portrait of the AIDS virus, one of the first attempts to scientifically visualize the organism behind the disease. The gallery also features a piece by Sandor’s long-time friend, the late Martyl Langsdorf, on permanent display.

“I visited the laboratory in the 1980s with Martyl and since then have been reading about the wonderful things happening there,” Sandor says. “It will be an honor for me to work with the scientists at Fermilab, who are truly rock stars.”

Fermilab’s artist-in-residence program was inaugurated in 2014 and offers artists a chance to create work based on Fermilab’s experiments and research. Artists interview scientists, tour research areas of the facility and create new works based on what they learn. They then serve as an ambassador to the arts community, inviting them to look at the science of particle physics from a new, more resonant perspective.

Oak Park artist Lindsay Olson will wrap up her term as the laboratory’s 2015 artist-in-residence in December. Olson, who works in a variety of artistic media, produced more than a dozen new works inspired by Fermilab’s science, some of which can be seen online.

“We’re very pleased to have Ellen Sandor on board to continue our artist-in-residence program,” says Georgia Schwender, curator of the Fermilab Art Gallery. “This program offers people another way to understand physics, through the eyes of artists who can interpret Fermilab’s science in compelling ways.”