The important science that happens every day at Fermilab in Batavia is not always the easiest to grasp.
Accomplished scientists study the nature of particles that make up matter and radiation -- among the smallest objects in existence. And those particles can only be explored with the most sophisticated technology.
Those of us who aren't scientists might have a tough time appreciating this work, since we literally can't see it.
But that is changing.
For the second year, Fermilab is now hosting an artist-in-residence who aims to help the public see particle physics in a big, new way.
This year Chicago artist Ellen Sandor was selected for the honor. She is founder and director of the collaborative artists group called "(art) n" and has spent her 40-year career visualizing the invisible.
Using a unique combination of tools and materials, Sandor creates vivid portraits of microscopic organisms, shows the effects of time on world landmarks, or creates buildings that never existed.
Throughout this year, Sandor will spend time with Fermilab researchers and will create several new works inspired by the science happening there.
Sandor is the creator of an artistic medium called PHSColograms (pronounced "Skolograms"). These 3-D pieces combine photography, holography, sculpture and computer graphics to create immersive experiences. Her (art) n group has used this process to visualize microscopic diseases like the Ebola and HIV viruses, as well as architectural renderings of buildings by architects by Antoni Gaudíand and Frank Lloyd Wright that were planned but never constructed.
Sandor says she aims to create pieces that are scientifically correct with the help of technology, while also making beautiful art that inspires.
"There is a lot of technology involved in my work, but technology is not the answer," she says. "You have to have an artistic bend that makes it all transcend. That's what makes it so exciting about this."
Throughout this year, Sandor will interview Fermilab scientists, tour their research areas and then create new works based on what she learns. Those works will go on display in December at the Batavia laboratory.
Sandor will also serve as an ambassador to the arts community, inviting them to look at the science of particle physics from a new perspective. Her hope, she says, is for the Fermilab exhibit to go on display in early 2017 at the LeRoy Neiman Center at the School of the Art Institute, her alma mater, and then to travel at locations throughout the country.
As Sandor enters her residency, Oak Park artist Lindsay Olson exits from the honor she held in 2015. She created more than a dozen new works inspired by Fermilab's science, some of which can be seen online.
Fermilab Art Gallery curator Georgia Schwender said effort, energy and work of the two women -- in tandem with the enthusiasm of the Fermilab community -- has already helped the new residency program succeed.
"I've served as curator since 2001 and, in the back of my mind, I've always wanted to further the gallery and use it to get people more involved in both art and science," Schwender said. "This program has received so much positive feedback and Fermilab really is a unique setting. This program is something that turned out even better than I envisioned, for everyone."
To see more of the work of Ellen Sandor, visit www.artn.com/.
The art gallery at Fermilab is open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday at Kirk Road and Pine Street, Batavia. Call (630)-840-6825 or visit fnal.gov.