This weekend only at the Saint Louis Art Museum the show Art in Bloom is being exhibited. Billed as a celebration of art and flowers, this pairing of flower arrangements with specific artworks is now an annual event at the museum. I believe that this show was inaugurated last year. It is much more of a sensation this year. Scattered around the museum, are almost forty such pairings of art and flowers. When I attended this show the creator of each arrangement was there to interpret their work. This tended to cause a throng to gather around many of the arrangements that clogged ones progress through the show and I can’t say that I garnered any additional insights from hearing any of these interpretations either. Last year, I viewed the show in the off hours and is was a nicer experience.
Like the show’s judges (Winner of the Judges Choice award), I’ve picked the arrangement by Jessica Douglass as a good example of how these pairings are supposed to work. The photo captures both the flowers and the art that inspired their arrangement. In this case it is the painting by Günther Förg, entitled Rivoli I (1989), which is located in the museum’s contemporary wing. The painting is composed of two vertical rectangles, one is tangerine orange and the other dark violet. They are bisected by a mustard yellow line. As with most of the floral arrangements, Douglass has accurately captured the colors in this painting and because of its minimalist geometry has also been able to mimic its structure. Elsewhere in the museum, attempts to model the form of less contemporary art did not succeed as well.
Anne told me about a game that is all the rage at school these days. She calls it the Flipping Game as in, “I wish they would stop playing that flippin’ game.” It is a game of skill where the participant tosses an object with the goal of sticking its landing upside-down. Think of a cylinder, say a can, but it doesn’t have to be a can, some water bottles are popular objects for flipping too. Yesterday, two boys were playing the game. One of them bragged that he could flip anything. The other one doubted this and cried, “No, you can’t.” “Yes, I can.” “No, You Can’t!” “YES, I CAN!!!” At this point the doubter whipped out a unsharpened pencil and said, “Then flip this.” The braggart said, “I can’t flip that.” At this point Anne stepped in and told them, “Please cease this pointless argument.”
As I sat sipping my beer and watched its tiny bubbles rise in my glass, Jeffrey G. Catalano, PhD was giving his talk entitled, “Wetlands, Heavy Metals and Climate Change”. This was another round of Science on Tap, a monthly event where science meets brew. Climate change is attributed to rising levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Primary among them is carbon dioxide, but there are other gases that contribute to this effect, notably methane. Both gases occur naturally and are also manmade. Incidentally, cow farts are considered to be manmade, since cows are raised by men. Catalano’s talk concerned changes in naturally occurring sources that are being caused by man. The largest source of naturally occurring methane are wetlands, think swamp gas.
Most microbes like people breathe oxygen to live, but wetland soil has an environment almost devoid of oxygen. Through a chemical process that I won’t detail here, some microbes can live there and they exhale methane. Key to this process are heavy metals, think nickel and not Metallica. These heavy metal compounds act as catalysts. We are not that different. What a chemist calls catalysts we call vitamins. At the heart of one of our key vitamins (B¹²) is cobalt. Without them not much happens, but if you add some then things begin to happen. One of the questions that Catalano is wrestling with is what are the effects of pollution runoff into wetlands? Does this increase the production of methane? Another question is what will be the effects on methane production, if rising global temperatures melt Canada’s and Russia’s permafrost, since most of the taiga there is now frozen wetlands. He didn’t offer any answers to these questions, but he does plan on continuing his study of them.