Physics professor’s art exhibit imagines ‘outer space as feminist space’

An art exhibit explores the ‘creative and scientific selves’ of a professor, who argued that the separation between art and science is ‘rooted in the systemic racism and sexism' of physics.

The exhibit became a teaching opportunity for Natalie Gosnell, who ‘is conducting research on her teaching method by following students' progress in physics identity and belongingness.'

A physics professor created an ongoing art exhibit to explore “her creative and scientific selves” and argued that the separation between art and science is “rooted in the systemic racism and sexism that the physics institution has been born into.”

“The Gift” by Colorado College astrophysicist Natalie Gosnell debuted at the New York Public Library in December and is available at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center starting in March, according to a report from the college. 

On Gosnell’s personal website, she described “The Gift” as an attempt by her and co-creators Janani Balasubramanian and Andrew Kircher to “re-inscribe outer space as feminist space.”

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“The piece is experienced in a room with audial and visual stimuli, and through a book about an astrophysical phenomenon of a dying star,” the report reads. 

“Contemporary journalism views this mass-transfer process through a violent, hyper-masculine lens, seeing as the mass-receiving star has been dubbed ‘Vampire star’ or ‘Cannibal star.’ Gosnell adds they are viewed as the ‘bad boys’ of the universe.”

Her exhibit is funded by a series of foundations and organizations, including the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Colorado College’s report notes that the exhibit “was developed in part in the Collider, a research and development lab for the performing arts at Lincoln Center” and that “[m]ajor support for the Collider is provided by The Ford Foundation and The Mellon Foundation.”

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“The Gift” became a teaching opportunity for Gosnell, who “is conducting research on her teaching method by following students’ progress in physics identity and belongingness after they’ve taken her class.”

“She’s conducted it three times thus far and has already seen that people (everyone–not just white males) have a stronger sense of physics identity following her classes,” Colorado College’s report continues. 

Gosnell similarly published a journal article in 2020, “Supporting Inclusive Teaching in Introductory College Physics.”

“Even among the sciences, physics stands out as an unusually White- and male-dominated field,” the abstract reads. 

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“Proponents of inclusive teaching strategies argue that using such strategies will benefit all students, particularly those from marginalized groups, increase the diversity of physics majors, and ultimately contribute to a more diverse community of physicists.”

Campus Reform contacted all relevant parties listed for comment and will update this article accordingly. 

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