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MICA Student Builds Sculptures Inspired by Hopkins Scientist's Planetary Studies

Though no human has set foot on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, the exhibit created by Amy Wetsch, a Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) student, and Sarah Hörst, a planetary scientist at Johns Hopkins University (JHU), allows viewers to visually experience Titan’s ethereal orange atmosphere and its lakes of liquid methane and ethane.

Featuring mixed-media sculptures, drawings, and large-scale installations, “Lateral Distance“was created by Wetsch, who spent the summer in Hörst’s laboratory. The pair came together as part of the Hopkins Extreme Materials Institute’s Extreme Arts Program, which connects scientists and engineers with MICA professors and students to explore their differing perspectives and to find common ground.

Wetsch found herself fascinated by Hörst’s research, which concerns atmospheric chemistry and focuses on Titan. “All of my work deals with thinking about and uncovering mysteries in various fields of science, “ Wetsch said. “When I first met Dr. Sarah Hörst, she told me about how she was simulating atmospheres to better understand Titan and uncover its mysteries. It was at that point that I knew I had to work with her and help her artistically visualize and simulate Titan’s atmosphere."

Wetsch immersed herself in Hörst’s lab in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and mined the lab for materials. She then mixed glue, glycerin, iridescent film, salt, glass, cotton, and other materials to create a stunning, large-scale piece that fills a 450-square-foot room, as well as smaller mixed media sculptures aimed at capturing Titan’s essence.

“Combining our scientific language with her artistic language gave us all a lesson in communication, “ Hörst said. “We use different words, but the concepts, philosophy, and thought processes are very similar."