‘High art’ from Penn fine arts professor and astrophysicists


Photo by B.Doherty/PennDesign

An unlikely trio of Penn faculty and researchers recently joined forces to create the highest-altitude art installation on record. The work covers a polarization-sensitive receiver upgrade (ACTPol) for the Atacama Cosmology Telescope, which sits 17,030 feet above sea level in northern Chile.

ACTPol itself is a collaboration between researchers from Penn and more than 25 other institutions on five continents. One of those researchers — Benjamin L. Schmitt, a Penn Ph.D. student in physics and astronomy and a NASA Space Technology Research Fellow — said the group wanted their telescope to have “significant cultural impact,” so he turned to PennDesign’s Fine Arts department for help.

There he found Jackie Tileston, an associate professor of painting who, according to the artist’s statement on her website, aims to create “a stronger, weirder, and more complex pictorial version of the world” in her abstract works.

Tileston and her sculptor husband Kirk McCarthy worked with Schmitt and Mark Devlin, the University’s Reese W. Flower Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics, to come up with ideas for an abstract, mixed-media mural. Courtesy of PennDesign, here are the results of their collaboration, including the 48 x 120” painting Radical Measure (Not Entirely Random) that Tileston created to cover the camera’s body. Check it out for yourself next time you’re atop the Cerro Toco stratovolcano in Chile’s Atacama Desert.


Photo by B.Doherty/PennDesign


Detail shot of Jackie Tileston’s 48 x 120″ painting “Radical Measure (Not Entirely Random). Photo by Evan Robinson Photography.


Jackie Tileston and Mark Devlin. Photo by B.Doherty/Penn Design.

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Filed under Faculty/Staff, Visual Art

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