We’ve had this guest blog piece ready to go for several weeks, having asked Peter and Kirsten Stoltz to write about being a scientist-artist couple like ourselves. Doug worked with Peter at Tech-X for several years; Doug was based at Fermilab in Illinois and made regular trips to the parent company so that we got to know both Peter and Kirsten. We were especially interested in how Peter and Kirsten talked across the subject matter of their careers, in part because we’ve negotiated that scientist-artist interaction ourselves.
Between travel and power outage this week, though, this blog post is the first time we haven’t met our stated schedule, but we’re happy to get back on track with this guest blog feature.
Kirsten is an art curator and an active member of the M12 collaborative. Her latest project is The Big Feed. Peter is a staff scientist at Tech-X Corporation, a private company specializing in computational physics. He previously worked at Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories. They live in Denver, Colorado, where they have been known to attend baseball games.
OPPOSITES ATTRACT (OR AREN’T THAT OPPOSITE AFTER ALL)
In some ways, the roles we follow as a couple living and working together as a scientist and artist decompose along entirely expected lines. If we need to upgrade the computer at home, the scientist—Peter—handles that. If we need to pick a new color of paint for the hallway, the artist—Kirsten—handles that. In some ways, we dislike being so predictable, but the truth is we are both doing what we do well. Our computers run great, and our home decor looks fantastic.
Even while we are good at different tasks or have different areas of expertise to offer, we are both successful in our day-to-day work because of our surprisingly similar skills. A typical day for both of us consists of participating in Skype teleconferences with collaborators, dealing with logistics of upcoming events, and entering budget information into Excel spreadsheets. In the end, we are both project managers as much as we are an artist and a scientist. We both are successful at what we do largely because of our aptitude for and willingness to do this organizational work.
Another important thing we have in common is a tendency for simplicity in our work. Both physics and art can be complicated. For instance, an example of complication in physics is the detectors used in high-energy physics experiments. Peter avoids the kinds of physics that involve this kind of complication, opting instead for computer models, where the physics is only as complicated as the programmer wants or needs to make it. Similarly, Kirsten also finds herself drawn to simple art with clean lines and colors (click here for an example, an album cover featuring a photograph by William Eggleston). This commonality in how we approach our work also reaches into our home, where we both enjoy the simple, clean design of mid-century architecture and furniture.
To learn more about The Big Feed, an annual forum that connects artists and the community in Colorado, click here.