Professor’s Art Reveals Geologic Event

Fingertip Meteorite“Every day some 200 tons of extraterrestrial material enter the Earth’s porous atmosphere.”

This is how Assistant Professor of Art Ryan Thompson begins his essay “The Dark Flight of Micrometeorites.”

“The largest of these objects, meteors, become giant fireballs with the ability to light up the daytime sky and can cause local, regional, or global destruction upon impact. Others become shooting stars, neither large enough to survive their fiery trip through the atmosphere, nor small enough to escape their fate. The smallest of these materials, however, make it to the surface of the Earth as micrometeorites without much in the way of fanfare. No fiery explosions in the sky. No damage or destruction. Just a silent fall to Earth.”

Published in Making the Geologic Now, the essay, like the others in the book, highlights what the editors describe as a cultural turn towards a heightened awareness of one’s place relative to geologic events.

Thompson’s essay is accompanied by his photo of a micrometeorite on the tip of his finger.

“In my recent studio art practice, I’ve been exploring a range of complex and often strange relationships humans produce in collaboration with natural phenomena,” said Thompson. “Looking at the field of meteoritics (the study of meteorites) has been one interesting way to do this.”

For Thompson, the connection between science and art is that being a professional artist allows him to also be an “amateur geologist.”

“Because art’s main function is not scientific, it gives one the freedom to look at other discursive fields [such as geology] from a different perspective—as an amateur with a different set of goals and possible outcomes,” said Thompson.