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The University Magazine

Artist provides a clear view of science and technology

Artist Nancy Gong puts finishing touches on a panoramic glass mural.

The artwork forms a dramatic backdrop for the Center for Student Innovation.

An intriguing glass mural marks the boundary between the Center for Student Innovation and the adjacent University Services Center.

Rochester artist Nancy Gong created the 11-by-54-foot work, titled In Art, Science & Life, What is the Question? Etched on 13 tempered-glass panels each weighing 450 pounds is a flowing design that is more than decorative. Gong has incorporated symbols representing colliding atoms, DNA, the Earth and other planets, molecules, fractals and other images from science, math and technology. The dominant wave motif, which could be seen as a moonscape, represents the Bose-Einstein condensate theory from quantum physics. Along the top of the mural is binary code representing a quote attributed to Thomas Berger: “The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.”

Gong talked to faculty and administrators to develop ideas. “It was important to me that the imagery have meaning,” she says. She worked on the panels at Rochester Glass Inc., and completed the hand-chipped texture etching after the pieces were assembled on site. In the 30 years since she founded Gong Glass Works, this is the largest piece she’s ever created. Considering the scope of the project, the timetable was short: About three months from conception to completion.

Gong is delighted to have had the opportunity to be part of the new Center for Student Innovation. “It’s really cool to be able to share this with the students,” says Gong. “Soon, they’ll be the stewards of our world.”