Black Hole Survival Guide, written by astrophysicist Janna Levin and illustrated by Lia Halloran (Associate Professor of Art in Wilkinson College) is a playful exploration into the structure and nature of black holes for everyone interested to figure out a little more about the strange and powerful objects in our universe.
“We’ve always loved speaking about the connection of science and art so we look for opportunities to work together and keep the conversation going,” said Halloran.
For over a decade, Halloran and her friend, Levin have embarked on a number of opportunities to collaborate on projects that intersect the arts and sciences. Most recently, Halloran participated in artist residencies at Pioneer Works in New York (where Levin is the director of science) and Levin was a contributor to Halloran’s book that was tied to her earlier project ‘Your Body is a Space That Sees’ tracing the lineage of female astronomers.
The two met at a dinner party for Stephen Hawking at Kip Thorne’s home. Halloran thought that was the pinnacle, she had met all the scientists she ever needed to meet, but then she was introduced to Levin. They were immediately bonded, taking about creativity in art and science connections.
“For this book the conversations started when I was in New York in February for an opening I had at the Simons Foundation and Janna and I ended up brainstorming and drawing all over cocktail napkins about the idea of recreating one of those old science manuals, something you would keep in your back pocket,” said Halloran.
The scale of Black Hole Survival Guide is just 5×7 inches. Halloran wanted the artwork to read like old diagram models and looked at vintage field manuals for inspiration. “I love the playfulness of the size [and] I tried to tie [that] into the artwork.”
Halloran’s illustrations were driven by Levin’s text. Once the outline was ready, the two collaborated on what sections could use an image to forward the ideas described.
When asked to pick a favorite Halloran said, “I think I’m most drawn to the images that have both the experience of space and black holes but also contain the diagrammatic old school ‘field guide’ design language. These drawings are so different from what I usually make in my studio since they are essentially simple diagrams. It was especially fun to draw the small floating astronauts and come up with different ways they’d float around or interact with the space, so the drawings that have the relation of human scale paired with a dooming black hole or event horizon are also some of my favorites.”
In Spring 2021, Halloran will mount an exhibition of the artwork at Pioneer Works in New York.
As the Director of Painting and Drawing at Chapman University Halloran teaches courses that look at how creativity and problem solving can be the point of intersection for art and science, such as Concepts in Contemporary Art: The Origins of Art and Science and Concepts in Contemporary Art: Intersection of Art and Science, which, according to Halloran, are two of her favorite courses.