SOFA 2019: Touching Minds, Souls

By Terry Poulos, Scientiquity founder

scientiquity, hydromeda, atlantis, water, art, sculpture, LED, light, form, plato, fractal, sofa, chicago, navy pier
Sophisticated little art critics soak up “Hydromeda Atlantis” at SOFA 2019. For video of the kinetic light art, see Scientiquity’s YouTube Channel

(Editor’s note: This blog was originally posted on November 5, 2019)

[NAVY PIER, CHICAGO]. There are few things that bring more joy to an artist than seeing a child’s face light up as they’re dazzled with wonder by something you created. Sure, all artists want critical review from adult experts, not to mention commercial success. That’s a given. But children, oh that’s something extra special. They’re pure and innocent, untouched by the bias of nurture and experience. They react out of reflex. When they beam, it’s genuine and from the heart. It’s real! 

That kind of critical review touches an artist with an inner warmth unlike all the riches could ever bring. Many times last week, I was gifted that privilege. And each time it made my eyes a little misty. It felt as though I touched their mind and soul. But did it launch a cascade of neuronal connections and re-connections? Did it inspire them to greater things? It sure is wonderful to move people with aesthetics. That’s the primary function of art. Or so they claim. Granted, Scientiquity art is science and math-based, thus carrying with it an educational narrative. But how tangible is the reach of art?

This all started with an invitation at the behest of Arica Hilton, a globally-recognized artist who’s had her paintings exhibited all over the world. She’s also the atelier and owner of the longtime River North, Chicago gallery Hilton-Asmus Contemporary.

Arica asked me to exhibit my sculpture Hydromeda Atlantis (video below) at her booth at this year’s SOFA show (Sculptural Objects & Functional Art) at Navy Pier along with her own line of paintings titled “Flow Like Water.” SOFA, held this year October 31-November 3, attracts more than 30,000 attendees annually, making it one of the largest such art exhibitions nation-wide, second only to Art Basel in Miami.

Hydromeda Atlantis is a world-first kinetic light, under-lit aquarium sculpture. Light reflects and refracts off myriad glass, naturally-occurring geometric objects that fill the 70-gallon acrylic container. At three feet in height, this pyramidian approximates the dimensions of the missing capstone at the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Back to the future, the kids. I must concede, it’s almost impossible to pinpoint whether this was anything more meaningful than a simple `wow’ moment in the soon-to-be long journey through a child’s life. At SOFA, we had the opportunity to conduct an impromptu experiment with one adorable little 10-month old toddler. Quiet as a mouse, she was held for a minute in front of Hydromeda Atlantis, stared at the pyramid but showing no noticeable reaction, nor did she utter a sound. When she was sat down on the floor directly in front of the sculpture, about a half minute elapsed when all of a sudden she reached out, pointed at the alluring light show and proclaimed with an excited tone “da.” About five of us witnessed the event and we all got a good laugh. I’d like to think the art elicited the response. It sure seemed like it.

There were more similar encounters. Friday was the day they bus in student artists from around the region. Hoards of aspiring young artists were exposed to Hydromeda Atlantis, marveling at the unique kinetic light display. And on at least two occasions, we spotted adolescent-age kids grabbing their parent by the arm or hand and literally dragging them into Hilton-Asmus’ booth #49, demanding to see up close the never-before-witnessed new genre of art.

Anecdotal evidence aside, science does say visual stimulus alters our consciousness. Every new experience changes us, takes us in another direction. When we’re stuck, we require that something extra. Almost all the great innovators in science, mathematics, technology and the humanities shared at least a modicum of love for the arts. 

But, alas, perhaps I wish too much. It’s art, after all, and the machinations of the reality of the business world grind render art mostly a “luxury.” But is it just a luxury? We’ll save that for next week’s blog post. In the interim, we’ll leave you with this one quote to chew on until then.

   “The gift of fantasy has meant more to me
       than my talent for absorbing positive
            knowledge.” — Albert Einstein

scientiquity, hydromeda, atlantis, water, art, sculpture, LED, light, form, plato, fractal, sofa, chicago, navy pier
A wide-eyed child with her hand in the Hydromeda Atlantis “cookie jar”

Photo credit:


* Many thanks to Hilton-Asmus associates Sven, Matt, Kate, Max, Jason, Lourdes, and Beth for their assistance last week. I owe you all. Much appreciated!

* I bought out the entire inventory of 3-gallon water jugs at the local Target, not to mention a few other items. Art may stimulate the imagination but it also stimulates the economy, to be sure 

* Hosting an event of this magnitude, with more than 30,000 attendees, is a massive undertaking and the staff at SOFA and Navy Pier, along with the many carpenters, electricians and other hard-working personnel whose efforts are requisite to putting on such an exhibition, could not have been more kind and helpful. Just take a look at the photo below to get an idea of the sheer size of the venue. This is only about one-third of the entire layout

scientiquity, hydromeda, atlantis, water, art, sculpture, LED, light, form, plato, fractal, sofa, chicago, navy pier
Navy Pier, Chicago. Set-up for SOFA 2019

Terry Poulos is a Chicago-area writer, archaeological historian, artist and geometer whose investigations focus primarily on physics, fractal topology, and Number Theory 

Scientiquity. All images and concepts herein © 2022

Published by Scientiquity

Polymath artist, scientific inquirer, fractal math researcher, archaeological historian, entrepreneur

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