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September 4, 2007

"Sensation: Interior View" (Image 3)

"Sensation: Interior View" (2006) [By Jersey City artist Nancy Cohen, Jim Sturm, Shirley Tilghman and A.R. Willey; sculpture: 12 x 11 x 5 feet; composition: steel, resin, wire and electroluminescent wires. Detail at night.]

"Sensation: Interior View", is an abstract sculpture about the sense of smell and how odors are recognized and remembered. Multicolored cast resin discs are affixed to a steel armature, forming a wall that connects to bulb-shaped structures by vibrant wires. The different colors of discs represent the sensor neurons in the nose that detect different odorant molecules; the wires represent the axonal connections that pass through the skull to the olfactory bulb in the brain, with the neurons from each type of sensor going to their own specific region in the olfactory bulb.

Cohen was inspired by discussions with Princeton University President Shirley Tilghman. Tilghman, a leader in the field of molecular biology, collaborated with Cohen and Princeton University Electrical Engineering Professor James Sturm on the artwork.

Since Tilghman and Cohen wanted the sculpture to be experienced over time and animated in an unexpected way--prompting the viewer to experience the sense of an organic occurrence--Sturm and students from his lab engineered and fabricated electroluminescent wire elements that light up to simulated the neurons. Each color of wire is meant to represent the response to a different odor. The sculpture will be experienced differently depending on lighting conditions. In bright light the translucent discs and colored wires reflect the sun, as the atmosphere darkens ripples of colored light will be evident traveling back from the wall of randomly arranged discs to the bulbs filled with sorted colors (evoking the neural signal from sensor to the brain). In darkness the moving lights are dramatic and seemingly alive.

To view "Sensation: Interior View" and other sculpture at Princeton's Quark Park, visit the park's website at (Date of Image: 2006) [One of several related images. See Next Image.]


Credit: "Sensation: Interior View," by Nancy Cohen, Jim Sturm, Shirley Tilghman and A.R. Willey; Edward Greenblat, photographer

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