SFS Welcomes Brazilian Artist Denise Milan for Discussion on Intersection of Art and Science


October 20, 2016
by Catherine Pilishvili

Georgetown’s Walsh School of Foreign Service, in collaboration with the Georgetown Environment Initiative (GEI), hosted Brazilian artist Denise Milan on October 19, to showcase the fusion of science and art in the Mist of the Earth exhibition opening. The event was funded by the Loewy Lecture Series through the Science, Technology and International Affairs Program and was also cosponsored by the Global Future Initiative.

The exhibit was open to Georgetown students and faculty, and showcased Milan’s art grouped into four different themes: I. Paradise, II. Paradise Lost, III. Paradise Regained, and IV. Cosmogenesis. After touring the exhibit, guests were invited to attend a panel, consisting of Georgetown’s Thomas E. Caestecker Professor of Music Anna Celenza, who presided over the panel as moderator, MIT Institute Professor Emeritus and 1990 Nobel Laureate in Physics Jerome Friedman, Georgetown Associate Professor of Portuguese Emerita Naomi Moniz, and Chairman and CEO of Conservation International Peter Seligmann.


Georgetown Provost Robert M. Groves opened the panel, and expressed his excitement for the event.

“We are thrilled, absolutely thrilled to our bones to host Denise Milan,” said Groves.

Professor Mark Giordano, Director of SFS’s Program in Science, Technology and International Affairs, introduced the panelists, noting that it was part of the SFS Centennial Events series on the environment.

Giordano stated the purpose of the exhibit and subsequent panel as “the intersection of art and science,” and a reminder of SFS roots in tackling topics of global importance.

Before the panel began its discussion of the fusion of the two concentrations, Milan presented her artwork, dissecting the meaning behind each piece. She described the importance of stones, such as amethyst, in her work and in helping the public see the world in a different way.

“In the stones, we can learn lessons of surviving,” she said, and provided examples of the “analogy between creation and feminine principle” in some of her artwork.

The panel discussion followed Milan’s presentation, with each of the panelists analyzing the artist’s work and discussing the importance of intersecting the arts and sciences.


Panelists left to right: Professor Anna Celenza, Nobel Laureate Jerome Friedman, Professor Naomi Moniz, and CEO of Conservation International Peter Seligmann

Seligmann described his experiences speaking with native Pacific Islanders, and the lessons he learned as a result. One of these lessons was the Islanders’ deep-seated belief that they and the ocean are one and the same.

“The simple truth is that humanity needs nature to survive,” said Seligmann, stating that there is much to be learned from the Islanders’ views towards nature. “We have to learn to connect the health of nature with the health of the family because without it, we’re not going to survive as a civilization.”

Jerome Friedman commented on the process to overcome barriers blocking the intersectionality of these fields.

“You have to be able to break the rules of the orthodoxy at the time,” he said.

The panelists discussed Milan’s success in bridging the gap between art and science, and her use of art as activism commentary on the status of humans’ relationship with nature.

“Denise has been listening to the music and language of the stones for years,” said Naomi Moniz.

The panel wrapped up with final remarks from the guests, and questions from the audience for the panelists and Milan. Each used their time to stress the need to address environmental issues through intersectionality.

Seligmann stressed the power of economic and scientific tools to create change of direction.

“The simple truth is that humanity and nature are indistinguishable,” he concluded.

Click here for Georgetown Provost Robert Groves’ blog post about the event.