Nicole Condon-Shih, Mary Johnson, “Microcosmic Orbit”: April 5 – May 18

April 5 – May 18

Gallery Reception: Friday, April 5, 6-9 pm, Artist Talk at 7 pm

The smallest elements exist in necessary tandem with the grandest in our Universe. This two-person exhibition, Microcosmic Orbit, probes the delicate tension between the microcosmic and macrocosmic.

A collaborative installation sprawls the wall and the floor acts as a portal that catches viewers in an orbiting tension of microbe and star. Growing organic forms pulse outward, their tendrils unfurling in an eternal expansion. Microscopic patterns coalesce into galaxies, rocks nestled  in the negative spaces between branching fractals. The viewer is immersed in a cyclical dance of cosmic and cellular scales, orbiting between the intimate landscapes within and the vast mysteries of the infinite unknown.

Johnson’s landscape drawings utilize astrophotography from Alfred University’s Stull Observatory, taken in collaboration with Dr. Joshua Thomas, as well as images of stones found around the Stull’s site, and photographs taken from the sky and land outside of Calafate, Argentina in Patagonia. These drawings create an image strata where rocks or grains of sand are indistinguishable from stars. We are the subjects here: LIGOS’ recent findings indicate we, the rocks, and stars, all pulse with the same waves seeded by the early universe- we are made of the same chemical components. This is a revolutionary way of viewing time and matter; the universe is connected in a way beyond what we have previously imagined. Layering what we stand upon and what we view above within the same picture plane expresses the infinite/finite nature of our universe and ultimately ourselves. 

Condon-Shih’s moving image works are layered against scaled collages that delve into the lessons offered by lichen—a resilient organism that embodies the potential to endure extraterrestrial environments. The symbiotic nature and cellular architecture of lichen is explored with their mycelial networks visualizing an intricately interwoven infrastructure. 

The circular form shared by both artists calls to mind microscopes and telescopes- how we observe and know cells to the cosmos. The circle is a dialectical form: as a sphere it expresses the finite- as a drawn circle it expresses the infinite. These cylindrical openings act as thresholds between the perceived and the unseen, granting us fleeting glimpses into worlds that extend infinitely inward and outward from our limited vantage point. 

In much the way lichen display a symbiotic relationship with their host, and stones are composed of stardust, Condon-Shih and Johnson’s work together become a metaphor for the interdependence of the microscopic and the vast in Microcosmic Orbit.

Microcosmic Orbit Opening Reception Facebook Event Link


Nicole Condon-Shih is an artist and educator exploring the intersection of art, science, and technology. Her research-based practice examines the dichotomy between the microscopic versus the macroscopic in thinking about biological systems and environmental urgencies. Projects have been shown in Hong Kong at the Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism & Architecture, in Beijing at the B3 Biennale of the Moving Image, commissioned by Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and collected by Summa Health Systems, among others. Condon-Shih is an Associate Professor and Chair of Foundation at the Cleveland Institute of Art. Previously, she developed an international foundation program at the Central Academy of Fine Art in Beijing, China and more recently served as the Dean of the School of Art at Pratt Munson in Utica, New York. Condon-Shih received her M.F.A. from Hunter College, City University of New York and B.F.A. from Cornell University. Her art practice continually informs her teaching, just as teaching is integral to her practice as an artist, researcher, and academic leader. 

Mary Johnson makes installations, works on paper and animations that interrogate how perception narrates our experiences. She has shown her work globally including the New York Hall of Science, the Nekrasov Library in Moscow, and the Cube Art Museum in Shanghai. Nationally, her work has been shown at BOX13 (Houston), Coconino Center for the Arts (Flagstaff) and ArtLink (Fort Wayne), among others. Her work has been in group exhibitions at CICA Museum in South Korea, the Consell of Formentera in Spain, and collected by the Shanghai Art Collections Museum. Additionally, her work has been included in multiple international publications, including Rebeka Elizegi’s book Collage by Women: 50 Essential Contemporary Artists (Madrid). Johnson is the Director of Foundations at the School of Art & Design at Alfred University. She has taught at the College of Visual Arts and Design at the University of North Texas and multiple institutions in China, including the Central Academy of Fine Art and as an invited critic to Tsinghua University.

Microcosmic Orbit will be open through May 18th during regular gallery hours on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 12pm-4pm, and by appointment on weekdays. To request an appointment, email or call 216.692.9500.

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