Artist Sheena Rae Dowling inside “More” at the San Diego Art Institute. Photo by Chris Jennewein

A new art exhibit at the San Diego Art Institute pairs science with art in an exploration ranging from inside the brain to the stars.

“Illumination,” which is the Balboa Park institution’s first entirely free exhibit thanks to a special grant, includes work by 26 local artists, 16 of whom spent time with scientists.

Some of the artwork serves as metaphors for the science, while other works use the science as a starting point for a creative journey.

Sheena Rae Dowling‘s room-sized “More” depicts a brain under the pull of drug addiction. Long, entwined neurons pulsing in bright colors turn deep red as viewers press a button to feed the brain’s craving.

Cy Kuckenbaker‘s “Chromosome 22” is an alcove dominated by the repeating video of a replicating cell, underneath of which is a 10,000-page book with the entire printed genetic sequence of that one chromosome.

Throughout the gallery, John Burnett’s ambient soundscapes composed for the show add an aural element of excitement.

“The science and art of the artists and scientists I paired for the exhibition should leave you with more questions than answers, and with a deeper sense of the awe for human determination,” said the exhibit’s curator, Chi Essary.

The institute, located in the basement of the House of Charm will celebrate its 80th year in 2021, but its mission is all about the future of contemporary art in Southern California and Northern Baja.

“We think of ourselves as a startup…an organization where you experience art of the now,” said Executive Director Jacqueline A. Silverman.

The exhibit opens with a public receptions from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday night and continues through May 3. Regular hours are 12 to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.

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