Poking around in obscure archives and dark, old churches in Italy and making discoveries in the art world has been a career-long passion for Adriano Marinazzo.
He also works in the field of conveying that information to other people through visual illustrations. Now, he gets to combine the two as part of a new dual role between art and science at William & Mary.
Marinazzo, curator of special projects at the Muscarelle Museum of Art, was named the inaugural designer in residence and adjunct lecturer in the Department of Applied Science. He is in the first year of a three-year appointment that includes teaching the new COLL 100 course Renaissance in 3D this spring and creating visual installations between art and science.
Marinazzo looks forward to sharing with students his work in Florence, Italy, where as a specialist in Michelangelo he published breakthrough research on a Sistine Chapel ceiling sketch and a mysterious carving on the façade of Palazzo Vecchio in Florence.
“Even in very commercial stuff, like ‘The Da Vinci Code,’ there is this fascination with the Renaissance and all the mysteries,” Marinazzo said. “And the mysteries are there because it was many years ago and there was not a way of recording. There were no photos, not many documents. There are some, but it was not systematic. So, there is a lot still to uncover.”
His crossover into academic science sectors of W&M is part of the Muscarelle’s emphasis on outreach into the larger university community.
“We are transferring our individual expertise and sharing it with students,” Marinazzo said. “The students are the most valuable part of the university, so we’re all about students.”
After doing the traditional scholarly work of finding something new, Marinazzo has carved out his specialty of translating and presenting it clearly and simply using new technology. As a student at the University of Florence, he learned those specialized skills that qualified him to be hired there after graduation to teach students and to help art and architectural historians illustrate their work.
“I want to make you understand everything with one picture,” Marinazzo said.
Dennis Manos, vice provost for research and graduate/professional studies and director of the Applied Research Center, worked closely with Provost Peggy Agouris to create the designer role for Marinazzo.
“It has always been the job of the artist to interpret the new world and present it to the people,” Manos said. “The artist is there to absorb the shock, redefine the normal and to find better ways to represent our new shared understandings. Adriano is a scholar who has very deeply studied the genius of the Renaissance, which was another era when very rapid change shook people and their institutions at their roots. So, we are lucky to have him here to work that problem now with other faculty and students in the Integrated Science Center.”
In establishing the role, Marinazzo is currently experimenting with examples and ideas to show science students and faculty what might be possible visually using the latest tools. He envisions a future lab atmosphere where “beautiful minds” can come together to combine strengths on projects presenting science and other disciplines for a general audience.
Animations Marinazzo made from James Webb Space Telescope images are currently playing on screens in ISC lobbies, and a poster for his new course contains an illustration featuring microscopic photos. Using a black and white computer screen, Marinazzo captured images of pollen under a microscope in the Applied Research Center Core Lab HQ, colorized the photos and combined them to make a photo-illustration in homage to those made by Italian Renaissance painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo.
He’s tinkering with possibilities and figuring out what could be useful, which includes collaborations with different departments. For example, a scientist from NASA asked about the visualization of fluid reacting with high speed — as the friction of air on the surface of a rocket — to aid in mathematical calculations.
“There are many other possible collaborations in the visualization of research and the presentation of research,” Marinazzo said. “But I think it’s also a way to do new research.”
Since coming to the Muscarelle 10 years ago, Marinazzo has had various roles. Among his current research projects is a 3D digital reconstruction of the history of W&M’s campus.
But he wanted to get back into teaching and now will be doing that.
“My teaching was about Renaissance architectural history and contemporary art applied to digital tools — digital reconstructions and all of the digital investigation that you can do on historical paintings, drawings, documents, etc.,” Marinazzo said. “This was my class that I was teaching at the University of Florence.”
Marinazzo’s specialization in virtual reconstructions of Renaissance architecture is an integral part of his monograph “Michelangelo: L’Architettura,” which was published in the prominent Italian art journal “Art e Dossier” in November. His course will consist of presenting his virtual reconstructions, including those in the monograph, and hands-on teaching to show students the basics of designing in 3D.
“One part is theoretical. I will speak about my research in the field and how thinking and designing in 3D from the Renaissance to our days have evolved in different fields also scientific — anatomy, biology, cosmology, astrophysics,” Marinazzo said. “Tuesday will be about explaining how the representation of art and science developed through the Renaissance thinking in 3D instead of a 2D flat surface. And then Thursday I will introduce the students to digital tools that I use to represent in 3D the object in space.
“This is not focused just only on the Renaissance because these tools that I employ for investigating what I like, what I do, can be used in medicine, in engineering, for many scientific experiments, can be used in biology, anatomy — is very, very close to the 3D world — science in general, but also design and architecture.”
Because such skills helped him get his first job, Marinazzo feels strongly that learning those by combining scholarship with new technology components will help uniquely qualify students for employment.
“I studied architecture, architectural history,” he said. “But what made the difference for me in my career was the ability to use this kind of software combined with my scholarship. Especially in liberal arts, when you are able to use some technology that is not for everybody — it’s not like an application on the phone that anybody can use. This is a huge advantage because it makes you valuable.”
Jennifer L. Williams, Communications Specialist