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Art, science both examine concepts of truth, value

Sara Lubinski has titled this piece "Near Potosi."

By Ruth Nerhaugen

An artist whose first career was in science will explore the connection between the two during a special program Aug. 27 at the Anderson Center.

Sara Lubinski will address “Bluff & River: Where Art & Science Meet” from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the historic barn at Tower View.

The event, which is free and open to everyone, is a companion event to the Smithsonian Institution’s Water/Ways exhibition that will be coming to the Goodhue County History Center Oct. 1 to Nov. 13.

Lubinski is a nationally recognized landscape artist who put aside her early interest in art and became a botanist, working for 20 years with the U.S. Geological Survey in La Crosse, Wis.

Around 2004 she resumed painting, and in 2012 she became a full-time artist. That summer she began a two-year sojourn into the Upper Mississippi River blufflands, also known as the “driftless” region. The resulting artwork was displayed at the Anderson Center in January-March 2015.

In her “Bluff & River” presentation, Anderson Center Executive Director Christopher Burawa said, “Lubinski will talk about her work, about bringing art into her experiences as a scientist and science into her understanding of the creative process.”

To people who are neither scientist nor artist, Lubinski said, “they seem like polar opposites, one date-drive, the other driven by emotion, but actually the similarities between the two disciplines outweigh the stereotypical differences.

“Both ask the same big questions: What is true? What has value? Why does it matter?”

Science and art both are ways of investigating the world around us and understanding our interactions with nature, Lubinski said, “and both are grounded in close observation of the natural world.

“Bringing them together creates a perspective that is unique from either alone; one that recognizes the river and the blufflands as not only beautiful, but a valuable ecological world that helps sustain our way of life in the region.”

Both disciplines are helpful in choosing what and where to paint, Lubinski noted. She might be drawn to a local plant community that she recognizes; other times she might focus on a stream that has undergone restoration to make it healthy again.

“It’s really about my sensitivity to habitats and waterways, understanding how they survive, and what impacts their future, and how we benefit from the natural world,” she said.

Lubinski and her husband and their four pets live in a cabin in the woods near Brownsville, Minn. She holds Bachelor and Master of Science degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

She will bring a handful of paintings from her “River Sojourn” exhibit to the Aug. 27 presentation to show what she creates. The show just ended three months at the Dubuque Museum of Art and will be in Maquoketa, Iowa, next winter. Lubinski’s work also is currently on display in Lanesboro.

The Water/Ways exhibition coming to the Goodhue County History Center is a community engagement initiative of the Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street Program.

Complementing it will be a series of exhibits and activities including a state exhibit by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and a local exhibit involving numerous area partners.

Details can be found online at