Charles Geiger PAPER WORKS October 2 - 28, 2012 FLAT FILE Art and science have always been linked. From painter Leonardo da Vinci's discoveries in engineering and anatomy to the amazingly detailed drawings by 19th-century biologist Ernst Haeckel, the dialogue between the two has enriched both fields. In a much more surrealistic way, artist Charles Geiger's work is also influenced by scientific inquiry, specifically into all things botanical. With degrees in both art and science, and a background as a science researcher, it's no wonder that he creates lush worlds with nature asserting its dominance. "QuasiBotanic," a survey of his recent work is on view now through Oct. 18 at the Lake George Arts Project's Courthouse Gallery. For Geiger, art has always taken precedence over science. Reached by phone, Geiger said he was an artist first but that the roles of scientist and artist are not that different. Both approach the unknown and attempt to make sense of it. He took a job as a science researcher to make money but his art practice remained steady. "Art and science were parallel," says Geiger. Now, he focuses on his art full-time. His approach to painting is almost shamanistic, he says. The intention is to make paintings that are life-affirming and healing. These issues are not explicitly addressed, but are gently expressed through repetition of imagery, symbolism and forms. Most of Geiger's canvases are packed with visual information: lush gardens that intrude from all sides; plants don't just grow up, they come in from above and behind, too. As much as these works "teeter between entropy and order," as he writes in his statement, they teeter between abstraction and representation. Like the 19th-century textile designs of William Morris run amok, most pieces have a pattern of dominant vegetation with hints of another world underneath. Biological processes and the interruption of those processes co-exist. In "Mutual Assurance," from 2011, stump-like forms amputated off limbs and mutating in shape, recur throughout. Yet life is abundant: dots line the leaves, like insect eggs. The calm blues and silvers of the top layer camouflage vibrant reds, as if blood is pumping underneath it all. The stumps will sprout again; rhizomes, or roots, continually renew themselves, each separation the beginning of a new plant. It's easy to see these works as metaphors for the persistence of nature, despite various threats from humankind. Some of the titles hold clues. "Mutual Assurance" might refer to the concept of mutually assured destruction, in which both sides hold the potential to destroy the other, providing a deterrent to full-scale destruction. Geiger is fascinated with invasive species and counts humans among those. After all, human activity has been the main cause of the introduction of most invasive species. "S.O.S.," from 2012, is, like many of his works, evocative of an underwater scene. As the title suggests, a Morse code distress signal is being issued. The centerpiece of the drawing is a root structure that's turned on end to form three dots on each side with three dashes (side views of the structure) in the middle. The piece has the leaf forms, waves and bubbles of many of the other works, but instead of an overall pattern, this one is reminiscent of a landscape. Cell forms float around, tethered to the central structure. Of note is the abundance of regional artists taking on nature. Geiger's work could have fit in the recent show at the Arts Center of the Capital Region, "Overgrown." Living with an environment perpetually in crisis seems to be having an effect. The painters of the Hudson River School sought to depict nature and humans in harmony. These artists use nature as a starting point for investigating the two at odds, with nature having the edge. Nature definitely rules in the world Geiger has created. His quasi-botanical, quasi-abstract images transform scientific information gleaned from biology and botany into satisfying expressions of abundance and renewal. Amy Griffin is a freelance writer in Delmar.