• Randie Silverstein

Annihilation: Destruction or Creation?

an·ni·hi·la·tion

əˌnīəˈlāSHən/

noun

complete destruction or obliteration. The conversion of matter into energy, especially the mutual conversion of a particle and an antiparticle into electromagnetic radiation.


I would really like to be on the committee that names things, like paint colors, stars and astral events! I find it incredibly interesting and quite arbitrary. And I am also puzzled as to why a word like annihilation, which I had always known to mean the complete destruction of something (leaving no trace of the original subject of that destruction), could ALSO mean the transformation of the subject into something else. Primarily the conversion of matter into energy, which releases electromagnetic radiation. During annihilation, photons are created, which are really just light and color. What could be more attractive to a glass artist? ALL my work is about light and color! There are other examples of this throughout astrophysics, but for now I’m sort of focused on this idea.


My understanding of electron/positron annihilation, in that it is a collision between a pair of particles, one matter and one antimatter, generally produce gamma radiation. The radiation emitted during the annihilation process are called spectral lines. Turns out, that in studying these emissions, my astrophysicist is hoping that he can see dark matter by studying this radiation, and the rays that are emitted. For me, as an artist, my eyes start to cross at any more information than this, while my mind wanders to the colors, shapes and quality of “spectral lines” and trying to visualize these concepts from the graphs and charts that I have been shown.


In my recent series “Celestial Bodies” I have been exploring the galactic landscape. Just the other day, while working on a new way to express sun rays, I had a little mishap. I had been bending strings of glass, to create a line to use in my compositions. During this process, in the kiln, the glass stuck to the shelf separator that I use to keep the glass from sticking to the kiln shelf. This material was not coming off, and I knew that it could not be used in the final product. Disappointed, I gathered up all of my curvy lines of glass, and threw them into a pile on the counter next to my sink. The next day, when I walked back into the studio, I didn't see ruined work. I saw a bundle of squiggly lines, and I felt attracted to this form, comprised of many colored squiggly parts.


I started ruminating (as I so often do) about other kinds of bundles. I discovered that most things that are bundled are like objects. Sticks, newspapers, pencils— it was like I was on the show Jeopardy, and had to answer the questions in the subject of “Things that are bundled”! I am not a conceptual artist. I am mainly a craftsman. My background is in making utilitarian items, although the glass panels I make now are not for any functional use. I am excited about working on a conceptual piece, one that can conjure up some of the concepts I have been learning about. So I am starting my exploration of spectral lines from annihilation events and how to incorporate these ideas into my art.


Alex came to visit yesterday, and I was interested in showing him my odd discovery and my attraction to this “bundle”. I wanted to talk to him about how I can related this form to astrophysical concepts. I settled on trying to express how we can see the rays, but not the thing they are coming from. We are hoping to find that the mass we cannot see is the dark matter Alex is searching for! While I set to work on a new experiment, Alex set to work on a celestial landscape of his own.


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