Off the Clock: Professors Show Their Artistic Sides

Posted: May 7, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Catherine Probst

Although they grew up in different parts of the world, Ernest Barreto and Paul So not only share a common interest in science — they have a passion for the arts.

In fact, their passion is such that both professors of physics have entered their own art work in Artomatic, a multimedia event featuring more than 600 visual artists, musicians and performers from the Washington, D.C., metro area. Barreto’s photographs and So’s paintings are being exhibited through May 20.

Ernest Barreto
Ernest Barreto

Growing up in Niskayuna, N.Y., Barreto had an interest in photography from a young age. Even in middle school, he could be found taking pictures of his neighborhood in the foggy early morning hours, even before the sun came up. He continued taking pictures in high school and received a scholarship to an art school after graduation, but ultimately his interest in science won out.

“Photography was something that was very difficult to pursue because everything was so expensive — the camera, developing the pictures — I just didn’t have that kind of money,” says Barreto. “I wasn’t disappointed with the path I chose, however, because I had a great interest in physics.”

Today Barreto finds himself with more disposable income and a desire to pick up the camera again. The focus of his photos is now on his two sons, ages two and three months. He is also interested in taking photographs of images that invoke a sense of stillness in the viewer.

Many of his photographs displayed at Artomatic, his first public exhibit, are of abstract scenes such as a rusty rail contrasting with the colors that are out of focus behind it. Other photographs depict frozen moments in time: his son looking through a fence to the other side; and a figure leaning against a column at the Lincoln Memorial reading the words engraved on the wall with Lincoln in the background.

“The photographs that are being displayed at Artomatic are those that make you stop and think for a moment,” says Barreto.

Paul So
Paul So
Photo courtesy of Paul So

On the other side of the world, So, who grew up in Hong Kong, realized his passion for painting. He began painting as an undergraduate at Scripps College in Claremont, Calif., where he received an art studio degree. His paintings, mostly abstract, are done in acrylics on canvas and wood.

“I consider myself to be in the tradition of the Color Field painters, an art movement in the1960s, that emphasized the emotional and spiritual quality of pure color forms as a vehicle for artistic expression,” says So.

After several showings in Washington and New York, So stopped painting to concentrate on his physics thesis. Just recently he began painting again after a 10-year hiatus; the exhibit at Artomatic is his first since then. The theme of his paintings is realignment and a balance of his interests in art and science.

To continue his passion for art, So hopes to open a gallery in the Washington, D.C., area within a year. He will use the gallery to pursue his painting and help young artists in the early stages of their careers.

“I want young artists to be able to come to me to help them understand the skills they will need in the professional world,” says So.

For more information about Artomatic, visit the web site.

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