Stephen Nowlin is an artist/curator, whose Chapel Studio is located in Altadena, California. In July 2021 he stepped aside from his position as Vice President for Exhibitions, and Founding Director of the Alyce de Roulet Williamson Gallery at ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, where he had initiated a series of collaborations with national scientific institutions that blur the traditional boundaries defining science and art. In addition to his studio practice, Nowlin continues part-time as an adjunct curator for ArtCenter's 2024 Getty-funded Pacific Standard Time Art x Science x LA project.
Nowlin received his BFA degree from California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) and MFA from ArtCenter. He is a co-founder and co-organizer of several Pasadena Art/Science (AxS) Festivals celebrating the intersection of science and the arts, and a co-founder of ArtNight Pasadena. His art-science writings have appeared in numerous exhibition catalogs and publications including the national SciArt Magazine, the MIT Press journal Leonardo, the Claremont Graduate University's STEAM Journal, Interalia Magazine, Skeptical Inquirer Magazine, New York's Brooklyn Rail, KCET's Artbound, PLASMA Magazine, and others. He is a board member of Pasadena's Armory Center for the Arts and a trustee of Fulcrum Arts.
Chapel Studio borrows its name from structures of meditation and reverential resonance but has nothing to do with churches, religion, or the so-called supernatural. Chapel Studio is a place to ponder, write, and make art about how science exposes an astonishing Universe to emotional and intellectual awareness, coherence, and a natural human capacity to find meaning.
Stephen Nowlin, Sparrow, 1972, graphite rendering, 5x5.5inches (13x14cm)
Stephen Nowlin, Untitled2, 1996, oil/acrylic on canvas, 72x54inches
ArtCenter (MFA 1978), CalArts (BFA 1972), studied at California College of Arts and Crafts (1966-68), East Los Angeles College (1965-66).
1965-70s: Studies at California College of Arts and Crafts, Oakland; experiments with electronic sound at Mills College Tape Music Center, attends "Happenings" and Merce Cunningham Dance performances; marches against Vietnam War; drops out of CCAC and returns to LA, works at Ladd & Kelsey Architects, Pasadena, works on model of California Institute of the Arts; works at Caltech, Astro-Electronics Lab drafting computer components for Mount Wilson/Palomar Observatories, participates in Caltech Art/Technology program, works with experimental filmmaker John Whitney on computer-generated graphics. Attends and receives BFA degree, CalArts.
1970s - 80s: Marries Anne Hathaway Nowlin, 1976; attends ArtCenter and receives MFA degree, 1978; establishes studio practice, shows paintings in LA galleries Municipal Art Gallery, Barnsdall Park, Swope Gallery, Riverside Art Center and Museum, Gallery Scope, and included by group show curated by Whitney Museum's Barbara Haskell at Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art (LAICA); Appointed ArtCenter faculty, Fine Art Dept., Begins co-curating College exhibitions; son Thomas is born, 1979.
Curates solo exhibitions at ArtCenter, including David Hockney, Milton Glaser, Massimo Vignelli, Donald Judd, Robert Venturi, Wayne Thiebaud, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Helmut Krone, Ivan Chermayeff, Josef Muller-Brockmann, plus group exhibitions "Atlantic Sculpture" and “The Perennial Illusion of a Vulnerable Principle: Another Mexican Art.”
Curates exhibitions at the College's Old Town Pasadena space, including MFA shows, solos for Mary Ellen Mark, and Helen/Newton Harrison (with co-curator Jay Belloli); daughter Elizabeth is born, 1989.
1990s: With architect Fred Fisher Associates + AC president David Brown, oversees the construction of the College's Alyce de Roulet Williamson Gallery (WG), and becomes its director. Gallery opens in 1992 with a solo exhibition of British post-modernist artist Christopher LeBrun co-curated with Fine Art Department chair Laurence Dreiband; daughter Rebecca is born, 1991.
In WG, curates series of solo exhibitions with internationally noted artists: James Rosenquist, Robert Morris, Judy Pfaff, Sol LeWitt, Xu Bing.
Begins focus on exhibitions of art/technology/science and media art pioneers, organizing solo and group shows with Michael Naimark, Paul DeMarinis, Jim Campbell, Jennifer Steinkamp, Lynn Hershman, Bill Seaman, Ken Goldberg, Sara Roberts; with Eames Demetrios resurrects and exhibits Charles/Ray Eames' Mathematica.
1999: collaborates with Jay Belloli, head of exhibitions at the Armory Center for the Arts and colleagues at the Norton Simon Museum, Southwest Chamber Music, and One Colorado, on the exhibition Radical Past, a look at Pasadena's central role in West Coast contemporary art during the 1960s.
2000, multi-venue Radical Past concept is model for same private-venue collaborators to create ArtNight Pasadena. First organized by Nowlin/Belloli, Armory Center's Sophia Bicos, NSM curator Michelle Deziel and original Radical Past arts venue partners in 2000, and eventually funded/administered by Pasadena Cultural Affairs Division as a twice-yearly event in partnership with private arts organizations drawing tens of thousands to Pasadena.
In the early 2000s, originates “AxS” (Art x Science) as an ArtCenter student-designed logo and identity for the Williamson Gallery's exhibitions as well as a series of multi-venue Pasadena exhibitions, seminars, and festivals focusing on the intersection of art and science. Radical Past is also model for collaborations throughout the early 2000s that have evolved into the AxS Festival, continued under auspices and organized by Fulcrum Arts.
Organized artist-scientist collaborations with Caltech: 2003, NEURO: a six-artist collaboration between WG and Caltech's Center for Neuromorphic Systems Engineering (CNSE), resulting in installation artworks based on CNSE science. Artists included Jessica Bronson, Ken Goldberg, Martin Kersels, Simon Penny. 2008, OBSERVE: a five-artist collaboration with Spitzer Space Telescope at Caltech, artist included Lita Albuquerque, Lynn Aldrich, Dan Goods, George Legrady, Daniel Wheeler.
2007: began a 10-exhibit art-science series exploring physics, biology, and astronomy themes: In the Dermisphere (2007); TOOLS (2009) co-curated with John David O'Brien; ENERGY (2010); WORLDS (2011); PAGES (2012) co-curated with John David O'Brien; REALSPACE (2014); UNCERTAINTY (2016); ECLIPSE (2017) co-curated with astronomer Jay Pasachoff; MOONS (2018); SKY (2019-21).
Organizes and hosts art-science traveling exhibitions Intimate Science, curated by Astria Suparak and Golan Levin; Crochet Coral Reef, curated by Margaret and Christine Wertheim; Paradise Now, curated by Marvin Heiferman and Carole Kismaric.
2019-21: Guides expansion of ArtCenter exhibitions program to include Mullin Gallery (Pasadena south campus) and ArtCenter DTLA (downtown Los Angeles). Hires Senior Curator Julie Joyce and DTLA Program Director Christina Valentine. Hires John David O'Brien as Head Preparator, and John Whittet as Gallery Assistant.
Establishes Williamson Gallery as LASER Talk venue (Leonardo Art-Science Evening Rendezvous) in collaboration with MIT Press journal Leonardo. Retires ArtCenter VP, resumes private studio practice; continues part-time as ArtCenter co-curator of art/data visualization project for 2024 Getty-funded Pacific Standard Time: Art x Science x LA.