Rowan University Art Gallery

Elegy for Tesla

Opening Reception: Thursday, October 8, 5 - 8 pm

Rowan University Art Gallery at Westby Hall

Elegy for Tesla, concieved and created by artist Jeanne Jaffe, integrates technology with sculpture, evocative soundscapes, and theatrical sets to create a psychological dreamscape and biographical narrative.

Jaffe's work often selects historical figures that embody disparate psychological characteristics. The choice of Tesla as a subject was driven by his historic contributions to wireless communications technologies that brought him fame and celebrity, and without which our current digital world would not have been possible. Tesla's life follows a mythological trajectory, which Jaffe explores in this installation.

The installation includes a variety of three-dimensional objects, with imagery culled from Tesla's inventions and explorations. These include life-size figurative sculptures of Tesla as a young man and in his later years. Additionally, digital technology has been used to develop speech soundscapes, which convey musical tonality to suggest a range of emotions and psychological states; and stop-motion video animation depicts Tesla as a marionette acting out scenes from his historical arc. There is also an immersive video projection of Niagara Falls, where Tesla invented the first hydro-electrical power station.

Jaffe's work comes to fruition through an essential and supportive collaboration with Dr. John Schmalzel and the Engineering Clinic at the university's Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering, along with principle engineer Philip Mease, engineers Anthony Merlino, and Jason Meyers with additional assistance from Mario Leone, and numerous engineering students who designed and fabricated the motion-activated equipment that makes the sculptures move and talk. 


On Thursday, October 8, a lecture by the artist was followed by an engaging discussion on Interdisciplinary Visual Arts Practices: The Intersections of Art and Technology. Discussants include:

Amanda Almon, Scientific and medical Illustrator: Assistant Professor, Biomedical Art & Visualization, Department of Art, College of Communications & Creative Arts, Rowan University, Glassboro, NJ. Ms. Almon's work spans from traditional scientific and medical illustration to new media in medicine and science through the use of animation and interactive application development. Almon graduated from the A.M.I (Association of Medical Illustrators CAAHEP) Accredited University of Michigan Biomedical Visualization Program with an M.F.A. in 2000. She received her Certification as a Medical Illustrator from the A.M.I. in 2005.

Chris Vecchio, Artist and Engineer: Chris holds BS and PhD degrees in Electrical Engineering from Drexel University. Over the course of the past 10 years his work has been exhibited frequently in both the US and Europe. He teaches Physical Computing in the School of Film and Media Arts at Temple University and works as an engineer specializing in medical ultrasound and interactive design. He has created custom hardware and software for clients including The Please Touch Museum, Madrid Abierto, The Independence Seaport Museum, The Gulf Coast Exploreum, and The Franklin Institute.

Phil Mease, Engineer and collaborator. He assists with the design, fabrication, set-up, execution, and costing of ECE class and laboratory demonstrations, experiments, clinic and research projects at Rowan University College of Engineering. His technical interests include analog/digital circuit design, microcontroller development, automotive electronics and perfor-mance, and audio electronics.

Ms. Jaffe: is the recipient of fellowship grants from the Gottlieb Foundation, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, Independence Foundation, Leeway Foundation, and Virginia A. Groot Foundation, in addition to being a finalist for the Pew Fellowship in the Arts. She has had artist residency fellowships across the country and in Japan. Jaffe has been exhibited both nationally and internationally and is included in numerous private and public collections. In addition to conducting lectures and workshops, she is a professor in the Fine Arts Department at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.


This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. To find out more about how NEA grants impact individuals and communities, visit Gallery programming is made possible in part by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment of the Arts.


Additional support has been provided by the Center for Emerging Visual Artists. Jaffe was a CFEVA fellow from 2013 – 2015. The Visual Artist Fellowship, a two-year program, is designed to help artists within 100 miles of Philadelphia reach new levels in their artistic and professional practice. The mission of The Center for Emerging Visual Artists is to coordinate a strong regional support system for visual artists, to advance the careers of professional artists in the region, to promote relationships between artists and the communities in which they live, and to increase access to and promote interest and understanding of visual art among citizens of the community.