Lansing, N.Y. — When Paul Ge’s not studying particle physics at Cornell’s synchrotron laboratory, he’s composing still-life photographs at his home studio in Lansing.

Paul Ge in his kitchen in Lansing. Courtesy of the Artist.

Ge’s signature style — one he picked up from French photographers Akiko Ida and Pierre Javelle — uses figurines, food and fluid to create vibrant scenes of miniature people living in a world of larger-than-life food. Although Ge’s work is stylish, it’s also whimsical; it’s clear that its primary purpose is to entertain.

“Art, for me, is a pressure release.” Ge said. “I try to deliver happiness.”

“The Breakfast.” Part of Ge’s Little People Big Worlds series. Courtesy of the artist.
“Camping Among Broccoli Jungles” from Little People Big Worlds. Courtesy of the artist
“Sitting on Fruit Mountain” from Little People Big Worlds. Courtesy of the artist.

Self-Trained in Art Museums

Ge said he bought his first camera 10 years ago while he was a PhD student in Beijing. The purchase, he estimates, cost him four months’ salary.

“At that time I wouldn’t say what I was doing was ‘Art,’” Ge said. “I’d just record anything I’d seen around in life and travel.”

But, as Ge traveled to Art Museums across the US, his photos of art started to accumulate.

“I captured more than 2,000 paintings,” Ge said.

Another from Ge’s Little People Big Worlds series. This one, “Artist de Imagination,” was inspired by Charles Sheeler’s 1943 painting “The Artist Looks at Nature.” Courtesy of the artist.

As he snapped photos of his favorite artwork, Ge was developing his own artistic taste and style.

“Originally, I just wanted a record of them,” Ge said. “I was just taking pictures. But I was also asking myself, ‘why is that painting beautiful?’ ‘Why is it famous’ So I was just kind of learning what kinds of color will attract people’s eye.”

Color, Ge said, is what distinguishes him from other artists, like the French photographers mentioned above, who also create scenes with miniature figurines. He said he has been influenced in his use of colors by the work of Vincent Van Gogh.

“I love his use of color and I try to repeat that in my work.”

Ge said he’s also indebted to Wegmans for the vivid colors in his art. Almost all of his fruits and vegetables were sourced from their produce section downtown.

“It’s very fresh,” he said, laughing.

Other projects: Landscape Photos and Fluid Capture

In addition to his work with food and figurines, Ge also does photography of Ithaca landscapes, as well as high speed photography of liquids in motion.

One of Ge’s landscape photos. He says it’s his take on Van Gogh’s starry night – a view of Taughannock Falls. In order to create this photo Ge needed two exposures: one at midnight, another as the sun was rising.

His apparatus for photographing liquid collisions, which is set up in his living room, consists of microchips, wiring tubes and a wineglass, and is designed to capture milliseconds of beauty which occur when liquid droplets splash and collide.

Sports drink droplets rain down on a pool of soda in Ge’s Water Droplets Collision 13, from his series Liquid Art. Courtesy of the artist.
Ge’s droplet collision apparatus. Ge precisely programmed a small circuit board to synchronize the droplet collisions and the camera. (Nathan Tailleur/Ithaca Voice)
“Girl and Geese” from Liquid Art. Ge said he did not take this photo using actual figurines – the sillhouetted figures were photoshopped in.

Merging Science and Art

Ge’s dream is to use his art to teach the history of physics. But, he said, the figurines which he uses now (purchased online from a model train company) are restrictive.

“I have an idea of creating a story, but here the pose of the figure is already set,” he said.

Although the technology is currently very expensive, Ge said he sees a potential solution in 3D printing. Once the price comes down (which he hopes within the next two years), he’ll be able to design and print the exact characters he needs for his story.

“Hunter Shooting Depicts Big Bang” from Ge’s series Food physics. Ge’s research at Cornell focuses, he said, on the single second following the moment of the Big Bang. Courtesy of the artist.

The book, Ge hopes, will make physics accessible and enjoyable to learn.

“People think physics is difficult to learn. But I try to show them that actually it’s like a piece of cake.”

More of Ge’s artwork.

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