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Drawing Connections

Collage artist and professor Michael Oatman collaborates with architecture students on genre-defying projects that move from the Greene Building—and beyond.

When Michael Oatman was in fourth grade he swiped a power cord from his school’s wood shop. During recess he plugged it into an outlet, dug a trench, and buried it. In the fall he dug a 30-foot-long culvert wired with electricity so that when winter came he could have a working laboratory. He filled the tiny space with thermometers and test tubes, and used a Super8 film projector to show movies of ants carrying food and birds building nests using the snow as his screen. “At the time I thought I was playing scientist,” Oatman says. “Now I realize that was my first installation as a multimedia artist.”

Today as a clinical assistant professor of architecture at Rensselaer, Oatman is still immersed in the worlds of science, art, and design. As an artist, he infuses his work with elements of science and architecture. As an educator, he tries to empower Rensselaer’s young architects to incorporate artistic introspection and reflection into their designs.

by Amber Cleveland

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