MacArthur Fellows Program

Ned Kahn

Artist and Science Exhibit Designer | Class of 2003

Recasting such forces as wind, water, and fire into forms that convey both the order and chaos of the natural world.

Artist and Science Exhibit Designer
Sebastopol, California
43 at time of award
Published October 5, 2003

About Ned's Work

Ned Kahn is an artist and exhibit builder whose works draw from a palette of natural phenomena to reveal the beauty of the forces that shape our world. His broad explorations typically incorporate aspects of fundamental physics, such as fluid dynamics, acoustics, or optics, but his aim is not primarily didactic. Rather, his highly tuned visual sensibility and his inventive and winning examinations inspire appreciation and respect of the natural world. Converting abstract principles into tangible representations, Kahn’s work is accessible to a vast and diverse audience, attracting and holding the attention of children, adults, artists, and physicists alike. Some viewers wonder about the underlying mechanisms; others are captivated by the sensorial experience. Sometimes dramatic (e.g., singing tornados of flame), sometimes tranquil (e.g., gently rotating vortices of waterpools), Kahn's exhibits strike an emotional chord, reminding the viewer of nature's capacity to inspire apprehension, serenity, wonder, and awe. By transcending the distinction between art and exhibit, Kahn simultaneously employs art to convey abstract scientific principles, and nature to serve as a tool for aesthetic expression.


Ned Kahn received a B.A. (1982) in Environmental Studies from the University of Connecticut. As Artist-in-Residence, Kahn designed exhibits for the Exploratorium in San Francisco from 1982 until 1996, when he founded Ned Kahn Studios in Sebastopol, California. Since then, he has worked on public art and museum commissions for institutions in the United States, Canada, and Japan. Among his works-in-progress are pieces at the Huntington Botanical Gardens in Pasadena, California.

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