Although art and science might be viewed as diametrically opposite, artists and scientists seek answers to the same fundamental questions, trying to understand and visualize the invisible and what it means to be human. Some of the most innovative artists working today are fusing art and science, taking inspiration from science and using scientific techniques in their work. A compelling exhibition at Weill Cornell Medicine’s Samuel J. Wood Library in New York, entitled Seeing Within: Art Inspired by Science, features the work of Jody Rasch, Cheryl Safran, and Julia Buntaine Hoel who use the visual language and findings of biology to create artwork that invites viewers to explore and appreciate the beauty and mystery of biology. The exhibition is curated by Neil Blumstein and organized by LAMINAproject, the hybrid art platform that exhibits and sells art inspired by science by emerging and established artists.
Jody Rasch’s small- and large-format paintings and drawings in the show explore our relationship with biology and nature and the duality of our existence. Some of the images are of viruses and infections such as HIV, e-coli, and salmonella that, while beautiful to look at, belie their destructive qualities, while others represent healing, such as those depicting white blood cells. This paradox is the crux of Jody Rasch’s microbiological work. The artist transforms biological images from electron microscopy, discovering their underlying patterns and working with color and design to create work that is both representational and abstract. Rasch edits and transforms the scientists’ images, yet his images remain representative of what the scientist would see and recognize. The scale of the actual images contrasts with the size of the artwork and the biological images are massively enlarged to bring them to a more human scale so that the viewer can relate to the elements and themes depicted.
With titles such as Intestinal, Fertilization, Ovum and Sperm & Eggs, biology has clearly influenced the subject of Cheryl Safran’s works, but it is the chemical interactions that give full expression to the images. Cheryl manipulates chemicals on copper plates in a very unique process that is not just about science, it is also art created by science. As the light shifts, the art’s appearance changes. When the light dims or strikes at oblique angles, the color on the copper surface becomes saturated. Shifting light on the copper surface and viewer movement are the kinesthetic forces altering perception, allowing viewers to see the works with fresh eyes each time they look at them.
Julia Buntaine Hoel is represented with a series of digital collages on aluminum entitled Thoughts. Stunning fluorescent images on a black background, these works explore the morphology of varying groups of neurons, formed by overlaying the cell bodies. They prompt viewers to think about the shape of thought. As the artist explains, “Beginning with biological form or data, my work departs into the world of aesthetics as I manipulate the idea through the use of scale, metaphor, material and form. Unlike articles and raw data, scientific ideas in the form of art inherently demand subjective judgment and interpretation, and my goal as a science-based artist is to provide my viewer an alternative way to understand the wonders of biology we have discovered in ourselves.”
Visit https://www.laminaproject.com/exhibitions/seeing-within-art-inspired-by-science for more information about the exhibition and to view the works in the show.