The Intersection of Art and Science: Artists Display Neuroscience Art at the Annual Meeting
The fascinating intersection of art and neuroscience was again examined this year at the Art of Neuroscience exhibit at Neuroscience 2013.
All three artists returned after exhibiting at the first Art of Neuroscience exhibit in 2012. Artists Lia Cook, Kathleen Childress, and Greg Dunn agree the positive interaction with scientists was gratifying because the attendees were thrilled to see interpretations of their life’s work. All three artists have pushed for the exhibit to be held annually.
Cook says scientists feed her art and are often artists or musicians outside of the lab.
“Neuroscientists are very creative individuals, and there is more of a connection between art and science than people think,” Cook says. “The lab director I work with, he brings in an artist once a year and turns over his researchers and tools to their experiment. It helps his researchers find creative solutions in their work.”
Cook began working with neuroscientists after she became intrigued by the different responses gallery visitors had to the same portrait in different media. Cook is currently looking at data from preliminary research using EEG and fMRI to compare physical and emotional responses to human faces, photos, and weavings. She works with neuroscientists, including Greg Siegle, director of the Program in Cognitive Affective Neuroscience and a professor at the University of Pittsburgh; and Daniela Schiller, director of the Schiller Laboratory of Affective Neuroscience at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
“When the viewer looks at the woven images, there is more response in the amygdala and somatosensory cortex — parts of the brain that relate to touch and emotion,” Cook says. “That to me is really exciting.”
CONNECTIONS AND CONNECTOME
Artist Greg Dunn, who has a PhD in neuroscience, said new developments in science inspire his art every day.
“I’m not satisfied with doing just art or just science,” Dunn said. “I think I would get bored. Now, I use my knowledge from the bench every single day. Last year at the SfN annual meeting, I heard ‘Where did you get the slide?’ or ‘Whose image did you use for this?’ I research the subject matter, and then pull something out of my imagination that inspires me to create three or four images.”
Dunn creates abstract pieces from paint and gold leaf, and he is developing a new technique called microengraving with a colleague, Brian Edwards, a post-doc physicist and engineer at the University of Pennsylvania.
Leveraging techniques traditionally used to make computer circuit boards, Edwards and Dunn carve several images into sheets of metal. The carvings are responsive to light from different angles.
“These paintings have no pigment whatsoever,” Dunn says. “The art is dynamic and looks different under different conditions.”
The Synapse series sprang from a bold dopamine neuron on a silver cuff, designed by jewelry artist Kathleen Childress for her neuroscientist sister, Anna Rose Childress, research associate professor in psychology and psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine.
Childress now collaborates with researchers on inspired pieces that express the essence of their science.
“Every Synapse piece shares an amazing story, about the potential of neuroscience and the power of neurons, with colleagues, community, and the public at large, and that is thrilling to me,” Childress says.
An example of Childress’s collaborative process is conveyed in “Synaptocuff,” designed for a scientist who focuses on dopamine transmission. “We designed the cuff to illustrate the pre-synaptic vesicles, the dopamine transmitters (purple gems), and dopamine (red gems) crossing the synaptic gap, with a gold ‘lightning bolt’ action potential on the post-synaptic terminal. The piece tells the story of her science with real impact.”
Childress’s pieces are designed in gold and silver, gemstones, and wood, and handmade by an expert goldsmith. She’s expanding the series this year to include pyramidals and astrocytes.
To learn more about the Art of Neuroscience exhibit, or to apply to display your own work at Neuroscience 2014 in Washington DC, go to SfN.org.
TO SEE MORE
Kathleen Childress: http://hkcdesigns.wordpress.com/
Lia Cook: http://www.liacook.com/
Greg Dunn: http://www.gregadunn.com/