Art = Science

Mud Puppy Aboriginal polymer, by Melanie West

Mud Puppy Aboriginal
polymer, by Melanie West

I have a BS in Natural Science, and consider myself a life long Naturalist and lover of science. But I am also an artist, and (while I didn’t admit it until I hit mid-life) I have been an artist all my life. So it isn’t surprising that I have had my work shown in places like MDI Biological Labs, at their Art Meets Science exhibit; “(In)Organic” at the Racine Art Museum; and “Spineless Wonders” at the Atrium Art Gallery of the University of Southern Maine, in Lewiston. My work strives to blend the two.

There are many, many other artists inspired not just by Nature, but by the Science of Nature, or even just full blown Science. (As you scroll down, you will see just a few of my favorite science inspired artist, as well as a list at the end.)

There are also a lot of scientists who are inspired by art and use the same creative processed artists do. Nikon holds an annual completion for photomicrography, and the winners every year have been jaw dropping beautiful. These are scientists, btw, who submit these images. It takes a good eye to create these images, and a passion for the amazing beauty these scientist see in their microscopes. I should warn you, however, that if you visit this site, you may be there for hours.

David Eagleman, neuroscientist, speaking at the Camden, Maine, PopTech Conference in 2012, said, "Good science and good art are the same. Science and art are both creative processes where you make leaps and have some way of filtering them. A good creative person, scientist or artist, generates lots of ideas and has the capacity to throw a lot of them out."

Soft Cell Tissue series by Jessica Drenk

Soft Cell Tissue series
by Jessica Drenk

From the outside, to some, it might seem like trying to mix science and art would be like oil and vinegar. The imperial logic of the scientific method has no place for the emotional, intuitive process of art. Browsing the inter webs for discussions on this topic, I came across a sad, and hilarious, pontification by one Ferenc Horcher, of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (he is a philosopher, btw, not a scientist)… 

“As I see it, art and science should be clearly separated. Science is much easier to define, it is characterised (sic) by an obvjectivist (sic) aspiration, a well defined research area, predetermined methodology, turth (sic) claims and obvious tests of these claims… Art, on the other hand, is less easily defined, and more prone to take diverse forms in accordance with the social climate. It is a special kind of communication, where works of art serve as rather complex forms of messages, sent by an artist and received by the audience.”

This biased attitude is, to put it bluntly, ignorant. I don’t believe art and science should be seen as separate at all. I believe they both come from the same places within us. (And, I certainly don’t believe science is so pristine as Horcher believes, nor that art can’t be analytical.) It’s two different ways of looking at the exact same side of a coin.

Engineer Willis Harman and Futurist Howard Rheingold wrote in “Higher Creativity: Liberating the Unconscious for Breakthrough Insights.”

“While the rational mind is important, we gain a new perspective when we learn how many of the greatest scientific insights, discoveries, and revolutionary inventions appeared first to their creators as fantasies, dreams, trances, lightening-flash insights, and other non-ordinary states of consciousness.”

Urchin II by Betty Busby

Urchin II
by Betty Busby

This I agree with. (I am also excited by their use of the phrase “non-ordinary states of consciousness”, but that’s another post.)

So art and science, in my mind at least, come from the same well (more about what I believe that well is at another time). But, I deeply believe they belong together. At least, in my world they do.

Other artists who’s work reflects Art = Science
Bonnie Seeman
Masako Andrea
Joseph Carr

Want to learn more? Further readings:

Paradigm Changers

From the Science Desk

I’ve been thinking about what’s real, lately. No, I don’t mean I am seeing things that aren’t there…. Yet.
I mean, reality. Or, as some like to write it, Reality. 

If you’re not a follower of new physics research (and I mean who isn’t, right?), you might not be aware of the stuff that’s happening in this field of study. But I suggest, at the very least, you dip a toe into this very deep well… for the simple reason that what is being discovered lately may change how human beings, all human beings, see their world, and themselves. 

This isn’t pseudo science. This is real science.


In my humble opinion, this could be the next evolution of… us. It sounds crazy, but imagine a world where everyone can share their thoughts with anyone, without speaking, from the other side of the world. Or, consider a world where anyone could see into a secret file cabinet at the defense department of a rival country. Imagine a world where there are no secrets. Yeah, sounds unbelievable, I know. But just consider what this would do to (or for) humanity.

Call me crazy too, but I believe this world is coming, and sooner than we might think.

Granted, the theoretical physics stuff that folks are coming up with sound a bit insane. String theory, quantum entanglement, all these weird names for weird ideas which sound like science fiction. But the craziest thing is… scientists aren’t squaking, or laughing. They are sitting up, taking notice, and finding ways to test and measure these theories. Hey, even Warp Drive (for all you Star Trek geeks out there) is being looked at.

*If you want a primer (with laymen definitions, sort of) on some of the New Physics being discussed and researched, here is a good place to start.*

Was that a scoff I heard?

While most of us folks might scoff at concepts such as ESP (Extra Sensory Perception), reputable scientists have been proving the existence - in the lab - of things like telepathy, clairvoyance, and psychometry for years. For example, Dr. Dean Radin has been looking critically at psi abilities, and coming up with startling results.


If this interests you, and you have the time, do watch this presentation by Dr. Radin. And he’s just one such scientist doing cutting edge research. Did you know that even the CIA studied ESP - for 20 years (and maybe still are)?. In particular, they were (are) interested in Remote Viewing. Don’t believe me? Perhaps you need to hear it from the horse’s mouth… There is a new documentary called “Third Eye Spies,” where both scientists and former CIA employees speak openly about this program.

And now, there is a new study that has found a possible place in the brain where such abilities might reside, or at least enable folks to experience it. This work is being done by, among others, Stanford University professor Dr. Gary Nolan. (Reputable scientists are even using new DNA research to identify genes which may be related to these phenomena and abilities.) If you would like to learn more about this new study, a good place to start is this interview with Dr. Nolan. But, beware, this might take you down a rabbit hole to a whole different way of looking at… well… reality.

So, yeah, I believe we are all heading down that rabbit hole, even though most folks on this little blue marble are totally unaware of it. I leave you with a quote from theoretical physicist Max Plank …

“A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” 
Max Planck (April 23, 1858 - October 4, 1947)

In Steps The Ego

(For those tired of hearing an old lady complain about first world problems, I totally understand. After the post, I’ll move on to more interesting things, I promise. I’m just setting the stage, as it were.)

cave painting.jpg

I have decided to believe that a creative person is simply that, creative. In anything they put their hands, or mind, or mouth, or keyboard or whatever to. We always have been, we always will be. It is part of our genetic make up. Hell, it’s part of our soul make up. Once we give in and accept it, it gets easier. Mostly.

I even believe that everyone is wired for creativity, even those who say things like “I can’t draw a straight line to save myself”, or “I’m just an accountant (or insert any other, supposedly non-creative profession), I’m not creative.” But, that is another post, for a later time.

I am finding that it’s the shifting, as I talked about in an earlier post, that I am struggling with now.  And this shifting has upset the whole apple cart.

I once had lunch with a very well known artist in the fine craft field, who was doing this shifting thing. Not from one medium to another, but from one style to another. A very different style. It would be like me shifting from caning to silkscreening sheet work (making my own silk screens, of course). This artist was worried that customers who collected their work would not “get” the new work. Being the *coughnotcough* wise gal I thought I was, I said, “Trust that your voice will be heard loud and clear in anything you do. And if your voice is clear and true, those who really get your earlier work will hear… well… see your voice, and resonate to it.”

This artist shifted beautifully, and the work coming from those hands is just as magnificent. Actually, even more magnificent, imo. But, now I am feeling the exact same things. Except I’m slowly easing my way into fiber art, an entirely different medium.  (And no, I will never let of my passion for polymer, rest assured. Hell, I’m addicted. Enough said.)

I am, or at least like to think I am, a big fish in a pretty small pond. I’m well known in the polymer community (aka the pond) for my work, my approach to our material.  It’s a new material. It’s only been around for 4 or 5 decades, I think. So it was the Wild… er… West, an open frontier, when I started working in it. I dove into that frontier, and dove deep. I’m good at what I do, with polymer. 

In steps the ego.

I’m friggin’ past middle age. Ok, I’m a senior, damn it. And I’m back in kindergarten, learning how to work with wool and silk. I still have Fibromyalgia, I still have very limited energy, struggle with pain, and the assorted stuff that comes with all that. And I’m learning something totally different, and expecting to be as good at this new material as I was in my little polymer pond. 

That ain’t the way it is, Melanie.

ancient fiber art.jpg

Not to mention the fact that fiber is an ancient art. Ever since folks started raising animals, they’ve been collecting the fur and doing stuff with it. Before agriculture, folks were taking reeds and processing them, and creating things with it all. Fiber art is ancient. Where is the new frontier? The oh so many ways to express myself, and to shine? The ability to easily sell ones work for it’s uniqueness? (I mean, let’s be practical here.)

I have found myself trying on all sorts of ways to make this switch work. I imagine if I were younger, and healthier, the solution would be easy… Just work double time. Spend the day in the polymer studio studio, working on polymer to sell, and after dinner, go into the felting studio (yes, I now have two studios to keep clean… not), and learn how to get my voice out in fiber.  Eh. 

That ain’t the way it is, Melanie.

So, that is where I am now. I’m up to my eyeballs in shift. 

The stage is set. Now I can move onto more interesting topics.

Get out of my (own) way!

In my previous post, I hinted at… well… not really hinted… more blatantly announced I am shifting my art towards new things. I thought I would expand on what this is all about, on the off chance someone else might be experiencing similar things. (By the way, I love comments, and love when discussions follow from something I have shared… *winkwinknudgenudge*.) 

I’m getting old. Plain and simple. It sucks. Yeah, I know, one is supposed to go down that path gracefully and with wisdom. Honestly, I am trying. It just isn’t going as smoothly as I had hoped…

My “to be sanded” Sand Box is getting full.

My “to be sanded” Sand Box is getting full.

First, I have to admit something to those who don’t know. I don’t talk about it much, except to students. I am disabled. I have Fibromyalgia. I’ve had it for years, and over time have learned how to adapt, mostly. Giving myself permission to do art was a cathartic, healing process for me. And creating art can be a cathartic process, too, if one gives into it. (But, that is another post.)

In the beginning, when I was first diagnosed, I wasn’t able to do much of anything but try and take care of myself. Playing with “stuff”, making “stuff” was just a way to keep my creative, ADD riddled brain from imploding. It helped.

As I found more balance in my life, and health, I got better at what I was doing. Life was good, if still a balancing act.

Now, I have started to develop arthritis in my hands, along with other, challenging (but so far, not life threatening) health issues. These new players, of course, love to mess with Fibromyalgia, so a real party has developed in my body. At first (once again), I couldn’t do much of anything creative. Depression set in, and suffice to say, one day last year, I found myself weeping in the docs office, afraid this was the end of my ability to create. I couldn’t sand, I couldn’t reduce canes, some days I couldn’t even hold a cup of coffee without intense pain. (Still happens, but I have learned to stop, and do something else, before it gets worse. Even if it means just taking a nap.)

naked blind mole rat.jpg

I’m still dealing with these issues, and it is a bit of a slog.  But, being the growth junkie that I am, like a naked blind mole rat, I am seeking out other ways to appease this need to create.  And… slowly, un-gracefully, I am finding things. It is taking a huge leap of faith and trust that whatever I do, if it feeds my soul, it will be ok.  I will be ok. We shall see.

Oh, and… There will be photos in these posts… as soon as I figure out how to add them in this new platform. Thanks for your patience.

Beginning, again.

Years ago, over 12 years, I started a blog about my own art, and about my travels through life and through the world, as well as thoughts on weird stuff I thought other folks might find interesting.

But as many things go… life and health got in the way. I guess I’m feeling optimistic, because it feels like the right time to restart that blog. Lord only knows if I have anything of any more value to share with anyone. But, I am forever optimistic (when I am not busy being depressed or anxious). So, I’ll give it another go and see what happens. That is, after all, what the creative process is about, right? An inspiration hits you… sometimes many times over, until you start listening… and the maker in you can’t rest until that inspiration is processed, picked apart, explored and finally… if all goes well… manifested.

This brings me to something I have been thinking about for a while… How does an artist, who has been established and become known for her work in a particular medium and “look”, step outside of that box and begin anew? Trust me, if I had the answer to that question, not only would I no longer be thinking about it, I would definitely share that answer with anyone who wanted to listen.

So, this will be something that I am sure will come up again and again in this blog. Stay tuned for that.

I also want to cover something that, perhaps, only someone my age (currently 61) may be experiencing… A feeling that the world is moving way too fast. Words like Crisper and String Theory, or Warp Drive, weren’t around when I was born. Now they are becoming not just dreams of a new generation of scientists, they are becoming realities. Just last night, I learned scientists think they might have a cure for the genetic disease Sickle Cell Anemia, which was a death knell when I was a kid. This is just one example of how fast science and technology is moving.

And, of course, there will be art. Art that inspires, art that informs, art that heals.

So, stay tuned for more. Oh, and if you are here for the art part, you can always follow me on the dreaded Facebook, where I (try to) share daily posts of outstanding work by (mostly) living artists.