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: