collaborations with a neurobiologist
Through a series of layered acrylic paintings, detailed drawings, neuroscience-inspired illustrations, and collages, Intertwined compiles various symbols, imagery, and content relating our inherent bond to each other and the environment . In these works, networks merge as the Wi-Fi symbol appears in the lower ladder of a DNA strand, telephone lines link to strands of a spider’s web, and diagrams of Facebook friends scatter into cloud patterns. Works cluster and fuse subject matter that are not often paired, revealing unusual and specific relationships.
This body of work is inspired by a collaboration with Dana Simmons, a neurobiologist researching Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and the Purkinje cell. For a span of two months, the artist and scientist shared research and findings with one another about the Purkinje cell and its common structure in the natural world. As Simmons imaged the tree-like neuron, the artist integrated the structure into paintings and drawings. This process revealed that this intricate cell found in the cerebellum of a brain resembles branching trees, ant hills, coral, river deltas, tree roots, slime mold, and social networks. This wide range of disparate, yet structurally-related subject matter, is the underlying focus of Intertwined.
In these works, illustrations of organisms and technology are placed side-by-side given their common visual structures, but are also paired together based on real-life relationships that are not always apparent. For example, in these works, the tangled tentacles of an octopus visually transition into overlapping roads of a freeway overpass. Structurally, both these forms have multiple arms curling and joining, but are actually connected in the outer world —as our runoff from our freeways impacts marine life.
During this collaboration, the artist and scientist shared knowledge and processes about their respective disciplines. The artist taught Simmons how to make linocut prints of her neural imagery and Simmons showed the artist step-by-step processes of extracting a cell from the cerebellum. Since this original collaboration was cross-disciplinary, the artwork itself became diverse, abundant, and unpredictable. Intertwined takes the viewer through layers of visual journeys, while revealing scientific yet playful renderings of research. This project was initiated by the SciArt Center’s Bridge Residency – for more information, you may read SciArt’s research journal here.