“Brain as Art” exhibit at New York Hall of Science Connects Art to Neuroscience to provocative effect
By Nekoro Gomes
Not unlike the left and right hemispheres of the brain, the challenges inherent in artistic and scientific endeavors are intimate ones that each practitioner can appreciate. Both the artist and scientist are driven to visually interpret ideas, biological processes and other ephemera that are not terribly easy to express.
As artists have found new mediums for pushing the boundaries of expression, neuroscientists have undergone a similar Renaissance, feverishly utilizing the latest technology to painstakingly record the extent to which our brain shapes our very conception of self.
The brain becomes a muse for artistic expression in the Art & Science Collaborations, Inc. 16th international juried exhibition The Brain as Art, on view at the New York Hall of Science.
Juried by two professionals from each field, the mission statement noted how Stephen Nowlin, the lead art juror and working artist, and Dr. Anjan Chatterjee, the lead science juror and professor of neurology at the University of Pennsylvania had little difficulty working together to select the 29 artists for the exhibit despite the wide range of influences and mediums submitted.
Most of the works on display skewed towards re-contextualizing the idea of “the brain” as the center of control and key to intelligence by taking its presence outside of our skulls and onto the canvas.
For example, MachuP Map by Toronto-based artist Ron Wild is a dizzying digital montage C-print that satirically compares the vague grey matter in our brains to the rabbit hole of the modern-day internet.
Artists Elizabeth Jameson and Terri Lloyd opted to render their own brains as a record and interpretation of their experiences with multiple sclerosis and epilepsy respectively.
Robert Strati’s digital prints Cerebral Compositions and Hemispheric Dynamics take the idea of the brain as a blueprint for the mind to its logical extension, elegantly mapping out the brain as an architectural structure one can travel between. The precise and small-type renderings effectively made the prints more bemusing and less capable of penetrating the mind’s capacity for perceiving a stimuli that forces self-reflection.
The Brain as Art exhibit worked best when the processes in the artists’ approach sought to reflect the reality of a body part that is so central to our existence and yet still so misunderstood.
Cortical Columns by Philadelphia-based Neuroscientist-turned-artist Gregory Dunn, and Fire and Wire by North Carolina-based artist Jayne Walther, seemingly took their re-imagining of the brain’s neural pathways and cortices from nature to wonderfully abstract effects.
Other artists like Bonnie Cutts, Michael Ricciardi and Aga Tamiola equally seemed to incorporate a process of constructing their pieces in a way that replicated the difficulties of properly identifying brain cells, mapping neural nodes and even collaborating with other neuroscientists, all in ways that were as enlightening as their artwork was engaging.
Personally, the most truly captivating piece in the collection was Colorado-based artist William Stoehr’s cubist-influenced Jacqueline 1. The painting of a gaunt, glassy-eyed face subverts Gestalt psychology—the tendency of our brains to create a whole image from a partial object. The painting captured a rare moment when our understanding of how the mind relates to the brain is most vulnerable. Staring into the expressive face of Jacqueline mimics the startling moment your reflecting unexpectedly faces you in a mirror, giving you no choice but to wonder, “Am I really looking at the person my mind tells me I am?”
View the online exhibition here.
The Brain is on view through March 2015
New York Hall of Science
47-01 111th St
Queens, NY 11368