My new series Particles is an investigation into the movement of subatomic particles inside an accelerator. I am attempting to depict the super-small world of high energy collisions, filled with virtual particles, quantum loops, and hadronic jets.
The paintings are executed in acrylic paint on transparent mylar or on panel, and feature splashes and splatters from a very dynamic application of the paint with large house-painter’s brushes. With mylar I work on both sides of the surface. There are subtle pencil and ink marks which I use to suggest three-dimensionality of the swirling particle traces.
I am at the beginning stages of developing a formal vocabulary for these pieces, in which different parts of the theory of subatomic particles correspond to specific formal elements of the paintings. I have been reengaging with the theory of the Standard Model, and studying the technical results from facilities such as the Large Hadron Collider. In this exploration I am aided by my original undergraduate degree as a physicist. Although a complete understanding of these theories requires a long journey of graduate study, I am still inspired to try to visualize particles in a new way.
Some of the paintings depict particle interactions that can be described with simple Feynman diagrams. Particles #20 (Beta Decay) shows a neutron decaying into a proton plus a short-lived W- particle, which nearly immediately decays into an electron and an electron neutrino. Other paintings suggest much more complex processes that might arise in the extremely high-energy collisions of an accelerator like the LHC, where the huge energies of the collider particles can allow the creation of many virtual particles, which then spawn jets of subsequent particles as they decay to more ordinary matter.
My body is the source of all my memory. It remembers what I am, where I come from, where I am now, and where I am going. It carries encoded packets of information at the cellular and sub-microscopic level that continuously track its evolution from a unicellular microorganism to its current stage as a human being. It constantly processes these memories to generate new information that will be encoded as knowledge and passed on to the next generation.
Liminal Meanderings: Goldilocks and the Butterfly explores the process of physical and spiritual change and growth through movement in a betwixt and between space and time
where the paths of moving marks intersect in a landscape made of cellular and sub-cellular structures that changes and evolves through the 4 seasons, where grids are created and broken up. I use the mathematical concept of meanders of orders relating to particular units of time: 2, 3, 4, 7, 11, 12, 14, 15, 24, 28, 29, 30, 31, 52, 60 and 61.
The Goldilocks principle using the concept of something being just right is applied to a wide range of disciplines, including developmental psychology, biology, medicine, astronomy, and engineering. In chaos theory, the Butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state.
What happens in a liminal garden where we continuously move between foreboding and hope, between Goldilocks and the butterfly? Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 epidemic, our physical movements have been curtailed. My interactions have changed; social distancing has become the norm. To adjust to this new reality, I automatically started drawing maps drawn from my memory of tracks, trajectories and orbits (from my travels from childhood, from the movements of cellular bodies and astronomical objects to space travel trajectories) using mathematical meanders on old woodblock prints and silkscreen prints that resemble cell structures and cell cultures. My new experiences and interactions, along with my exposure to the images, events and experiences from different places around the world on a daily basis enable me to continuously reconfigure my memories and maps. The imperative for us to return to a world with free movement and social interactions has especially highlighted the necessity for scientists and researchers to be just right in an uncertain and unpredictable world where the continuous intersections as both human beings and the Coronavirus move to result in mutations that create new and different strains. Inspired by the experimental biomedical research done by scientists in the Covid era when we are constantly reminded that we are a part of nature facing an increasing number of questions about what it means to be human, I sampled and collaged pieces torn and cut from these prints and extended them through drawings to create larger maps. As I combined text and layered the maps, the artworks continuously changed to reflect the changes I have seen and experienced over the last year.
Scientific research involves stepping into the unknown without fixed or definite answers. We have reached a point in bio-medical research where we can choose what it means to be human. The questions we ask, the interactions we have, the choices we make, and the pathways we choose answer the biological and sociological question: “Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?”. The abstract nature of the questions, the experimentation and continuous effort involved in research mirrors the process of creating art, and, becomes a metaphor for the experience of life. By mapping cell structures and patterns as they transform and evolve, I explore how changes at the microcosmic level lead us to visually and spiritually reflect on the macrocosm.
COVID-19 exposed significant challenges and disparities in how information is shared, accessed, and interpreted. The pandemic also revealed opportunities to improve upon science communication and education. In response, this project was developed to combat barriers to knowledge. Here, science fiction and comic-book culture are used to reach diverse populations, merge boundaries, and bridge gaps in knowledge.
This work explores the microbial realm, merging the familiarity and taclity of traditional ink illustration with3-D digital modeling software. The motifs of movement, transmission, and collective action are explored through a caste of microbial characters and processes. These themes are represented in the form of motility, viral pathogenesis, and biofilm formation. My creative works examine both the viral spread of information and viral particles themselves by rendering STEAM topics as both tangible and approachable.
My paintings are based on microscope images of epithelial cells in human lungs. These cells are forever frozen in time. The original data was captured by Dr. Jennifer Mitchel, a biological engineer at the Harvard School of Public Health.
My artistic process involves hand-tracing the cell boundaries, then programming a CNC router to etch those boundaries into masonite board. When I bring these images to life with acrylic and iridescent ink, the challenge is to strike the right balance between fluidity and rigidity. Too fluid and it looks "messy" or "sloppy." Too rigid and it loses that intuition, that liveliness, the appeal that a person made it and not a computer.
This balance is mirrored in the scientific basis of the original microscope data. Some of the cells look regular, rigid, packed together like sardines. Others look elongated, in motion, like they are flowing around each other. What causes cells to change from being rigid and unable to move, to being able to behave like a fluid? Current research points to a role for solid-fluid transitions in cancer, asthma, wound-healing, and morphogenesis (the process whereby a developing organism is sculpted as it grows).
There is a huge gap between what most of us understand about our cells and bodies, and the research being done by scientists. With these paintings, I aim to turn the complexity of groups of cells into beautiful works that blur the boundaries between art and science, thus intriguing and inspiring audiences to learn, ask questions, and appreciate biology.