Monday, November 24, 2014

SfN14 Art of Neuroscience: Artologica

This post is part of my coverage of the Art of Neuroscience Exhibit, which was held in Washington DC during the annual Society for Neuroscience meeting, November 15 - November 19, 2014.

Figure 1: Mitosis paintings were her 
first foray into science art.
Michele Banks is an artist interested in human nature and what it means to be alive, which naturally includes science. She started her art career creating abstract watercolors. When showing her work, customers would sometimes mention that they “looked like things under a microscope”. This piqued her interest and she began reading about science and became especially interested in dividing cells, which inspired her mitosis paintings (Figure 1), and in the microbiome.

The microbiome is a community of microorganisms living on and in our bodies. Michele finds it fascinating because “it’s this whole ecosystem living with us and on us every day while we’re just walking around and doing our thing”. She loves the idea that even though humans are so varied, we’re all similar on the cellular and microbiome level. 

Figure 2: Root and Branch Brain.
Neuroscience is a more recent addition to Michele’s palette, inspired by interactions with scientists online, especially on Twitter. Rather than recreate exact replicas of brain structures and cells, she chooses to take a more abstract approach. For example, her brain series of paintings are metaphorical representations of thoughts. In Root and Branch Brain, the tree-like structure represents thoughts taking root, branching out, growing, and changing (Figure 2). Another piece, called Mind Garden, also celebrates thoughts, ideas, and change.

Many of Michele’s pieces have been immortalized in silk scarves. For the brain aficionados, she created a gorgeous pyramidal neuron (Figure 3) and a scarf with a border of unipolar neurons. The unipolar neuron scarf was inspired by a brainbow image and is a great artistic rendition of cerebellar unipolar cells.

Figure 3: Pyramidal neuron silk scarf.
Michele uses watercolor almost exclusively for her paintings but also has petri dish art, ink paintings, and the scarves. However, her science interests are broader than just neuroscience. She also has viruses, bacteria, red blood cells, heart EKG traces, mitochondria, and a beautiful lung painting.

If you missed Michele at SfN and are on the east coast you can catch her at these upcoming shows. Otherwise, you can check out her Etsy shop and follow her on Twitter at @artologica

November 29, 2014
Bazaart at the American Visionary Art Museum, Baltimore, MD

December 11-14, 2014
Downtown Holiday Market, DC
Please note: The market runs for a month, but Michele is only there for these 4 days

You can also read more about Michele on Shelly Fan’s blog, Neuroexia

No comments:

Post a Comment