The Art of Science: Sculpture with Deep Roots

Dalya Luttwak, Cannabis Sativa, Steel, 2014
Dalya Luttwak, Cannabis Sativa, Steel, 2014

Artist Dalya Luttwak takes hard steel and transforms it into the sinuous shapes of roots.  For a recent show at the Greater Reston Art Center in Virginia, Luttwak chose as one of her subjects the root system of Cannabis Sativa.  Cannabis, a plant of many uses, which evokes strong and complex responses and touches on so many areas of our culture – industrial, medical, recreational, and criminal – is an irresistible subject for art.

Working in a combination of gilded and blackened steel, the artist “sought the “golden balance” arising from the combination of vertical and horizontal black roots, and existing between the different elements of the Cannabis plant and their nutritious, medical, and psychedelic uses.”

Luttwak, who was born in Israel and now works in the US, says that her work tries to “uncover the hidden beauty of roots, exploring the relationship between what grows above the ground and the invisible parts below of various root systems. My sculptures reveal what nature prefers to conceal. My wish is to uncover and discover roots even when they are hidden, indeed especially when they are hidden.” (source)

Beyond the secrets of plant life, however, this sculpture, and many of Luttwak’s other works, strongly evoke the brain and nervous system. Seeing the roots of the Cannabis Sativa as a metaphor for the paths of chemical stimulation or even of our tangled attitudes to drug-taking, elevate and deepen our response to this deceptively simple art.

You can see more of Dalya Luttwak’s work on her website.

Science for the People: Understanding Neuroscience


Blue Pyramidal Neuron - original watercolor painting on clayboard by Michele Banks (All Rights Reserved - Used with Permission)
Blue Pyramidal Neuron – original watercolor painting on clayboard by Michele Banks (All Rights Reserved – Used with Permission)

This week, Science for the People is we’re looking at the ways we try to understand the inner workings of the brain. They talk to University College London researcher Cliodhna O’Connor about patterns in the way the public interprets neuroscience news. And they’ll ask Duncan Astle, Program Leader at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, about “neuromyths,” popular misconceptions about the way the brain functions.

*Josh provides research help to Science for the People and is, therefore, completely biased.

Science for the People: Bodies Everywhere


This week, Science for the People is looking at the morbid and fascinating history of our attempts to grapple with disease and death. We’re joined by medical historian Richard Barnett to talk about his book The Sick Rose: Disease and the Art of Medical Illustration.

And we’ll speak to mortician and blogger Caitlin Doughty about her new book Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory, and her ongoing YouTube series “Ask a Mortician“, about the history, science and cultural attitudes attached to dealing with the deceased.

*Josh provides research help to Science for the People and is, therefore, completely biased.

The Art of Science: Voyage Redux, with bonus!

Michele Banks, Micro/Macro 3, Ink on Mylar,  2013
Michele Banks, Micro/Macro 3, Ink on Mylar, 2013

Voyage of Discovery, an art exhibition I created together with Jessica Beels and Ellyn Weiss, will reopen on Thursday for a two-month run at the McLean Project for the Arts in McLean, VA.

The artwork in Voyage of Discovery has its roots in the idea of a journey of scientific exploration, in the tradition of Darwin, Wallace, and the thousands of scientists who constantly travel the globe in search of new findings. This imaginary voyage takes viewers to a polar region where the iconic, seemingly eternal, landscape of ice and snow is in profound and rapid transition due to climate change.

The pieces in the show – ranging from ink paintings to wire and paper and wax sculptures to a massive 30 foot fabric installation – reflect our artistic responses to the transformation of land and sea as the planet warms. The show looks at many aspects of climate change – not only the obvious, like the melting of glaciers and the thawing of permafrost, but also more subtle effects, like the movement of previously unknown species and microbes into the Arctic and the dramatic shift of the color of the land from white to green to black.

Voyage of Discovery, which ran for 5 months at the American Association for the Advancement of Science earlier this year, will open with a reception and gallery talk this Thursday, from 7-9 pm, at the McLean Project for the Arts’ Emerson Gallery, at 1234 Ingleside Avenue in McLean. (details here)

As a special bonus for science fans, the reception takes place on the same day that renowned science writers Carl Zimmer and Sam Kean are speaking in the same building as part of “Fall for the Book”. Their talk starts at 7:30.  So if you arrive at 7, you can take in the art, have a glass of wine, and then go downstairs and hear more about some fascinating science. Win-win.

The Art of Science: Most Agreeable Developments

janeIf Jane Austen blogged about science art, she would note that it is a truth universally acknowledged, that artists and scientists are rarely found in the same place. You don’t often find an artist in a lab, and you seldom see a scientist in a gallery. (Yes, yes, I know, there are exceptions! It’s not polite to interrupt Jane Austen.)

There are many reasons for this, involving various permutations of, well, let’s not say pride or prejudice exactly, but perhaps a difference of sensibilities.  Now comes an opportunity to get around at least a few of these, by having artists meet scientists where they are.

Two major annual meetings of scientific organizations, The American Public Health Association and the Society for Neuroscience, have created opportunities for science artists to display and sell their work to their thousands of attendees. Rather remarkably, both take place on exactly the same dates – November 15-19, 2014.

The annual meeting of the American Public Health Association (APHA), held this year in New Orleans, attracts 12,000 attendees in a wide variety of fields related to public health. As part of a new initiative called Art @ The Expo, they are looking for 20 artists or crafters whose work is health, medicine or science related to show and vend at the meeting. The $200 booth fee for 3 days is a fraction of what APHA charges its large commercial exhibitors.  More information and guidelines for applicants are here.

Do you delight in dendrites? The Art of Neuroscience, part of the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience (SfN), seeks artists whose work is directly related to neuroscience. For a $300 fee, artists can show their work at the gigantic gathering of some 30,000 neuroscientists in Washington, DC. Interested artists can find more information and a prospectus here  – the deadline for applications is August 29.

It’s really encouraging to see large scientific organizations take steps to include independent artists and crafters in their events. AAAS, ACS, ASM, please take note. If, to quote Jane Austen, “one half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other,” at least some people are making an effort to provide a peek over the fence. Perhaps others may be persuaded?

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