Totipotent art

Some biologists see the beauty in their work. More than a few artists draw inspiration from the natural world. But stem cell researcher and artist linkurl:Ariel Ruiz i Altaba;http://www.ruizialtaba.com/ successfully integrates the worlds of art and science, creating biology-inspired art while keeping up with the daily rigors of scientific research. "Eclipse" from Ruiz i Altaba'sPossible to Forget seriesImage: linkurl:Ariel Ruiz i Altaba;http://www.ruizialtaba.com/ "

By | July 23, 2010

Some biologists see the beauty in their work. More than a few artists draw inspiration from the natural world. But stem cell researcher and artist linkurl:Ariel Ruiz i Altaba;http://www.ruizialtaba.com/ successfully integrates the worlds of art and science, creating biology-inspired art while keeping up with the daily rigors of scientific research.
"Eclipse" from Ruiz i Altaba's
Possible to Forget series

Image: linkurl:Ariel Ruiz i Altaba;http://www.ruizialtaba.com/
"Mostly for someone to be professional in one field necessarily means that something else will suffer," says linkurl:Mark Kessell,;http://www.studiocyberia.com/info.php?infoID=x&OL=OL&seriesNav=off a doctor turned artist in New York City. "But I've never seen any sign of it with Ariel." Ruiz i Altaba has always been spellbound by the structure of the natural world, collecting snails and shells and insects as a child in Barcelona, Spain. But when he started studying biology in college, he discovered molecules, and became fascinated by "the development and maintenance of form from a molecular point of view," he says. His interest in art also began in childhood, when he was "surrounded by canvases and the smell of turpentine and oil paints" from his mother's paintings. Then, when he was 8 or 9, his grandfather gave him a small camera. "That was a turning point for me," he says. "Since then I have been fascinated by images" -- viewing, capturing, and even creating them. Now, as a stem cell biologist at the University of Geneva and a professional artist with gallery shows around the world, Ruiz i Altaba somehow finds the time to entertain both of his passions. "He is neither a part time scientist nor a part time artist; he's a full time both," Kessell says. "I have no idea how he does it actually." And with a foot in both the science and art worlds, the two pursuits have become very much "intertwined," he says. The work he does in the lab "is a very clear source of imagery" for his art, inspiring pieces depicting various aspects of human and animal development. Using a variety of photographic techniques, including superimposing photos, scratching negatives, and even old-fashioned photograms, which creates a negative impression of the object, Ruiz i Altaba plays with light, shadow, movement, and form to create series of related science-tinged images. While the influence of his research can easily be seen in his creative endeavors, his art, in turn, guides his research, he says. In 1995, when he first started thinking about cancer and hedgehog signaling in his lab at the Skirball Institute of Biomedical Research in New York City, he recalls "trying to understand how pathologists were so good at telling what kind of tumors" they were looking at in biopsy pictures, and realizing that the process was quite similar to what art historians do when they trace where a painting came from. "What it means is that tumors have a pattern, [and] that there's enough information to tell the origin or history of that tumor," he says. "My interest in form in understanding landscapes became essential to understanding tumors as patterning diseases." Indeed, "what started as trying to understand how beautiful structures in nature are built by molecules and cells during development has turned into a field with tremendous connections to issues of human medicine," says developmental geneticist linkurl:Matthew Scott;http://scottlab.stanford.edu/ of the Stanford University School of Medicine. "[Ariel's art] helps us to constantly appreciate that beauty and also how that beauty can be a starting point for original artistic work."
**__Related stories:__***linkurl:Catastrophic art;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/57339/
[16th April 2010]*linkurl:Lab-art-ory;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/54730/
[5th June 2008]*linkurl:Science has designs on art;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/54622/
[2nd May 2008]

Comments

Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

July 23, 2010

Maybe I am the only one who is tired of seeing actors 'try' to sing, singers 'try' to act, and scientists 'trying' to sing, play music, and create art.\n\nYour art is your science, be happy with that, you are no artist!
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 25

July 23, 2010

\nLet medicine be done by physicians, science be done by scientists and art be done by artists.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 15

July 23, 2010

I am not a fan. The art is not art but contrived nonsense.\n\nIf you spread yourself this, you will be mater of nothing though this never dilutes the enthusiasm of a typical ambitious MD since they aspire to experts of everything at the expense of everyone. That is just their megalomaniacal personality profile.\n\nBut this artwork is best left privately secluded, locked away from public eye and scrutiny. If his artwork is anything like his practicing of medicine - then Lord help us.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 7

July 23, 2010

I should be surprised ( but am not) by the negative comments on this topic. The beauty of art is in the eye of the beholder- and anyone can practice art. why does it bother someone if an MD is being (or trying to be) an artist? Pesonal likes and dislikes apart, there is no need for Scientists to be rude and critical about a person (because of his/her profession)who practices art.

July 24, 2010

With expansion in knowledge the number of subjects and their subdivisions increase. As they increase in number polarisation between subjects also increases. Science and art were once closely associated, think of Leonardo or more recently the botanical drawings of Ruskin, and there is no reason other than the restrictions of time why there should not be individuals today who are proficient at both. In fact there are many individuals who do practice and are qualified in both art and science.\n\nHowever art is more than the presentation of an image. Contemporary art involves research, experimentation and analysis and is equally as complex as modern science. Art and science have interesting things to say to each other, even if the outcome may not always be successful, the conversation is worth having.
Avatar of: Angie Johnson

Angie Johnson

Posts: 1

July 24, 2010

As another of the rare breed of artist-scientists, I am phappy to see someone recognized as artist and scientist. It is a tragedy of our culture that we pigeon-hole people by their career choice, when most people clearly have valuable voices in art, writing, or music-- not to mention I am certain that the parallel pursuits are a source of inspiration that make both careers much more pleasant as a lifestyle.

Popular Now

  1. Symmetrical Eyes Indicate Dyslexia
  2. German Scientists Resign from Elsevier Journals’ Editorial Boards
  3. Germany Sees Drastic Decrease in Insects
  4. GM Mosquitoes Closer to Release in U.S.
RayBiotech