Science Curious

Discovery Tree Experiments, Leah Wilson

My resistance to the label art-sci leads me to examine why I gravitate toward science with my art.

Science classes were my favorite in high school. I took many more than the required classes because they were fun, interesting, and challenging. For a short time in college I mistakenly took having fun in high school science classes as a sign pointing to being a science major. It took merely less than two quarters to find, without a doubt, that I was not destined to be a scientist and I quickly found my way to art school.

The labs gave me a glimpse into seeing unseen aspects of the world and our bodies. There was a magic associated with chemistry labs in particular. Creating small scenarios to initiate reactions and transformations was endlessly fascinating. Other lab classes, like in forest science, taught me how to see small differences in trees, opening a world of diversity and complexity in the forest. Science labs opened my eyes and expanded my perception.

Metanoia Catalyst Magic

Metanoia Catalyst in the studio, Leah Wilson

I did not gravitate toward anything else in my science classes, which was the actual science supporting the labs. Science classes buried the magic of chemistry. Forest product advancement pushed aside the wonder of seeing forest diversity. Science papers about topics I am fascinated with set my mind wandering adrift. I wanted more magic.

Tadpole, Leah Wilson

Measuring and Recording with science mentor Fred Swanson, Leah Wilson

Many scientific concepts still intrigue me, especially about ecology and physics. Today I prefer to have conversations with scientists about what they are studying instead of reading papers produced through science. A conversation can convey a scientist’s interest and wonder in a way that a scientific article or paper do not. Science writing is designed to remove the person from the research. I prefer integrating the person back into the science. Science is, after all, a very human activity and way of understanding the world.

Scientists are still showing me how to see the world differently and expanding my mind by helping me see more complexity in the environment. But now, as an artist, instead of burying the magic, I get to draw it out and play with it. I often set up my research much like a lab experiment to optimize seeing something that was previously unavailable to my eyes and perception. With art I can embrace the fact that I am an embodied being asking questions about the world. I can infuse my art with the human aspects of wondering, searching, and the thrill of discovery.  Science continues to reveal new connections and relationships within the world and thus it continues to expand the depth and scope of my art. As long as that occurs I will continue to gravitate toward science.

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