Sunday, July 24, 2016

Event 3: California Science Center

On July 23, 2016, I attended the California Science Center in Exposition Park, Los Angeles.  Though this museum is mainly focused on science and technology, I still found many elements that could be considered a blend with the art world.

Proof of attendance

Upon entering the museum, the first thing I noticed was the large poster along the escalator.  It was advertising a new exhibit, "Earth in Concert: Protecting the Planet through Music", a campaign in which artists hope to raise awareness about important global issues through music.  At the exhibit, visitors were encouraged to interact with the installations, creating compositions with sounds of nature and learning about the planet's biodiversity.

Poster advertising the Earth in Concert campaign and exhibit

In the Ecosystems section of the museum, there is a long wall of photographs by the entrance of the Global Zone.  Each photograph represents a different topic of the ecosystems discussion: wildlife, water, waste, energy.  The images show how each area interacts with the others and how the human world affects the entire planet's ecosystem.  This photography is meant to bring awareness to the audience about the need to conserve resources and keep the planet clean.

Wall of photographs in the Global Zone

My favorite part of the California Science Center has always been the World of Life, exhibits dedicated to the human body.  There is a show called 'BodyWorks' (similar to but not to be confused with Gunther Von Hagens's 'BodyWorlds') in which a 50-foot body simulator named Tess teaches the audience about human anatomy and body functions.  The audience is able to see how the heart, lungs, brain, blood vessels, and body temperature are affected by exercise and activity.  This show reminded me of the MedTech+Art unit and how artists and scientists alike use anatomy to learn more about the human body.

A clip from the BodyWorks show

Finally, I entered the special exhibition, "SUPER CELLS: The Power of Stem Cell".  This area is mainly focused on showing visitors the topic of living things on the cell level.  The section that struck me as the most amazing was the bright images of cells in different parts of the body.  Again, I was reminded of the MedTech+Art unit as well as the Neuroscience+Art unit.  These photographs did not seem like pictures of cells at first, thus giving me a whole new perspective on the topic.

Images of cellular tissue

I have always enjoyed going to the California Science Center because I learn something new with each visit.  This time, with art in mind, I viewed the exhibits with a different perspective, trying to see the artistic potential in every installation.  Some were more obviously connected to the art world, like "Earth in Concert"'s blend of music and science, while others were more subtle, like the stem cell photography.  Overall, I was able to see how science can come together with art to teach and inspire the museum visitors.


California Science Center. 1998. Exhibit. Los Angeles. 23 July 2016.

Event 2: Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

On July 21, 2016, I visited the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).

Top: Proof of attendance (the flyer shows the date, July 21)
Bottom: Also proof of attendance (me awkwardly posing next to the lady working at the Japanese art exhibits)

My main interest was in the exhibits of Japanese Art.  I was amazed by the elegant calligraphy that hung on large banners.  However, with the lectures in mind, I also noticed several pieces of art that incorporated geometry and math in their designs.

Plate with Geometric Design, Koyama Kōichi (2012)

Black and White Mist: Covered Rectangular Form, Kondō Takahiro (2007)

These two ceramic pieces clearly incorporate geometry into their designs.  The first, Plate with Geometric Design, has criss-crossing lines that form a checkerboard of sorts.  The latter, Black and White Mist: Covered Rectangular Form, also has lines, but in contrast to the former piece, the latter's does not have any recognizable pattern.  However, though the lines and shapes do not seem to be representative of any known pattern, there is still something aesthetically pleasing about the design.

Twilight in Imamiya Street, Chōshi, Ishiwata Kōitsu (1932)

This painting reminded me of the lecture on perspective.  Filippo Brunelleschi introduced the idea of linear perspective and vanishing point, but artists have constantly used this mathematical concept in the centuries following the discovery.  In this painting, Kōitsu clearly demonstrates the concept.  The street and houses seem to converge to a single point in the distance, while objects in the foreground are pictured as larger than those in the background.

The images above are examples of pieces from the Japanese art exhibit.  But LACMA is even more well-known for its contemporary works of art.  In my opinion, some modern art seems so simplistic that anyone could easily duplicate the piece.  However, upon viewing such works up close, I noticed a visual appeal in the simplicity.  Several artists, such as Josef Albers and Agnes Martin, use geometric figures to create plain images.  However, the use of colors and shapes is what gives the picture a sense of order and harmony as well as makes it aesthetically pleasing.

Homage to the Square, Josef Albers (1957)

Untitled #1, Agnes Martin (1989)

Finally, I wanted to mention one last work of art that caught my eye as a brilliant blend of art and technology.  Thomas Wilfred, an artist who was active in both Denmark and the United States, was best known for his light art.  The display I saw was a slow mesmerizing movement of light and color.  Luccata, Opus 162 is a sculptural-light composition created by an optical-mechanical device.  A set of seats were placed around the display for the museum-goers to sit and enjoy.

Luccata, Opus 162, Thomas Wilfred (1967-68)

LACMA was filled with so many amazing works of art that I could spend pages just writing about each exhibit.  However, the pieces that I have commented on above struck me as prime examples of the collaboration of art and science (whether it be art and math or art and technology).  I recommend the museum to anyone interested in seeing a variety of art pieces from different cultures and eras.

(Also, the Urban Light exhibit by Chris Burden is a classic place to take pictures at!)


Los Angeles County Museum of Art. 1910. Exhibit. Los Angeles. 21 July 2016.

Week 5 (Unit 9): Space + Art

Space and astronomy has inspired artists for centuries. The concept of space and its infiniteness creates feelings of curiosity and mysteriousness. Several types of art has been developed over the years with the sky as the main subject. For instance, one work of British painter Samuel Palmer, The Comet of 1858, features the phenomenon over the Dartmoor, England.

Samuel Palmer's The Comet of 1858

Humans look up and see billions of stars dotting the night sky. This magnificent view has been a muse for many works of art. For example, around Pollepel Island in the Hudson River in New York, artist Melissa McGill has created her own 'stars'. The public installation, Constellation, is arranged around the ruins of Bannerman's Castle and consists of seventeen LED lights. Every two hours, these lights, which are on poles of varying heights, are illuminated to make the image of a constellation. McGill explains her project, "the shape formed by the points of light in Constellation referred to missing architectural elements of Bannerman Castle and to a Lenape cultural belief in a celestial “white road” equivalent to the Milky Way" (Loos). She considers her work a "powerful symbol of absence and presence", which, in my opinion, also represents the theme of space.
Melissa McGill's art installation, Constellation

Another example of art inspired by the cosmos is the breathtaking photographs of astronomical bodies. Today's powerful telescopes, including NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory, the Hubble Space Telescope, the Spitzer Space Telescope, and more, allow scientists and artists alike to view deep into outer space. Some objects in space are so many light-years away that they may have expired by the time the image returns to our eyes. Thus, images of space provide an interesting take on the life and death of extraterrestrial bodies.

The Aesthetics & Astronomy project at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics is run by a team of astronomy experts and artists. Its aim is to analyze the photographs and ultimately determine how scientific and artistic viewpoints affect how the data is processed. According to the center's website, "aesthetics from a psychological perspective is the study of all things beautiful whether art or not, and all things art whether beautiful or not".

Butterfly Emerges from Stellar Demise in Planetary Nebula NGC 6302, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2009

Finally, I would like to touch on another type of photography. These artists do not use telescopes to see extraterrestrial bodies up close; instead, they use their cameras to capture the sky from a human's perspective. Today's cameras have the ability to adjust how long the shutter remains open in order to capture more light in the image. This technique, called 'long exposure', leads to amazing works of art in which the light's path can be seen in a long streak.

Jeff Pang's Assiniboine Star Light, taken in 2010 at Lake Magog, Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park, B.C., Canada

Dan Eckert's Trona Star Stack, taken in 2010 in Trona, California

Zach Dischner's Shelfstars, taken in 2010 in Canon City, Colorado

The night sky holds so much inspiration for works of art.  There are also many ways for the artist to express his or her works due to the many technologies available today.  The universe is a vast space with planets, stars, and galaxies; however, it also contains so much of the unknown.  It only makes sense that such a topic causes people to contemplate, thus making it the perfect topic for the blend of art and science.



"Astronomy & the Arts." Seeing in the Dark. Seeing in the Dark, 2008. Web. 23 July 2016.

Felsenthal, Julia. "Artist Melissa McGill’s Constellation Brings the Stars Down to Earth." Vogue. Condé Nast, 29 June 2015. Web. 23 July 2016.

Fusco, Jack. "How To: Plan Your Night Photography for Perfect Star Trails." Popular Photography. Bonnier Corporation, 12 Aug. 2014. Web. 23 July 2016.

Loos, Ted. "A 'Constellation' of Light Above the Ruins of Bannerman Castle." The New York Times. The New York Times Company, 24 June 2015. Web. 23 July 2016.

O'Donnell, Christopher. "How to Photograph Star Trails: The Ultimate Guide." Light Stalking. Light Stalking Photography Blog and Community, 10 July 2015. Web. 23 July 2016.

"Studying Perceptions of Astronomy Images." Aesthetics & Astronomy. Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, n.d. Web. 23 July 2016.


Constellation. Melissa McGill, n.d. Web. 23 July 2016.

McCouat, Philip. "Comets in Art." Journal of Art in Society. Wordpress, 2014. Web. 23 July 2016.

"Picture Album." HubbleSite. Space Telescope Science Institute, n.d. Web. 23 July 2016.

"Star Trails: 21 Terrestrial Views of Space by Amateur Photographers." Light Stalking. Light Stalking Photography Blog and Community, 10 Nov. 2009. Web. 23 July 2016.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Week 5 (Unit 8): NanoTech + Art

Within this unit's vast array of subtopics, I found myself mainly drawn to field of nanophotonics.  Nanophotonics is "study of the behavior of light on the nanometer scale" as well as the "interaction of nanometer-scale objects with light" (Wikipedia).

While humans have recently begun using light-manipulating nanostructures for all kinds of objects (i.e. glasses or windshields with no glare), nature was the original expert on nanophotonics. For example, some species of flowers seem to shimmer when their petals are exposed to sunlight (a technique to attract insects for pollination). When examined closely on the nanoscale, the petals are revealed to have periodic structures, which causes the light to reflect in a certain way.

The concept of periodic nanostructures to create a shimmery appearance is also found in insects, birds, fish, and reptiles for species recognition and mate selection. The Purple Emperor butterflies Apatura ilia, Apatura iris and Sasakia charonda, for instance, have wings with tiny nanostructures, called 'photonic crystals'. Though the wings may appear to be a bright blue or purple, they do not actually contain any actual color pigment. Instead, the nanostructures reflect the light to give the appearance of a metallic-like iridescent color.  According to physicists at MIT, the material of butterfly wings resembles a 3D form of graphene, an allotrope of carbon with a crystalline structure.

Top:  A butterfly with blue iridescent wings
Bottom:  Microscopic structure of two materials in butterfly wings

Humans have attempted to mimic this nanophotonic effect by using electron microscopes and etching these structures onto silicon or glass. We have applied this technique to both scientific innovations and artistic ventures. One instance that had both a scientific use and an artistic purpose is silicon wafers. Joyce Haughey, a graphics designer from Trafalgar Industries, describes the effect of light on these chips as beautiful, "If you hold them in the sunshine, they just spit rainbows right back at your face."

Silicon wafers reflecting light to create a rainbow effect

The NanoPhotonics Centre at the University of Cambridge has applied this technology to other materials that have more everyday uses. Some of the projects include color-changing wallpaper, multi-colored balloons, and even iridescent fabrics. The fabrics, called 'polymer opals', are made by putting tiny nanospheres onto stretchable fabric. Once the fabric is pulled, the distance between the spheres increases and light is reflected differently, thus changing the color. The fashion industry has shown interest in such materials, and Parisian runways have already showcased nanophotonic materials in several shows. Jeremy Baumberg, director the NanoPhotonics Centre, explains the benefit of the research, “The nice thing about all these materials is they’re a very visual example of nanotechnology. The features and the color all come from structure.”

Polymer Opal CS495-10b: colloidal photonic crystal embedded in a matrix on elastic fabric

Initially, the thought of nanotechnology seemed very futuristic and like something out of a science fiction book. However, as I researched more, my view on the technology changed. Several articles illustrated the topic as a current and breakthrough science, with applications stemming from a variety of fields. Nanorobotics is can be applied to the medical field to deliver drugs to the body and has been even showcased in movies such as Disney's Big Hero 6. Nanoparticles have been used to make self-cleaning fabrics and windows due to its hydrophobic properties. I chose to focus on nanophotonics for this blog because it has such great potential for the art world. This technology is like the modern way of painting, creating tiny structures that manipulate light to create color.



Brongersma, Mark. "Nanophotonics: The Art of Managing Photons at the Nanoscale." Materials Research Laboratory at UCSB. UC Santa Barbara, 17 Feb. 2012. Web. 20 July 2016.

Drake, Nadia. "Weird Nanophotonic Materials Bend and Trap Light to Make Crazy Colors." Wired. Wired, 13 Nov. 2013. Web. 19 July 2016.

Feng, Lin, Yanan Zhang, Mingzhu Li, Yongmei Zheng, Weizhi Shen, and Lei Jiang. "The Structural Color of Red Rose Petals and Their Duplicates." Langmuir (ACS Publications). American Chemical Society, 23 Aug. 2010. Web. 20 July 2016.

Gimzewski, Jim, Victoria Vesna. "The Nanomeme Syndrome: Blurring of Fact & Fiction in the Construction of a New Science." University of California, Los Angeles, n.d. Web. 18 July 2016.

Jakšić, Zoran, Dejan Pantelić, Milija Sarajlić, Svetlana Savić-Šević, Jovan Matović, Branislav Jelenković, Dana Vasiljević-Radović, Srećko Ćurčić, Slobodan Vuković, Vladimir Pavlović, Jelena Buha, Vesna Lačković, Milica Labudović-Borović, and Božidar Ćurčić. "Butterfly Scales as Bionic Templates for Complex Ordered Nanophotonic Materials: A Pathway to Biomimetic Plasmonics." Optical Materials 35.10 (2013): 1869-875. ScienceDirect. Web. 21 July 2016.

"Nanophotonics." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 20 July 2016.


Baez, John. "The Physics of Butterfly Wings." Azimuth. Wordpress, 11 Aug. 2015. Web. 19 July 2016

Rokegem, Jasna. "MVI_0054.MOV." YouTube. NanoPhotonics Cambridge, 2011. Web. 20 July 2016.

"Silicon Wafer Manufacture." 4 Square Engineering. 4 Square Engineering Consultancy Limited, 2008. Web. 20 July 2016.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Event 1: Getty Museum

On July 10, 2016, I visited the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.  My aunt volunteers there on the weekends, so she was excited to take me on a personal tour through the many different sections of the museum.  Though I had always wanted to visit the Getty, I went this time with the lectures from this class in mind. 

Top: J. Paul Getty Museum (entrance)
Bottom Right: Proof photo with my aunt (volunteer)

I first entered the North Pavilion, which featured artwork from before 1700.  During the Italian Renaissance, artists began using mathematics to create realistic proportions in their paintings and sculptures.  Filippo Brunelleschi developed the first correct formulation of linear perspective and introduced the concept of vanishing point.  Artists used perspective to draw the audience's attention to the focus of the image, whether it be a person, an object, or a scene.  I saw evidence of this mathematical principle being used in several paintings.

In Cupid and Pan, Italian artist Federico Zuccaro took inspiration from a quote from the Roman poet Virgil, "Love conquers all."  Zuccaro paints the struggle between Cupid and Pan, a representation of the conflict between love and lust, in the center of the image.  The lines of perspective in the painting all converge towards the center of the image.  Therefore, the viewers unconsciously focus on the center, on the conflict.  In addition, he uses perspective to create a sense of distance on a two-dimensional surface.  The figure in the sky is painted with fainter colors in order to make it seem farther away than the central action.

Cupid and Pan (Oil on canvas), attributed to Federico Zuccaro

I even tried my hand at drawing an image from different perspectives.  At the Sketching Gallery, a workspace for curious visitors, I first noticed how the artists created different versions of the same image, depending on where they were sketching.  Different views of the sculpture led to varied shading, highlighting, and angles in the many sketches.  Perspective was also distinct in each drawing.  I found this very interesting because though the subject was consistent, not one sketch was the same as another.

A replica of the Juggling Man sculpture at the Sketching Gallery

I saw the most collaboration between technology and art in the more contemporary works of art.  One of the more recent exhibitions, "In Focus: Electric!", photographs were displayed in which the creators used both natural light and artificial light to create art.

Billboard promoting the "In Focus: Electric!" exhibition
(Note: viewers were prohibited from taking pictures so I used images found from the web)

Naoya Hatakeyama, a Japanese artist, had several photographs featured from his solo exhibition "Maquettes/Light".  These images depicted city lights in a black and white setting and were printed using gelatin silver print, creating an illusion in which the photographs seemed to light up.

Naoya Hatakeyama's “Maquettes/Light #5121”, created in 1997 using gelatin silver print, B&W transparency, UV filter, Light box

Another example of an artist using light and photography to create fantastic images is Barbara Morgan.  She applied long exposure photography, a fascinating technique known as 'Light Painting'.  There is something hypnotic and beautiful about using light as the paintbrush.

In fact, I was so amazed by the displayed photographs that after attending this exhibition, I went home and tried to make my own long exposure photographs using a flashlight and a camera!

Barbara Morgan's Pure Energy and Neurotic Man, printed in 1971 using gelatin silver print

Overall, my experience at the J. Paul Getty Museum was fun and eye-opening.  Viewing art for the first time after the recent lectures was different from before because I contemplated the methods that artists may have used to make the images more aesthetically appealing to the audience.


"Barbara Morgan." MoMA. The Museum of Modern Art, 2016. Web. 17 July 2016.

J. Paul Getty Museum. 1974. Exhibit. Los Angeles. 10 July 2016.

"Artists - Naoya Hatakeyama." Taka Ishii Gallery. Taka Ishii Gallery, 2006-2016. Web. 17 July 2016.

Week 4 (Unit 7): Neuroscience + Art

The brain is a complex organ of over 100 billion nerves that interact through trillions of synapses. Therefore, it only makes sense that the art created with the brain as subject matter is just as elaborate and intricate. After watching this week's lecture, I was inspired to learn more about how artists use brain imagery to create stunning content.

The first topic that caught my attention in the lecture was the mention of the 'Brainbow' technique, also known as 'Cre-Lox Recombination'. In this technique, developed by labs at the Center for Brain Sciences, specific neurons are marked with fluorescent proteins. Then, when the neuron synapses, it appears as a bright color, depending on which protein was used. When many neurons are marked, the brain is, in a way, "color-coded so we can see where they are" (Cao). This allows scientists and researchers to see where neurons are located and what other neurons they connect with, overall helping them understand what parts of the brain are responsible for different functions.

An explanation of the 'Brainbow' technique

Besides the incredible scientific breakthroughs that have become possible with this technology, "coloring" the brain with these fluorescent proteins also results in impressive works of art. The images below are a 'brainbow' representation of the cerebral cortex, which is responsible for memory, perceptual awareness, thought and language functions. A camera captured the brain activity and therefore, the explosion of color as neurons interacted with each other. The final images are unrecognizable as a brain and instead looks like a contemporary painting or even a work of digital media.

The cerebral cortex of the brain, highlighted using the 'Brainbow' technique

A prominent artist who has used the human body, especially the brain, as subject matter for his work is Dr. Kai-hung Fung. I mentioned his work in the MedTech + Art section as he has the ability to turn ordinary human organs into fascinating illusions. Dr. Fung uses CT and MRI scans to capture an image and then applies what he called "The Rainbow Technique", original mapping algorithms, to change what the viewers see. Originally, he created these images to allow surgeons to better visualize complex surgeries by highlighting the specific anatomy. However, after receiving positive feedback about the creations, he realized that the color made the images into works of art as well.

Dr. Kai-hung Fung's Network is actually the blood vessels inside the brain with the skull base as background

Another creative way to depict the brain as a work of art is demonstrated by artist Greg Dunn. Dunn, who had earned a doctorate in neuroscience before deciding to pursue art professionally, paints patterns of branching neurons using a variety of media, including gold leaf, ink, and digital software. Inspired by Asian art and the 'Brainbow' technique, his works range from looking like a minimal forest landscape to resembling the circuitry of some electronic device.  Dunn is just one of many artists who began their careers as scientists but turned their focus to depicting science as an art.

TopGreg Dunn and Brian Edwards's Self Reflected artwork to be featured at The Franklin Institute
Middle: Greg Dunn's Cortical Columns, made with 21K, 18K and 12K gold, ink, dye, and mica on aluminized panel
Bottom: Greg Dunn's Cortical Circuitboard, made by microetching gold on steel

Overall, all these artistic representations have changed my perspective on the brain. Before, I viewed the brain as a purely scientific topic. However, now I can see the beauty of such a complex organ.  I was particularly mesmerized by the Self Reflected video (above) and rewatched it several times because I could not believe that it was actually a depiction of the brain.  Neuroscience allows the world to see the brain's complexity, but when combined with artists' creativity, the combination uncovers the hidden aesthetic in the maze of nerves and tissue.



"Brain (Human Anatomy): Picture, Function, Parts, Conditions, and More." WebMD. WebMD, LLC, 2014. Web. 17 July 2016.

"Brainbow." Cell Picture Show. Elsevier Inc., 2015. Web. 17 July 2016.

"Brainbow." Center for Brain Science. Harvard University, n.d. Web. 17 July 2016.

"Review: Brains @ Wellcome Collection." Londonist. Londonist Ltd., 27 Mar. 2012. Web. 16 July 2016.

Gearing, Mary. "Evolution of Brainbow: Using Cre-lox for Multicolor Labeling of Neurons." Addgene. Addgene, 24 Apr. 2015. Web. 15 July 2016.

Frank, Priscilla. "Neuroscience Art: Greg Dunn’s Neurons Painted In Japanese Sumi-e Style." The Huffington Post., Inc., 23 May 2012. Web. 16 July 2016.

Looger, Loren L. "New Fluorescent Protein Permanently Marks Neurons That Fire." Howard Hughes Medical Institute, 12 Feb. 2015. Web. 16 July 2016.

Shen, Helen. "See-Through Brains Clarify Connections." Macmillan Publishers Limited, 10 Apr. 2013. Web. 16 July 2016.


Cao, Vania. "Brainbow: Mixing Colors to Map the Brain." YouTube. YouTube, 27 Aug. 2014. Web. 15 July 2016. <>.

"Cool Uses - Brainbow." GFP - Green Fluorescent Protein. Marc Zimmer, n.d. Web. 16 July 2016. <>.

Dunn, Greg A. Greg Dunn Design | Visual Art | Neuroscience Art. N.p., 2016. Web. 16 July 2016. <>.

Herman, Judith B. "Psychedelic Images From Inside Your Body." Slate Magazine. The Slate Group, 09 May 2013. Web. 03 July 2016. <>.

Lewis, Tanya. "Dazzling Images of the Brain Created by Neuroscientist-Artist." Live Science. Purch, 10 Dec. 2014. Web. 16 July 2016. <>.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Week 4 (Unit 6): BioTech + Art

The combination of biology and art has been the source of controversy in recent years as new technologies have made this culture possible. The concept that interested me the most in this week's lectures about biotechnology and art is how the human curiosity has physically altered the natural world.

Bioart, a term introduced by artist Eduardo Kac, is the "use of living tissues, bacteria and organisms in creating intriguing –- and often shocking -– works of art" (Walden). One of Kac's most infamous works of art is the GFP Bunny, with GFP representing green fluorescent protein normally found in jellyfish that was injected into a rabbit zygote cell. From this marriage of science and art emerged Alba, the glowing rabbit. A seemingly typical albino rabbit, Alba glowed a bright green when illuminated by a specific blue light. Though this fluorescent method has been used for scientific purposes, this transgenic art was the first of its kind in the artistic direction.

One of Kac's goals in this experiment was the "expansion of the present practical and conceptual boundaries of artmaking to incorporate life invention" (Kac). Indeed, since 2000, several glowing animals, including sheep, dogs, and monkeys, have been produced, inspired by the success of GFP Bunny. In addition, genetic engineering has become more common in the art world, the results described as 'living art'. While the displays may prompt awe and amazement, this movement begs the question, is genetic engineering of other living things ethical? And if so, to what extent?

A cat genetically modified to glow a green fluorescent color, as with the GFP Bunny

In the years following 1985, George Gessert, a former painter and bioart pioneer, began breeding combinations of wild plant species. Though the study of genetics was discovered through Gregor Mendel's cross-breeding of flowers, Gessert's displays represent a venture more focused on aesthetic than science. Reactions to his displays were relatively positive, and he was able to present his work at several exhibits. The hybridized flowers are an example of how human eye for aesthetic has manipulated the evolution of living species, specifically plants in this case. We pick the flowers that look the most visually appealing and discard those that do not fit our standards. As a result, flowers are naturally selected or genetically altered to certain appearances.

An image from George Gessert's "The Iris Project"

The controversy becomes more outspoken when animals or insects are involved. In 2000, Portuguese artist Marta de Menezes started a project in which she altered the wing patterns of live butterflies while they were still developing. People were taken aback by the manipulation of a living thing for artistic purposes. In response to the outrage, de Menezes stated that "biotechnology [is] ethically challenging and interesting, not necessarily a dilemma" (de Menezes). Some argue that de Menezes is viewing the butterflies as merely "collateral damage" in her pursuit of art (Sweet). This introduces another aspect of the ethical argument, one that questions humans' power to manipulate other living things.

An example of Marta de Menezes's art, a live Bicyclus anynana butterfly with modified wing patterns

Personally, I agree that such experimentation pushes the limits of modern thinking, but I admit that choosing a side is difficult. Genetic engineering can create beautiful aesthetic in a living, breathing organism. However, the ethical aspect continues to concern me. How is this transgenic art different from scientific testing on animals, a practice that many consider inhumane?

A rabbit prepares to be injected, an example of animal testing and what many areas of the world consider animal cruelty



"Bioart through Evolution: George Gessert." Revolution Bioengineering. Wordpress, n.d. Web. Accessed 13 July 2016.

Hansen, Lauren. "7 Genetically Modified Animals That Glow in the Dark." THE WEEK. The Week Publications, 30 Apr. 2013. Web. Accessed 13 July 2016.

Kac, Eduardo. "GFP BUNNY." KAC. N.p., 2000. Web. Accessed 13 July 2016.

Silva, Luis. "Interview with Marta De Menezes." Rhizome. N.p., 20 Aug. 2008. Web. Accessed 13 July 2016.

Sweet, Bridget Elizabeth. "Marta De Menezes: Art and Science." Animal Vegetable Digital. Wordpress, 24 Aug. 2014. Web. Accessed 12 July 2016.

Vesna, Victoria. DESMA 9 Lectures on MedTech + Art. 2016. Video. Accessed 01 July 2016.

Walden, Stephanie. "BioArt: Is It Art? Is It Science? Is It the Future?" Mashable. Mashable, Inc., 29 Oct. 2013. Web. Accessed 11 July 2016.


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Sunday, July 3, 2016

Week 2 (Unit 4): MedTech + Art

The human body is like an art form in itself. The interlacement of muscles, nerves, blood vessels, and bones can somehow work as a moving, functional body. As mentioned in the lecture videos, artists have been fascinated with the anatomy of the human body since the Renaissance era. They began to study anatomical diagrams and illustrations that were originally meant for the medical community.

I found Dr. Gunther von Hagens's "Body Worlds" exhibition to be a perfect representation of the collaboration of medical technology and art. Through the method of plastination, the fats and fluids in deceased bodies are replaced by plastics and polymers in order to preserve the specimens. The original purpose of creating the plastinated bodies was to serve as a way for medical students to learn the anatomy of the human body.

Today's exhibitions are mainly meant to send a message to the general population. Like more traditional works of art, Body Worlds also attempts to induce a reaction from its audience. Some of the presentations display the effects of poor choices on the human body, such as the resultant lungs after smoking. Nevertheless, the viewers are free to their own interpretations of the displays.

Current director of Body Worlds discusses the exhibition's goals

Body Worlds reminds me of an iconic image, the artist's wooden figure model, also known as a manikin. The manikin serves as a reference for positions of the human body. In 1968, designer Richard Rush created the "Transparent Anatomical Mannikin", or TAM for short. Like plastination, this model, which then included plastic replicas of internal organs, was initially meant for scientific purposes. Students used the model to explore the functions of internal organs, such as the stomach for digestion or the blood vessels for circulation. This later developed into the more commonly-seen wooden manikin that is widely used by artists to recreate poses for figure drawings or sculptures. Using such models helps artists understand the human form and movements.

Left:  A Transparent Anatomical Mannikin (TAM), nicknamed "Juno", that shows the internal anatomy of a female human
Right:  An artist's manikin depicting the motion of taking a step forward

In relation to anatomy, art may also be associated with medical imaging, such as x-rays or ultrasounds. The first time I saw an x-ray of myself, I was mesmerized by the ghostly and eerie image that appeared on the screen. Some artists have drawn upon people's fascinated reactions to x-rays and used this technology to create amazing works of art. An image of the endoskeleton of a human, an animal, or an object proves to be just as fascinating as its exterior. For example, using a CT scanner, Satre Stuelke, an artist and a physician, reveals the hidden inner structure of everyday objects in his works in order to help patients understand the radiology procedures.

Similarly, doctor and radiology specialist, Kai-hung Fung applies 3D computer tomography to the human body from unusual angles and alters the lighting and colors to create unexpected images.  Fung began this work after being asked by surgeons to produce 3D images so they can better visualize complex anatomies.  His work, "What Lies Behind Our Nose", is a CT scan of the nose and sinuses of a patient with thyrotoxic eye disease.  This image won the 2007 International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge sponsored by Science and the U.S. National Science Foundation.  Fung wrote of the piece, "[She had] a very straight nasal septum and wavy maxillary sinuses ... the anatomy was exceptionally beautiful."

Kai-hung Fung's "What Lies Behind Our Nose" is a CT scan of the nose and sinuses of a patient with thyrotoxic eye disease

From this unit, I learned that the medical field and the art world are connected in many surprisingly ways. Leonardo da Vinci was known for his fascination with the human body, and this showed in some of his artwork. Even today, this marriage of medical technology and art has remained prevalent and continues to develop as new innovations arise. This unit has emphasized on the fact that the human body can be expressed both scientifically and artistically.



Abrams, Avi. "Radical X-Ray Art." Dark Roasted Blend. IAN MEDIA Co., June 2011. Web. Accessed 01 July 2016.

"Body Worlds." Body Worlds. Institute for Plastination, 2016. Web. Accessed 01 July 2016.

Herman, Judith B. "Psychedelic Images From Inside Your Body." Slate Magazine. The Slate Group, 09 May 2013. Web. 03 July 2016.

Kirby, Doug, Ken Smith, and Mike Wilkins. "Transparent Women, TAMs, Medical Models." Roadside America. Doug Kirby, n.d. Web. Accessed 01 July 2016.

"Satre Stuelke's radiology art." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, Mar. 2009. Web. Accessed 02 July 2016.

Vesna, Victoria. DESMA 9 Lectures on MedTech + Art. 2016. Video. Accessed 01 July 2016. "Body World Exposition: Part 1." YouTube. YouTube, 2007. Web. Accessed 01 July 2016.


Haas, Cherie Dawn. "Put Your Artist Mannequin To Work." Artist's Network. F+W, 16 June 2015. Web. Accessed 03 July 2016.

Lamont, Tony. "History of X-ray Art and Artists." Xraypics. Wordpress, Nov. 2012. Web. Accessed 02 July 2016.

Schillace, Brandy. "Celebrating Juno, the Transparent Woman." DITTRICK Museum Blog. Wordpress, 11 Dec. 2013. Web. Accessed 03 July 2016. "Body World Exposition: Part 2." YouTube. YouTube, 2007. Web. Accessed 01 July 2016.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Week 2 (Unit 3): Robotics + Art

The collaboration of art and robotics has slowly changed the culture of appreciating such works of art. More specifically, when I say robotics, I am referring to the automated production that has taken over popular culture in the past few decades. There are both positive and negative consequences of such changes.

I see many positives that have emerged from this automation of art. Take, for example, the animation industry. In the past, animated films were painstakingly drawn by hand, from the drafts to the final product. Though those results was impressive, today's graphic artwork adds more depth and dimension to the scenes with the help of computers.

In 1959, Disney's Sleeping Beauty was animated mainly by hand. The artists drew every small motion in order to create the illusion of a continuous film.

Twenty-first century animators have the ability to create characters that resemble a realistic human figure more than a two-dimensional image. Animating companies such as DreamWorks, Pixar, and Disney incorporate math, graphic design, and computer science to make these imaginary figures and landscapes come to life on the screen. David Torres, supervising animator for the film How to Train Your Dragon 2, described his participation in this new media that is revolutionizing the art industry, "I'm an animator by trade, but the more I've done this technology, I can now consider myself an emotional sculptor".

In the 2014 DreamWorks animated film, How to Train Your Dragon 2, animators used online tools and software to 'sculpt' the expressions and motions of the characters. 

One negative aspect was analyzed in philosopher and cultural critic Walter Benjamin's 1936 essay, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”. In describing the change from paintings to film, he says that "The spectator's process of association in view of these images is indeed interrupted by their constant, sudden change" (Benjamin 5). He refers to how the viewer of a painting has the freedom to take as much time as needed to reflect upon the image. The viewer can look upon all aspects of the painting and interpret what the artist was trying to express with each. For instance, in the painting Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, Renaissance painter Pieter Bruegel fills the scene with symbolism and story. The farmer and shepherd are seen staring off into the distance while in the bottom-right corner, the small image of Icarus's legs flail as he falls into the water. A spectator can interpret this depiction in several ways after taking into account all the details in the painting.

Landscape with the Fall of Icarus (1560s)

On the other hand, a film is a series of rapidly changing images in which Benjamin argues "distraction became an alternate for contemplation" for the audience (Robinson). In today's popular films, many action scenes flash between characters and settings within seconds in order to keep the audience interested. I agree with Benjamin in that this type of production removes from the experience of enjoying a work of art because the audience has almost no time to analyze the contents and meaning of a scene before it changes again. For example, the 2015 film Avengers: Age of Ultron was filled with action-packed fight scenes. Much of the excitement of watching the film comes from the loud sound effects, quick shots of characters' expressions, and fast-changing scenes. Movie-goers typically pay more attention to the action than to the filler conversation scenes.  The opening fight between the Hulk and Ironman captured the audience's attention before the storyline was fully revealed.

Scene from Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Before listening to the lecture and reading Benjamin's essay, I had not considered the unfavorable effect that automated production has had on popular culture. His work, though it was written in 1936, still reflects the ongoing influence on how we view art as it becomes more mechanized. "Mechanical reproduction of art changes the reaction of the masses toward art." Indeed, the contrast between the reactions to paintings and films is very evident when one analyzes the amount of contemplation that the audience has for each media. Nowadays, as our world moves faster from the use of machines and computers, ideas and innovations are created more quickly and efficiently. As stated in "The Futurist Manifesto" by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, founder of the movement, "We affirm that the world’s magnificence has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed" (Marinetti). However, people have become quick to lose interest, quick to be "distracted", when art does not adapt to its fast-changing environment.



Benjamin, Walter. "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction." 1936. Print.

Marinetti, F. T. "The Futurist Manifesto." 1909. Print.

Sofi. "Animation, Past & Present: Why It's Today's Ultimate Tool." The Wideo Blog. Wideo Inc., 2014. Web.  Accessed 29 June 2016.

Robinson, Andrew. "Walter Benjamin: Art, Aura and Authenticity." Ceasefire. Ceasefire Magazine, 2013. Web. Accessed 28 June 2016.

Vesna, Victoria. DESMA 9 Lectures on Robotics + Art. 2016. Video. Accessed 24 June 2016.


Avengers: Age of Ultron. Dir. Joss Whedon. Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, 2015. Film.

Bruegel, Pieter. Landscape with the Fall of Icarus. 1560s. Oil on canvas. Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Belgium.

"Dreamworks Animation - Behind The Scenes." YouTube. YouTube, 2014. Web. Accessed 29 June 2016.

"Sleeping Beauty - Live Action: Princess Aurora's Movements." YouTube. YouTube, 2012. Web. Accessed 28 June 2016.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Week 1 (Unit 2): Math + Art

In this set of lectures, I've been reintroduced to what happens when mathematics and art collaborate in both nature and human creations.

According to Wolfram MathWorld, the golden ratio, one of many examples of the prominence of mathematics in nature, is a "number often encountered when taking the ratios of distances in simple geometric figures". In art and in nature, the golden ratio embodies the 'perfect' proportions of an image. For example, in nature, the ideal positioning of flower petals to absorb the most sunlight is a factor of the golden ratio, and the number of petals is always a Fibonacci number. Similarly, artists commonly use this mathematical concept to create an aesthetic appeal in their pieces. Michelangelo applied this over a dozen times in the Sistine Chapel. Along with other aspects of the paintings, the hands of figures are pointing directly at golden ratio points. Thus, Michelangelo's use of the golden ratio in various parts of the paintings allowed him to subtly create an image that visually draws in viewers.

An example of the golden ratio in Michelangelo's "Drunkenness of Noah" painting of the Sistine Chapel

What is it about classical music that makes it so soothing to listen to? The use of mathematics in music creates an arrangement of tones and harmonies that appeals to listeners. Several composers have used numbers to create musical masterpieces that have endured to this day. German composer Ludwig van Beethoven laced many of his pieces with numerical patterns and symmetry. In music, three notes played as a third is called a 'harmonic triad'. The YouTube video below demonstrates how Beethoven applies this concept to create the soothing melody of one of his most famous pieces, "Moonlight Sonata".

Video that demonstrates mathematics in Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata"

I find the idea of perspective to be the most intriguing combination of mathematics and art. Italian Renaissance artist and architect Leon Battisti Alberti describes an image as "the intersection of a visual pyramid at a given distance with a fixed centre and a defined position of light"; in other words, art may require the use of geometric methods to create a realistic visual effect. That intersection, also known as the vanishing point, was introduced during the Renaissance by Filippo Brunelleschi and still continues to dominate art today. In modern art, this concept can be applied to create a three-dimensional effect. One impressive example is a trend known as '3D Street Art'. Artists attempt to create the illusion of more than just an asphalt surface. Similar to the paintings of the Renaissance, objects closer to the viewer seem larger while images farther away seem to disappear into a point in the horizon.

Left: Artist Edgar Mueller draws lines that converge towards a point at the bottom of the image
Right: "The Crevasse" is a massive 3D street painting that looks like a large opening into the ground.
Bottom: This video is a time-lapse of the creation of the painting.

Overall, this unit has revived my interest in the combination of art and mathematics. It has compelled me to more closely analyze the details of paintings and music and find out what makes them so visually and auditorily appealing. Through the recommended readings, I have discovered several more instances of mathematics and art that I had not noticed before. Put simply, the balance that mathematics and art creates is absolutely mind-blowing.


Frantz, Marc. Lesson 3: Vanishing Points and Looking at Art (2000): 2-11. University of Central Florida College of Engineering and Computer Science, 2000. Web. Accessed 25 June 2016.

Meisner, Gary. "Golden Ratio in Art Composition and Design." PhiPoint Solutions, LLC, 2014. Web. Accessed 25 June 2016.

Mueller, Edgar. The Crevasse. 2008. Ireland. Edgar Mueller. Web. Accessed 25 June 2016.

Sautoy, Marcus Du. "How Composers from Mozart to Bach Made Their Music Add up." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 2013. Web. Accessed 25 June 2016.

St. Clair, Natalya. "Music and Math: The Genius of Beethoven." TED-Ed. TED CONFERENCES, LLC, 2014. Web. Accessed 25 June 2016.

Vesna, Victoria. DESMA 9 Lectures on Math + Art. 2016. Video. Accessed 24 June 2016.

Weisstein, Eric W. "Golden Ratio." MathWorld. Wolfram Research, Inc., n.d. Web. Accessed 24 June 2016.