“Artist & Researcher,” interdisciplinary show curated by Ted Meyer, showcases powerful connection between science + art

(Cover image: Artwork by Shula Singer Arbel)

I have taken somewhat of a hiatus from my blog, and from social media in general, because the last few months I have been in an all-consuming battle with myself to craft my story and present it coherently for a Ted X Stanford talk about learning to embrace and even celebrate the imperfect brain.

Well, the talk was a few weeks ago and I survived it! It was the most nervous I’ve ever meet in my life. Baring your soul on stage is nothing like arguing a case in front of a courtroom…

I have resurfaced from my Ted x talk madness to share the story of an incredible event put on by my friend Ted Meyer, an artist who portrays the “beauty and humor of physicality while exploring narratives of the human condition.” He is a resident artist and curator at USC Keck School of Medicine this year, and has successfully curated a show that celebrates the collaboration between art and science in a way that is unique, honoring both art and science.

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In Artist and Researcher, Meyer paired 14 USC medical researchers with 14 local artists. Each grouping’s work either intersects in some obvious way (such as artist Susan Trachman who lives with MS, and researcher Leslie J. Tarlow who researches MS) or in a more metaphorical, elusive way (such as artist Cybele Rowe, who is a largescale sculptor interested in form and Tiffany Chow, who is dedicated to finding the cause of Alzheimer’s) Meyer essentially opened the door for conversation, set the table, and let the dialogue begin.

 

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Artwork by Susan Trachman

 

 

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Artist Zeina Baltagi, researcher Amy Firth

I watched the video of the opening, where the artist / researcher pairings were interviewed about the process of creating together. What struck me most was each collaborator was as an equal – there was no elevation of the science, no pretensions around the art. It was not multidisciplinary, but interdisciplinary, with all the connotations that an intersection brings. To roads converging, two paths becoming one, and the cross-section where they overlap becomes a rich meeting place for community members to stop, rest, reflect, and re-orient.

I particularly liked how researchers discussed their reactions to the artist’s studio, and how they found inspiration and connections to their research. As an artist, I have always found profound inspiration within medical data, neurotechnology, and the field of science in general. When scientists find inspiration in my work, I feel I am creating something universal for people of all disciplines to take something from. To imagine a researcher in my studio delving into my images, sketches, and process, and to imagine them discovering a spark that brings them further in their own field… that is something incredible.

Ted Meyer and the team at USC has done something amazing; not only noticing the overlapping of art and science and curating a show that depicts that – but also making space for a creative laboratory where art and science to play off of one another, where the artist-researchers had space and time to form meaningful relationships with one another. Thank you to all the scientists and artists who continue to collaborate and enrich what it means to be human!

The opening night of Artist & Researcher was fortunately caught on film; to watch scientist-artist interviews, see some of the work, and learn more about the show, please click here to watch!

Scientist-Artist pairings:

Lilyana Amezcua, MD, MS + Kerry Kugelman

Tiffany Chow, MD + Cybele Rowe

Vinay Duddalwar, MD, FRCR + Michael McCall

Amy Firth, PhD + Zeina Baltagi

Laurel M. Fisher, PhD + LuAnn Roberto

Gino K. In, MD, MPH + Olesya Volk

Elina Kari, MD + Jamie Perlman, MA

Peter Kuhn, PhD + Leah Shane Dixon

Francesca V. Mariani, PhD + Andrea Bogdan

Andy McMahon, PhD, FRS + Barbara Kolo

Marilena Melas, MSc + Shula Singer Arbel

Michael E. Selsted, MD, PhD + David Lovejoy

Soma Sahai-Srivastava, MD + Qathryn Brehm

Leslie J. Tarlow, MSN, RN, GNP-BC, MSCN + Susan Trachman

 

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