All too often, art and science are considered opposites. This idea has only been reinforced, at least in my lifetime, by an over-simplified (and completely debunked) theory of psychology that suggests that there are “left brains” and then there are “right brains” in this world. The left-brained are logical, analytical, number crunchers, and the right-brained are intuitive, emotionally expressive, creative types. Somehow we got it in our heads that these two camps can never quite relate to each other.
But, when it comes down to it, artists and scientists have the same basic aim—to better understand the world. They experiment. They’re imaginative. And, when artists and scientists venture to cross disciplines and collaborate, magic happens. We all can learn from their example.
I became interested in the intersection of art and science a few years ago, when writing about photographers David Maisel and J. Henry Fair for Smithsonian. Both artists’ aerial landscape photographs border on abstract art. Full of bright colors and complex patterns, the images are beautiful. They lure you in, only to reveal toxic truths. You’re looking at strip mines, evaporation ponds, oil spills and other environmental degradation.
More recently, I was enthralled with X-rays of fish from the largest collection of jarred specimens in the world, at the National Museum of Natural History. The X-rays are both invaluable records to scientists, who use them to differentiate one species from another and study the evolution of fish, and dazzling works of art.
Collage of Arts and Sciences will be a place to explore this fertile ground where art and science meet. The blog will feature artists who are conveying scientific ideas and scientists who see the artistry in their work.
If you are working on a project that bridges art and science, let me know! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meet the Author
Megan Gambino is a reporter covering science, art, history and travel for Smithsonian.com. She frequently interviews big thinkers and, in a series she founded on the Web site called “Document Deep Dive,” annotates historical documents based on conversations with experts. Prior to Smithsonian, she worked for Outside magazine in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She holds a degree in English from Middlebury College.
Follow Megan on Twitter: @megan_gambino