See Brain-Inspired Art at Brown University’s Carney Institute

Students bring the arts and sciences together using different mediums.

The Robert J. and Nancy D. Carney Institute for Brain Science at Brown University has recently undergone a renovation to create an open and engaging space for their community to use, but faculty felt the space lacked something, and a collective decision emerged to do a call for proposals for brain-inspired student artwork.

Diane Lipscombe, director of the Carney Institute, believes art and science are inseparable. “We have different approaches to creation and innovation, but I would argue, that at heart, most scientists have strong affinities to art,” she says. “I don’t think I’ve ever met a neuroscientist who hasn’t looked at what they’re studying for the beauty of the thing.” Each piece of art displayed shows a different perspective about brain science. People outside of the science world to those within it can all agree on one thing: the brain is beautiful.

The Source of Enlightenment by Annie Ge is an acrylic painted MRI scan of a human brain separated onto parallel layers of Perspex, transparent sheets of plastic. The artwork engages the audience by enabling a 360-degree viewing position. Ge was inspired by Japanese photographer, Nobuhiro Nakanishi, who used the unusual medium of Perspex to create a passage of time through layered drawings. Ge’s use of Perspex paired with the layers of the brain is like ‘looking through the mind’ and presents a different aspect of how art can be demonstrated. “It shows the complexity of the brain through separating its structure and presents a way for people outside of the science community to explore a part of themselves,” she says.

Photo by Leanna Lobo.

Photo by Leanna Lobo.

Interfacing by Elaina Atherton is a black vinyl decal spread across eight wall panels that shows the human body’s nervous system transform into the Carney Institute logo. The physical movement of the body leads into the hair, depicted as axons, which then turn into action potentials further along the wall. It then transforms into a printed circuit board. The piece is a surreal depiction of a perfect and futuristic brain-machine interface, the connection between neuroscience and engineering. According to Atherton, it’s a tribute to the science at Carney Institute and to interdisciplinary sciences. “We go from human studies to brain stimulations, molecular biology to engineering and computer science to neuroscience,” she says. “Science is interdisciplinary and gets cooler when you have more aspects added to it.”

Photo by Leanna Lobo.

Photo by Leanna Lobo.

The Constellation of the Mind created by Ciprian Buzila is an acrylic painting depicting the tree of life and the connection between its mythology and the human brain. He uses the motif of the spiral to convey our connection with the cosmos and how the brain continues to evolve. Buzila was inspired by various representations of the tree of life. The tree of life is ‘richly illustrated’ in art history, but Buzila wanted to showcase his own interpretation and encourage others to analyze and conclude for themselves. “I envisioned a human brain that could take the shape of a cosmic tree,” he says. “This is what I think a constellation would look like, but if people can see it differently, that’s a plus for me. It means it connects differently with every person.”

Photo courtesy of Brown University.

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