Last week I wrote about a slightly unexpected turn that my work has taken. I have been posting pictures of my work in progress and finished pieces on Instagram, where I found quite a few of like-minded individuals. Most of these people are trained as scientists and want to share the beauty of what they are doing with the rest of the world. But as would probably be expected, most of this work gets noticed and appreciated by people who do something similar themselves – other scientists and artists.
Not this time. In the beginning of February, this work in progress post was noticed by a person suffering from a neurological condition called epilepsy. In simple terms, epilepsy results from disturbed electrical activity in the brain, leading to seizures. It is a very disruptive condition that can interfere with the person’s daily life. There is a spectrum of severity levels, ranging from experiencing auras to partial seizures, all the way to grand mal seizures. While multiple medications exist, very few of them completely treat the condition. People still suffer from seizures, that may be less severe or frequent, but are there nevertheless. This presents a great barrier in school, work and personal life. It can also lead to a great feeling of insecurity and self-doubt. As I have written before, it took great courage for this person to not only reach out to me, but also open up the true reasons of why this art touches her on a deeper level. I greatly respect her for this.
This interaction led to a request for designing a piece of art that could depict the state of epilepsy to the rest of the world. While the outer symptoms of a seizure may be relatively apparent to the outside world, what goes on inside is a bit more difficult to define. With my passion for cellular neuroscience, I happily took on the challenge.
As a matter of fact, a very personal connection to epilepsy served as the springboard for my decision to begin studying the field of neuroscience in the first place. Suffice it to say that this condition is a very sensitive topic for my family. During my college years, I searched for internship opportunities in this field. While my field of study ended up being a bit different, the mere mention of a potential epilepsy project triggered a flurry of emotions in me. It was not only my first commission – it was the first time I felt emotionally connected to the project beyond the level of admiration of cellular beauty.
Below are some work in progress pictures of how this piece came into existence. All cells were made completely three-dimensional, and the colors were a bit different from the traditional scientific palette of indigo blue, red and green. By using pastel blue and pink, I wanted to show that these cells are not only beautiful, but also delicate and fragile. They make connections that are infinitely complex, but also prone to error. Keeping with my theme of “science outside the box” and “art beyond the frame,” all cells reach their processes outside the “field” that would have been photographed under a microscope. Furthermore, they reach out towards the viewer and hang onto the outer frame for support. Along these delicate processes, I have placed a number of bright red action potentials – electrical signals that transmit information. Their large size and bright colors symbolize the intensity of signaling that is conducted during a seizure. At such intensity, they are highly disruptive to the delicate balance of the nervous system, but are beautiful nevertheless. They are the lightning bolts in this condition of an “internal storm.”
I am very grateful for this opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life and am very excited to ship off “The Internal Storm” in the next few days!
I would also love to hear if you have any ideas for future projects that I should explore. Please let me know your thoughts in the comment section below.
Daily Prompt: Vivid