Unlocking the creative block

SciArt Center Art Residency Program Week 13 – originally published on 12/13/18

The last two weeks have been a bit of a blur.  After completing several layers of cells, I have hit a wall and decided that I needed a break from this project.  I feel like it is the time to decide on where to put the clear white jewel in the background before it will be covered with stings of beads and become very difficult to access.  Similar to my previous work, this jewel would represent hope.  But I am stuck on deciding where it should be and feel like I can’t move forward without making this decision. 

In following multiple artists on social media, I have long been intending to adapt the practice of working on several projects in parallel.  So I finally decided to leave “Mapping Manhattan” alone for a while and let it breathe.  But of course, my hands cannot stay still.  I decided to return to a project that I have put aside at the beginning of this residency and begin filling in the background…


…and I played around with digitally manipulating the current work in progress.

Digital Manipulation

This week I also attended a very inspiring talk by Amy E. Herman on “The Art of Perception” in the Art of Medicine seminar series at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.  Amy refers to herself as a “recovering attorney” and has a M.A. in art history.  She uses art to communicate the importance of being objective in our observations and decision-making.  Every single slide in her hour-long talk was a piece of art without a single word of text.  She knew all of them by heart.  And every single image had a very specific message for the audience.  These included:

  • Using works of art to ask questions
  • Being aware that nothing is obvious or clear and that things can be seen from different perspectives (which speaks to Beholder’s share that Darcy has written about)
  • Being able to assess, analyze, articulate and act based on our observations in both viewing art and daily life
  • Using art as a springboard for asking and re-framing questions
  • Being able to pay attention to both details and the big picture; shifting perspectives
  • Being aware of bias that comes from personal experience
  • And possibly most importantly – being able to see the extraordinary in the everyday, leading to better decisions

It was quite fascinating how so many questions could be simultaneously applied to both viewing art and treating patients and it made me think back to the core message I see behind SciArt – breaking the communication barrier between the biomedical community and general public/patients.

While physicians may try to simplify their terminology and use visual aids to demonstrate complex medical concepts to the patients, the patients themselves may also need a more universal language.  The patients often feel afraid of the physiological processes they do not understand and re-framing disease into beautiful scientific, yet approachable images, may bring them a sense of comfort.  This may be especially true for patients who recover.  There is a wide spectrum of approaches patients take to communicate what they have gone through.  Some are very brave in openly speaking about their experiences, but some still feel very stigmatized.  I believe that scientific artwork can serve as an icebreaker for such difficult conversations.  But does every piece of art need to have a specific message?…


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