I’m a bit of a science nerd. I want to know how the world works. I want to travel to the stars. I want to understand the cosmos and the stuff squirming under the rock.
I don’t want to do the math.
So, I’m not a scientist. When I was younger, I thought I could understand physics if I could get 30 minutes in a room with Carl Sagan. My current science crush is Neil deGrasse Tyson, of course. He’s funny, a mensch, and has a terrific podcast, Star Talk. In fact, one day I hope he’ll agree to participate in my Dare to Touch the Face of God project in response to fear mongering and intolerance. That’s for another time.
(I also have a crush on Geordi LaForge, but he’s not real. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Steve knows.)
I was listening to podcast with Dr. Tyson (I know he wants me to call him Neil, because, after all, he is my personal astrophysicist!), that I was thunderstruck with the notion and art and science are two sides of the same coin.
I don’t mean that traditional photographers and potters have to the understand the chemistry of their processes to get their emulsion coatings or glazes formulas right, though it’s true.
I mean that art and science have the same goal: discovery.
Art is communication of ideas and emotions and memories and calls to action. Science is communication of ideas and emotions and memories and calls to action. Art and science reveal worlds newly discovered. Everyday. We just do it differently.
We all learned the scientific method in school: postulate a theory (idea), then prove or disprove the hypothesis. Experimentation. Trial and error. Research. Failure. Years of painstaking measurements, recording results. What happens if I try this? Small movements forward, step by step.
An artist does the same thing. In the studio, I will struggle with an idea, and spend days, weeks, even years to get the right combination of substrates, media, and execution to realize the idea. I work. I record. I experiment. I succeed — or fail. The trash gets pretty full.
I have work hanging in the C-Train Gallery at Washington University this summer. The building is filled with scientists and labs and experiments that one day may produce life-saving treatments. I talked to scientists about art all night. They were hungry for it. I was delighted!
In conversation with one tall, impressive-looking man, I broached the idea that he and I, the scientist and the artist, were cousins. We had the same goal. We dream something up in our heads and work to make it real, then we have a hellish time explaining what we do to the rest of the world.
The world thinks the scientist is the brilliant misanthrope in the lab, cooking up something to heal or destroy the planet.
The world thinks the artist is the flakey nut (who apparently is independently wealthy) who –la, la, la– paints and plays and toils at nothing.
No, we are the people who bring ideas to the world. We bring inspiration and hope, and sometimes we bring answers. We need art in the world as much as we need science. We need science in the world as much as we need art.
We talked about this idea for a while. Yes, he agreed. We are cousins.
Then he bought one of my Polaroid Paintings. I love science!