UMass Med Professor Portrays the Brain’s Functions as Art
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
The exhibition is part of the ongoing Artist in Residence series being held at the Library. This exhibition, entitled "Brainscapes", began September 10th that will end Monday, October 29th.
The art mixes the biological with the creative, the real with the fictional and imaginary, all to portray the microscopic structure of the brain.
Art and science can be natural allies.
This unique display exemplifies the interconnectivity of science and art, and the natural beauty of the living (and life-giving) organisms science seeks to study and explain.
“The attraction was not only to inquiry and discovery, but also to the aesthetics of living things, particularly of neurons,” says Dr. Budnik.
"The artistic portrayals of the inner workings of the brain have both aesthetic and educational value," says Nancy Linnehan, Co-Chair of the Cultural Events team at the Lamar Soutter Library.
Budnik, a Chilean immigrant who is now a professor and vice chair of neurobiology at UMass Medical School, was inspired by two key sources allowing her to produce her art and gain the ability to combine art and neurology: Native and South American Art, and the work of Santiago Ramon Y Cajal, who won the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine in 1906. He was also an avid drawer.
Cajal's work in the realm of medical and physiological science, much like Budnik's, centered around the microscopic structure and inner workings and complexities of the brain. He is considered by many today as the father of modern neuroscience. His many illustrations of brain cells are still used for educational purposes today.
Similary, Budnik's artistic abilities are able to further exemplify her accomplishments in her field of scientific research. Much of her art appears in the same scientific journals in which she has published articles. For instance, her art was on the cover of the journal Nature Neuroscience in February 2011 (see picture; it is an artistic rendering of the behavioral plasticity of fruit flies); in addition, the journals Cell, Neuron, Journal of Neuroscience, and PLos Biology have featured her brain art.
Indeed, art was one of Budnik's first loves, before she decided ultimately to go into the field of Neurobiology. She began graduate studies at Brandeis University in 1984, focusing on Biophysics.
“I developed a strong fascination with the power and beauty of invertebrate model systems, particularly with the use of genetics to address fundamental neurobiological questions,” she says.
She now focuses her scientific studies on the molecular processes involved in learning and memory.
Now she is able to combine both loves, as the natural "power" and "beauty" of the inner workings of the mind can be displayed by the natural talent that is the product of her mind.
"This is Dr. Budnik's first time in exhibiting here," says Linnehan. "We think and hope there will be many more. She is a really great person."
As mentioned, this is part of the ongoing Artists in Residence Series at UMass Medical's Lamar Soutter Library. Anyone with a connection to the UMass Memorial community is welcome to apply to have their art displayed, no matter the medium.
"It gives everyone the opportunity to exhibit," adds Linnehan.
There is usually new art featured every six weeks.
For more information, click here.
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