Photos C/O Connor Maclean
By: Noel Kim
Six-year-old Noel dreamt of becoming an artist while her high-school self was fascinated by science. Which was the true Noel? As it turns out, both were.
I used to wrestle with my seemingly conflicting interests. Science and art were the Romeo and Juliet of education, a forbidden match. I am not alone in my experience of this conflict.
I had the opportunity last year to work with Shira Weiss, the co-founder of the Visualizing Science Exhibition. She explained her motivation for the exhibition: “There were no opportunities at McMaster for science students to engage in an art community and we wanted to create something that brought together both worlds,”
Now in its fourth year, Visualizing Science is an annual exhibition that showcases students’ artwork inspired by research at the university. It’s an exciting step that McMaster students have taken in bridging the gap.
One of the biggest divides between science and art is the perception that the former is objective while the latter is subjective. It is a lie that science is unbiased, and I am not merely referring to the bureaucracy that permeates the research process. In designing a scientific experiment, scientists choose the lenses through which they will observe the world. In presenting their results, scientists choose the frame that delineates how their findings are applicable to the world. This is necessary, but it is still important that we acknowledge that science also carries bias.
As a science student, I realize the importance of ensuring that research is accurate and honest, that rules are followed and subjects protected. It makes sense then that peer-reviewed science journals are not the appropriate place for emotion. This is exactly why scientists need to be more open to other avenues that can bring the humanity back into their fields.
Thankfully, there is a real movement happening in science to value aesthetic visuals. The science community is beginning to realize that blending art and science is a powerful way to share ideas.
Many scientific publications now require graphical abstracts. Researchers and artists are partnering to develop diagrams and figures. This is only a few of the many collaborations between scientists and artists.
Still, there remains a palpable divide between the realms of art and science. While there are individuals swimming across, what we need is a wide bridge that would become well-travelled, worn, and maintained. In building this bridge, we must begin with examining how science and art are unified.
Sometimes I look up at the night sky in awe and I wonder what makes the stars’ sparkle so brightly. Perhaps this is a view of an artist, searching for a way to depict the night sky on a canvas. Or perhaps I look up from a scientific lens, pondering a way to understand how stars came to be. Scientists, in their purest form, are captivated by a phenomenon in the world. They seek to capture that phenomenon in some communicable way. Is this not also the quest of artists?
Both science and art are predicated on the power of keen observation. Both begin with curiosity and end with communication. Both have the power to include, reveal, equalize. Both are results of the creative mind. When we begin to realize the connections between science and art, we allow ourselves to build those bridges and cross them.