Sunday at 10PM, the Science Track YouTube channel streamed the “Science and Art” panel. Moderator Lali DeRosier and panelists Charon Henning and Celia Yost debated not only how science informs art, but proved, in this observer’s opinion, that art also informs science.
Beginning with the contrast of STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) with STEAM (adding an ”A” for “Art”), Henning, a science artist and illustrator asserted that the “A” makes all the other letters accessible. Yost, also an artist, agreed, adding that for her to understand something, “show me a picture.”
DeRosier, a science teacher, discussed the rigor required to create art versus the concept that you either have artistic ability or you don’t, that art is either an inborn-talent or is free-willing. Yost added that visual art is visual communication and that you don’t have to be rigorous if you don’t want to. This gets muddy for some people especially if they are communicating feelings as opposed to spatial information.
Henning pointed out the difference between scientific illustration versus science art. Both are art but scientific illustration has specific and stringent standards. She sponsors a science art initiative on Twitter each year, “March Mammal Madness.” Displaying her drawing of a cobra posted as part of that program [author note: apparently in a special guest reptile appearance], Henning explained that the sketch was science art. Scientific illustration, to the greatest extent possible, would have exactly represented the cobra’s anatomical features.
DeRosier noted that her students would create widely different interpretations when asked to draw specimens. Without artistic training, students would focus on the wrong aspects. Very specific direction was then required. Nonetheless, she displayed a striking and colorful collage of her students’ hexagonal cell structure depictions, each itself a collage of cloth, paper, and whatnots donated from contributing parents’ junk drawers. Another student collage shown, represented a crowded but distinctly authentic coral reef in three-dimensional, multi-media art.
In closing the panel, DeRosier commented that science contributed to art, even the best fantasy versus science-fiction art. Henning replied that she had just realized that science informs art but queried, “does art inform science?”
After attending this exquisitely illustrated and informative panel, my answer is a resounding “Indubitably!”