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CLASH! When art & science meet… February 22, 2010

Posted by Dr. O in Biology, Environment/Conservation, Uncategorized.
Tags: ,

While this post is slightly off the beaten path of scientific findings…one of my other interests is to examine how science infiltrates and influences other walks of life.  One of my favorite things to witness is when art and culture run head on into science.

I figured I’d blog about this after reading a short news piece on the fashion designer, Vivienne Westwood.  She is known for her punky, off-the-wall fashion loved by millions, but recently she was stated as saying, “I hope people stop buying my clothes!” after a recent fashion show.  Why, you may ask?  Turns out Westwood is a huge fan of the environment and has somewhat recently become more and more impassioned about climate change.  She realizes the huge carbon footprint that comes at the expense of consumerism and has thus turned her catwalk into a crusade on eco-consciousness to educate people about current environmental policy.  She recently designed a t-shirt to bring attention to global warming and released the sale of it just before the climate talks in Copenhagen earlier this year. She remains a supporter of REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation).

Vivienne Westwood's REDD+ t-shirt

In the world of music, Sting (former front man of The Police) and his wife, Trudie Styler,  have been an ardent supporter of the Rainforest Action Network and is joined from the film world by Leonardo DiCaprio and his efforts to maintain biodiversity.  In the realm of literature, Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma (the current book choice for Marian University’s “senior seminar”), has brought attention to millions about the way we eat and the way the production of food influences our lives both in health and in environmental sustainability.

But how science has influenced art and culture can be witnessed throughout history.  Leonardo da Vinci was both brilliantly left- AND right-brained.  He was not only a magnificent painter ( he painted the most recognizable painting, the Mona Lisa,  as well as The Last Supper, and more science-y Vitruvian Man) but also a brilliant scientist and inventor.  He conceptualized the first helicopter, thought about early solar cells to capture solar energy, and mused about plate tectonics!  He often wrote  the details of his inventions backwards to prevent theft.  His ideas were only discernible by holding the blueprints up to a mirror.  His detailed and beautiful artwork was obviously improved by his attention to details of anatomy…of which he explored on real life cadavers with early medical doctors.

Vitruvian Man

da Vinci's helicopter

da Vinci's anatomical drawings

But other artists and designers have explored the clash of art and science over the years.  One of my favorite artists, Frida Kahlo, was almost killed in a bus accident as a young girl.  Her back was broken, pelvis and legs shattered, and she was left bed-ridden for years.  She never properly healed from her injuries and lived in constant pain.  This theme of pain and medical intervention wove itself into her works as well as her love for the natural beauty of her native land of Mexico.

Kahlo self-portrait depicting her braces and spinal rod insertions

Self-portrait depicting bed-ridden contemplation of death, nature, etc

double self-portrait depicting emotions from the "heart" concerning love, native culture, consciousness, etc

Kahlo's love of her natural surroundings is portrayed in her art

Kahlo felt a groundedness in the cycle of life & death in nature

I have also enjoyed more recent fashion work by the designer, Alexander McQueen.  From his human ribcage-inspired  (as well as faux alligator skin-inspired) Samsonite suitcase, to his beautiful nature-inspired clothing.  He seems to be inspired by pieces of nature from oysters to butterflies to birds and even diatoms! Check out the comparisons below:

Ribcage-inspired suitcase

Oyster-inspired dress

REAL oyster

Parrot-inspired dress

REAL parrot

More avian-inspired dresses

More avian-inspired dresses

Butterfly-inspired dress

REAL Monarch butterflies

Diatom-inspired dresses

Diatom-inspired dresses

REAL diatoms

Anyone else want to comment about neat clashes of science and art?


1. isotopeeffect - February 22, 2010

The ribcage suitcase is neat, but it is a little disturbing to wonder what the contents might be…

2. More art & science « MU Science Blog - May 13, 2010

[…] art & science May 13, 2010 Posted by Dr. O in Uncategorized. trackback A previous post of mine explored how science influences art and vice versa.  Here is another great link exploring […]

3. Scientist In Residence: Danny Richter on the To Humble Diatom | Deep Sea News - January 15, 2011

[…] they appreciated the little things in life. While you still make appearances now and again in modern life, let’s face it: being microscopic and aquatic, recognition is an up-current battle, and you […]

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