Art and Brains

What can your brain create?
What can your brain create?  Above, designer Jean Paul Gaultier has no problems in the creativity department.

The power of the brain is amazing.  Science is helping artists understand the brain’s potential in creation.  A healthy brain influences, engages, and aids in the interpretation of art.  Neuroscience has tried to understand and predict how the mind, brain, and art work together.  Can art be explained by science?

In the summer edition of Artnews and NPR, Eric Kandel discusses neuroscience and art.  Kandel is a neuropsychiatrist who received the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for research of memory storage in neurons.  He is a professor at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and was founding director of the Center for Neurobiology and Behavior.  Some of his books includes: Memory: From Mind to Molecules, In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind, and The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain, from Vienna 1900 to the Present.

Kandel to Ira Glass on NPR: “Well, scientists certainly need to talk to artists because they want to fill their life with beauty, and it’s inspiring to be able to go to a good exhibition and see great works of art, interact with artists.  And also to try to understand the nature of art, how we respond to it, how the creative process works, is one of the great goals of science. In addition, one would like to think that artists also benefit from what neuroscientists can bring about. For example, they certainly learned a great deal when the nature of color was dissected, and we realized how colors are put together.  They learned a great deal in the Renaissance.  Leonardo da Vinci studied the human body, did autopsies in order to see how the bones relate to one another so you can get a more realistic depiction. And one would hope that as people understand what happens in the brain as one responds to art, as one creates art, they would be able to use those ideas to create new art forms or at least to more effectively influence certain emotional states in the brain.”

It’s fascinating that the science community is interested in understanding the art process.  As an educator, students often find it difficult to explain their art.  They don’t want to take the time and effort to investigate for fear of failure, embarrassment, and inaccuracy.  If science can help bridge this gap and artists can add to the dialogue, the possibilities are endless.

As an artist, I’m always looking for ways to expand, improve, and challenge my art practice.  For example, at 82 years old young Mr. Kandel is on to the next adventure.  Michael Z. Wise of Artnews: “Kandel says he has been thinking about helping to start a new doctoral program within Columbia’s psychology department that would have students experiment with measuring neurological responses to art and conducting research to advance the burgeoning field of neroesthetics.”  Undoubtedly, Kandel is an example of focus and determination who has perfected the art form of exploring the mind and beyond.

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