NOVA’s “Secret Life” was something that automatically resonated with me as a life science educator and an artist for two reasons, first of all the idea of a “secret life” really explores the idea of a polymath.
The second reason was the program’s staff spent hours interviewing me to reveal and visualize just a snippet of a story. This is very much like creating art and doing science, hours, days, years, a lifetime are often spent absorbing, connecting, and relating to something before you ever produce a skill, an idea, or something of meaning. It verifies that process is fundamental to deep knowledge and it was fun to do!
My relationship with living systems and the planet exists primarily through my experiments in art with my subject—life—and there is a volley going on between what’s “out there,” and “what’s in us.” We are fundamentally organically expressed genes that were (genome) and are (epigenome—and who knows what else?!) continually sculpted by the planet. To get to know the unquantifiable, that is life, you have to engage your own creative ability, appreciate that skill, and have a deep respect for all living things. This is what Leonardo DaVinci taught us. DaVinci loved animals, plants, and creativity, and he had something E.O. Wilson termed “biophilia.” This is what made him a great scientist. We desperately need this in the teaching of life sciences today, more than ever. This “way of knowing and feeling” is present in all cultures and a reflection of diversity in general. The evolutionary synergy of ecology of place, the eye, the hand, and the brain link us to all other living systems. All teaching to some degree is theater and, of course, content. Trying to depict systems as alive is a challenge, and one that art is extremely well suited for. My art is how I get to know, teach, and understand living systems that are undergoing constant transformations, transitions, and fluctuations. Art is a non-invasive tool for reconnecting on a regular basis with the mystery of life, including your own.