NYC dream: A cognitive model of cancer signaling in painting

I wrote this as an assignment for Dr. Anne Perry’s Humanities class at the Art Institute. Interestingly, later, I had a chance to meet Steven J. Oscherwitz in person for a Leonardo meeting.

Visual Artist: Steven J. Oscherwitz

Bio. Summary: Steven J. Oscherwitz is a painter and a draftsman who works on digital sculptures, tactile and virtual fabrication and assemblies, art-science projects in collaboration with researchers from the University of Washington. He received his B.A. in Philosophy and Biology from the Miami University in Oxford Ohio in 1975. Next, he received his B.F.A. (1981) and M.F.A.(1983) in painting and drawing from the School of Art Institute of Chicago. He worked as an instructor teaching painting and drawing integrated with history of philosophy and the history of science at the Art Institute of Chicago. In addition, he taught a course at the department of comparative ideas at the University of Washington. Till date Steven remains an art-science proponent and an active member of Leonardo – the international society for the arts, science and technology.

Source (s): LinkedIn. Steven Oscherwitz. 10 Oct. 2014 <>

Artwork title: Painting within a cancer cell 

Commentary on art: “Painting within a cancer cell” is an interdisciplinary work using techniques from painting, fluid dynamics, nanotechnology and cancer research. Utilizing a pair of laser beams (known as optical tweezers), he assembles, renders and maneuvers acrylic beads of 105 microns size. Then he places these nano-architectonic structures within cancer cells. Composed in a microscopic environment, his paintings may provide an anchorage between aesthetic experience and scientific practice.

Source(s): 1. Art Science Collaboration Inc., Painting within cancer cells, 11 Oct. 2014 <>

2. Oscherwitz, Steven J. 2005. “Art/Technoscience Engages Cancer Research.” Leonardo 38 (1):11

Personal response: Oscherwitz’s “Painting within a cancer cell” is not a result of an experiment aimed towards finding cure for cancer. Rather, it is an attempt to reconcile an aesthetic experience in the process of the experimental design. The micro-painting tries to capture an abstract expressionism of biochemical signaling within cancer cells. The gel-like fluidic structure of cytoplasm of the cancer cell (shown in black and white boundary) frames the bold colored painting in the center. In addition, it creates a juxtaposition of the beauty in the signaling of a life form and the fear related to cancer as a disease. The shape of the fluid is very organic and full of curved lines as seen under the microscope. Interestingly, the shapes in the painting at the center are mostly straight lines. With occasional blue lines, the color palette is predominantly warm – a connection to the higher metabolism in cancer cells! The focal point in the painting is the pink shape surrounded by straight lines to the right and left sides. Although the sense of perspective is subtle here, the black and white framing immediately takes viewers’ attentions to the center. My only question as a cancer researcher is – if Oscherwitz painted the signaling within a normal healthy cell side-by side how different would that look like? Would it have predominantly cool colors like blue and green? Would it be less complicated?

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