Monday, December 17, 2012

Wired Beauty

I was chatting on twitter with a few friends today about buzzwords we hate: paradigms, synergy, gamification and so on. Afterward, I somehow got stuck in my brain the beginning of a lovely poem, Pied Beauty, by Gerard Manley Hopkins, which begins, "Glory be to God for dappled things" and celebrates the beauty in imperfection. With apologies to Hopkins, I update the poem for 2012.

Wired Beauty
GLORY be to God for disruptive tech— 
  For apps of couple-colour as a branded cow;    
    For data gleaned from chips upon trout that swim;     
For viral video of finches’ wings;              
Paradigms plotted and pieced—push, pivot and plug;            
    And all trades, their transactions well tracked.               

All things counter, original, spare, strange;          
  Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)              
    With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;    
All those things whose beauty is past change:           
                  Upgrade them.              

You should really read the original

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Petri Dishes Today, Holiday Market Tomorrow

I just listed my last dozen petri dish ornaments online, and now I'm getting ready to sell my work for 5 days at DC's Downtown Holiday Market. It's right in front of The National Portrait Gallery and is definitely worth a visit, particularly between December 7-11, when I'll be there! (The market continues until December 23 - vendors rotate)

I'll have lots of new work, both science-y and not, but if you're looking for a particular item, please let me know so I'll be sure to bring it along. Can't bring my whole inventory - too much stuff for one 10 x 10 tent. One thing I will have is a few one-of-a-kind scarves that are not on my website.

Hope to see lots of you DC folks there. I usually ask people to bring me coffee because it's so cold standing outside from 12-8 in December, but this year I think I'll be just fine, with temperatures predicted in the 50s and even 60s. But I certainly won't turn down a coffee if you bring me one!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Holiday Hints

December is creeping up on us, and holiday shopping season is in full swing. I hope that some of you will be wanting to buy some of my work as gifts - to yourself or others. So, just a couple of words about my schedule.

Apart from the scarves, I'm making everything by hand, and I've been struggling a bit to keep up with demand for petri dish ornaments. I will continue to make them this week and next, but from December 7th to the 11th I will be at the Downtown Holiday Market all day, and thus unable to make any more. And since they take at least three days start to finish, we're really talking about December 15th, at which point it may be a bit late. So - to avoid disappointment, please order ornaments by December 5!

If you're in the DC area, please do come visit me at the Downtown Holiday Market from Friday the 7th to Tuesday the 11th. (The market continues most of the month, but those are the only days that I will be there - the vendors rotate.) And please, if you are planning to come and you want something specific, please ask in advance (via email, twitter or etsy) because I can't bring all my stuff with me every day. I would hate for you to come out and be disappointed.

Anyway, I hope this doesn't sound bossy or pushy - I love you all and I thank you soooo much for your business. But alas, I can't send Teapot the kitty to the Post Office for me. And we already know how helpful he is with the resin.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Fat Cat the Resin

Yesterday, my petri dish ornaments were featured on BoingBoing and Neatorama, so I suddenly had lots of sales – yay! So I had to hustle and get everything I had into my etsy shop. I also decided to make a small batch of new ornaments with the last of my resin.

The resin I’m using takes a full 24 hours to dry, so I poured it yesterday afternoon and left it overnight to dry on my work table.

In the night my cat, Teapot, started acting strangely, racing around frantically from room to room. I ignored him and tried to get back to sleep. About 5 am, I gave up and got up. I discovered a petri dish full of resin quite far from where I had left it the night before. Its surface, still sticky, was covered with odd marks. Then, when I fed teapot, I noticed that the fur on his butt was standing up in stiff tufts as if he had used hair gel. I put two and two together. The fat cat had sat in the resin.

He spent much of the next hour trying to lick it off.  I’m still not sure whether I’ll have to give him a haircut. Tune in next week for more adventures of crafty cat.

Previously.... Teapot helps with painting.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Ornaments Have Arrived!

The first bunch of petri dish ornaments are in the shop now. Each one is individually hand-painted, resin-coated and gift-boxed.  I wish I could make them a little cheaper, but the resin really added to the cost. To ease the pain, I've fixed the shipping so that, no matter how many ornaments you buy, they all ship for the price of one. 

More are in progress, but I made sure the first lot included kitty microbes, swine and bird flu viruses and lots of other microbial goodness. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Sneak Peek

New Christmas ornaments for 2012 in progress. This year each one will be hand-painted and coated in resin.

Look for them in the etsy shop next week.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Last-Quarter Plans

Wow, we’re already most of the way through 2012. Astonishingly, I only have two more shows this year. But, like Tim Tebow, I've saved some of my best stuff for the final quarter. So if you want to see my work IRL, try to make it to one of these:

October 14        MPAArtfest – this is a new one for me, a really nice fine art show put on by the McLean Project for the Arts. I decided to go with just abstract and science art for this one. Coffee cups and cats can wait for another day.

December 7-11         Downtown Holiday Market – I’ll be spending five days in front of the National Portrait Gallery as part of this wonderful downtown DC shopping experience. You should really come, and go to the museum at the same time, and bring me a coffee. I’ll remind you.

In the meantime, I’ll be hard at work creating new stuff for my etsy shop, including paintings, Christmas ornaments and (if all goes well, fingers crossed) some new scarf designs in time for the holidays. Stay tuned.

BTW, I painted this yesterday: Nice, huh? I’ll be bringing it with me to McLean, unless someone buys it before Sunday....

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Serious Stuff

Onward and upward with Artologica! Even though I am ridiculously old to be doing a lot of things for the first time, it’s better than never doing them at all. So I’m delighted to tell you about two pieces of news. First (the first first? Oh dear), I’ll be co-moderating a session at the ScienceOnline Conference in January with Dr. Cedar Riener. We’ll be talking about visual metaphors in science communication. Sounds pretty serious, huh? I’m practicing this face:

ScienceOnline is just about the best thing ever. I went last year and I met so many great people and learned so much, I am delighted to be part of the official program this year. If you’ve never heard of it, go have a look at the website.

The "second first" is one I told you about earlier, but now it’s actually happened. The novel with my painting on it arrived! There I am in print on the cover of James Meek’s book The Heart Broke In. I’ll be blogging about the book itself soon. It releases on October 2nd, so you can all go down to Barnes & Noble and take pictures of it and tweet them to me. Or buy the book - James would probably appreciate that more ; ) 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Caught in a Bad Translation

On my trip to storage the other day, I found another piece of my past. This is a painting I did many years ago, probably around 2003. It's another watercolor grid, this time with a deeply romantic stanza from the Russian poet Mikhail Lermontov.

Way back in the day, I studied Russian and lived in Moscow for a few years. But now my Russian is fairly rusty, and I wanted to make sure I wasn't too far off in telling you what this painting said. I couldn't find an English translation online, so I ran it through Google translate. Well, as they say in Moscow, kha, kha, kha!

Here's the original Russian:

Одной тобою жил поэт,
Скрываючи в груди мятежной
Страданья многих, многих лет,
Свои мечты, твой образ нежный.

(Up to here is what's actually on the painting)

На зло враждующей судьбе
Имел он лишь одно в пре‹д›мете:
Всю душу посвятить тебе,
И больше никому на свете!..

Here's my rough translation

For you alone the poet lived,
Concealing in his turbulent breast
The sufferings of many, many years, 
His dreams, and your sweet image.

In strife-riven, evil fate,
He had only one subject,
To devote to you his whole soul
And to no one else on earth.

We get the picture. The guy was seriously smitten, and the lady didn't want to know. Here's what Google translate gave me:

One thee poet lived,
Skryvayuchi chest rebel
The suffering of many, many years,
Your dreams, your way of tender.

For evil warring fate
He had only one thing in the pre <x> Weather forecast:
Devote his whole soul to you,
And nobody else in the world! 

Now, to be fair. To be fair, there is some old-fashioned wording in there. The poem was written in 1830. I have no idea why one letter in the word predmet (subject) is in brackets, which obviously threw off the algorithm. But how's that for modern romance?  Poor old Skryvayuchi chest rebel had only one thing in the pre <x> Weather forecast. Oh baby, y u no share ur way of tender?  No wonder he died young of a broken heart. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Great Science Art Giveaway - Day 5

Congrats to @SciTriGrrl!

Last one is an Artologica classic in bright colors. Find it at my shop and buy it for 50 cents.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Politics and Art the Artologica Way

Back before I started painting dividing cells, I painted - other stuff. Mostly abstract watercolors, often in the same kind of grid patterns that I still use. I'm pretty sure that many people suspected my paintings were about nothing, like Seinfeld.  I like to keep my message subtle. I usually don't like art that whacks me over the head with its politics, so I usually don't make it. Here's a little look behind the curtain at some older pieces and what they have to say.

Blue Code 7, 2008

I made a whole series of blue paintings during the run-up to the 2008 election. I was interested in the various symbolic meanings of blue (true blue, blue chip, blue ribbon, etc), especially the idea of "blue states". Blue states, aesthetically speaking , are much calmer and deeper than angry, hot red states. (Of course I would think that because, despite having grown up in Indiana, a became a godless East coast librul.) The scribbles in masking fluid are my thoughts about the primary battle between Obama and Hillary Clinton. I was conflicted. You can read them if you try really hard.

Ballooniverse Too, 2009

After the stock market and housing market crashed, I started obsessively drawing bubbles. Partly it was a very direct (unoriginal?) response to the bursting of the economic bubble. I also painted a lot of floating zeroes, expressing my inability to fathom the gigantic amounts of theoretical wealth that simply "floated away" as housing values and stock market prices crashed.  Interestingly, despite the cheerful, pretty surface of these pieces, nobody really likes them, and I have hardly sold any. Either people just prefer my work in squares or they can detect the influence of the dismal science lurking beneath.

Down with Bush, 2005

This has been sitting in a drawer in my studio (aka dining room) for seven years. I painted three of these, to commemorate the second inaugural of George W. Bush on January 20, 2005. One I gave away to a like-minded friend, one I sold to a drunk person at a festival, and this one I kept. They all feature symbols such as equal signs, question marks and fish. The text, in Russian, says Долой Буша - "Down with Bush". It is unsubtle. That's OK too.

The Great Art Science Giveaway, Day 4

Congrats to RLD! Enjoy your scarf : )

Today's giveaway is soft, if you can wrap your mind around that. Go find it at my shop and it's yours for 50 cents plus shipping.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Great Science Art Giveaway, Day 3

Congrats to @akkleis!

Today's 50 cent painting is the biggest yet - and concerns basic biology. Go find it in my shop and buy it for a mere $.50 plus shipping.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

When you keep your brain cells in storage

In January 2011, I had a show of my paintings at the National Institutes of Health. (read about it here). The theme of the show was "Love and Death", and it featured paintings that showed the micro side of each - the various cells and structures involved in love (like the hair, skin, eyes, heart and brain) and death (bacteria, viruses and cancer). 

Some of the paintings from that show have gone on to new homes, some have been in other shows, and one will be on the cover of a book soon. But there was one - the brain - that has been sitting in storage ever since it came home from Bethesda.  I was convinced that it was sloppy and full of mistakes. 

This week, when I started thinking about which paintings to include in my giveaway, it crossed my mind to take a look at it again - maybe give it away, maybe cut it down into a few smaller pieces. So I went to take a look. But when I pulled it into the radiant light of the corridor at E-Z Storage, I had a different reaction than I expected. I wuz like NO WAI! (When I get excited, I speak lolcat.) This thing is rockin'! 

Yeah, it has some painting mistakes. No, I'm not telling you where they are. I'm just going to say OMG will you look at this brain cell painting. I made it. It's good. You should go to my shop and buy it and hang it on your wall. That is all.

The Great Science Art Giveaway, Day 2

This one is off to Australia!

Today's 50 cent painting is viral in nature. Go find it at my shop and buy it for just 50 cents plus shipping.

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Great Science Art Giveaway, Day 1

Update: Yeah, it's gone already.

Today's 50 cent painting is neural in nature. Go find it at my shop!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Celebrating Two Great Years on Etsy - with Free Art!

I opened the Artologica shop on etsy on September 7, 2010, with high hopes and modest expectations,which have been greatly surpassed. To say thanks to my wonderful friends, supporters and customers, I decided to give away some artwork this week. Here's how it's going to work.

Every day from Monday to Friday I'll pick one piece in my shop which will be priced at $0.50 - yep, 50 cents. I'll tweet it and blog it. And the first person who finds it can buy it for 50 cents plus shipping. 

You could say, hey, Michele, that's not free, and I would understand that, but this way I can make the freebies (super-cheapies?) available internationally. (And seriously, if you don't think my artwork is worth the cost of postage plus 50 cents, leave it for someone who does.)

I'll select a mix of different types of artwork and big and small pieces. And if you don't wind up with any free art, well, hugs and lolcats are still available at no charge.

Just one more thing: honor system. If you get a free painting, be nice and leave the rest for others, or you will make me sad. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

I (Kinda) Love Tebow

I’m a huge football fan - specifically, a proud citizen of Steeler Nation.  I can’t wait for the season to start!

But as a female person of the thinking variety, it’s hard for me to root enthusiastically for the Steelers’ quarterback, the giant oaf Ben Roethlisberger, so I have to look elsewhere for QBs to cheer. Aaron Rodgers is obviously out of the question, having beaten the Steelers in the Super Bowl, so I mainly stick with the ones everybody likes – Eli and Peyton Manning. I am delighted to see Peyton back in uniform, as I was to see Eli once again crush the smug Patriots in last year’s Super Bowl.  But my eye is wandering. I fear I must confess it – I kinda love Tim Tebow.

Tebow and I do not seem like an obvious match. I certainly don’t share his fervent Christian beliefs, and I made as much fun of him as anyone when he started out, what with the praying on the sidelines and the horribly embarrassing commercial with Ma Tebow explaining how she didn’t abort him. Ew!

And then there’s his bizarre playing. His physics-defying throwing motion, his abrupt charges down the field, his out-to-lunch demeanor for the first three quarters of any given game.  The insane, impossible wins. The spectacular flameouts.

I laughed as hard as anyone when he got traded to New York. Here was a guy who at 25 was not only a virgin but was proud of it, going to play in the big, mean city for a loudmouth coach.  But damned if he isn’t entertaining to watch. Even Drew Magary, the snarkiest sports snarker in all the land, agrees, hinting that perhaps Tebow is after all, a very nice man and occasionally effective quarterback (although his epic Deadspin post “What if Tim Tebow were gay?” lays out some vastly more interesting possibilities).

Another Deadspin writer, Sean Newell, explains, “We love watching sports because we love watching crazy shit happen. Sometimes that crazy shit is a wildly over-matched team beating its superior. Tebow and the Broncos piloted that roller coaster ride for half the season”. Based on his performance in last night’s preseason loss to Carolina – complete with mad dashes for first downs and wildly off-target throws – we can look forward to more of the same from Tebow the Jet.

As a bonus, because it’s New York, it’s after 6 and he’s not a farmer, we get Tebow in a tux. Thank you, Jesus. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

In which I dip a toe into the turbulent waters of career advice

Boy, have I read a lot of bad career advice lately! My favorite was the article that told artists to figure out which were the best galleries in the richest markets, and try to get their work in there. Ahahahahahahaha! Yup, let’s all submit our images to the Gagosian Gallery in New York and see how that goes.

I did read one piece by a guy named Mat Gleason that struck a chord with me, so I’d like to share some of it here.  Here’s my favorite line:

“Just make the art and sell it for whatever it takes to get it out of the studio and make more.” Yes.


“Everyone has great career advice for you that is current for 1979, or 1985 or 1994, whatever year they broke into the art world -- that is the master plan they insist everyone must follow; they assert you will not succeed unless you, too, do things like they did back then. 


There is no blueprint for a masterpiece and there is no blueprint for a successful art career. Like Gandhi said, "What you do will not be important but it is important that you do it." he didn't add " buy the overpriced book and DVD series on how to succeed at doing that unimportant important thing."

He has more to say about galleries, art schools, charity auctions and many other topics of interest to artists. You can read the rest here. Then go make some art.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Art is a rebuke to the cult of expertise

Although I'm a huge fan of science, I very much enjoyed this short piece by William Deresiewicz in The American Scholar today about how new scientific discoveries are considered by many to be the only "real" way of validating things we already knew, though experience or art.

"The problem, all around, is scientism: the belief that science is the only valid form of knowledge. To accept as much is to deny the authority of one’s own experience. Never mind Dickens; everyone who lives in a city understands that urban life is stressful. And it is nothing other than experience upon which art stakes its claim: the experience of the individual creator, and her ability to give it a form that resonates with our experience. Art is a rebuke to the cult of expertise. It is allied with citizenship, that other domain of the passionate amateur. In both, we stand on our right to speak from the self." 

It's well worth reading the rest of the piece here

Monday, August 13, 2012

Fall is Coming - updated

In this most endless of hot, hot DC summers, it seems premature to invoke Ned Stark and declare that "Winter is Coming". I mean, it is, of course, but not for a looooong time. However, the fall art festival season is almost upon us. Lots of events are coming up, beginning on Labor Day Weekend. Click any link below for lots more info about individual shows.

September 1 - 3      Glen Echo Park Labor Day Art Show
September 8           OutsideShow at AVAM, Baltimore, MD
September 9           Adams Morgan Day Festival, DC
September 15         H Street Festival, DC 
September 22         Hyattsville Arts Festival , MD 
October 6               Art on the Avenue, Alexandria, VA
October 14             MPA Artfest, McLean, VA

Please note that the Glen Echo show is a large group show where each artist displays 2 pieces. The rest are regular art festivals where I'll have a tent full of stuff.

Friday, August 10, 2012

On choosing to be where you don’t belong

Yesterday I went off a little bit on Twitter about blog posts written by two people, who are both intelligent, accomplished women and nice people. They were writing about “Impostor Syndrome” – the sense that, against all external evidence, they are frauds and do not deserve their accomplishments and success. 

They wrote in the context of being invited to a prestigious and exclusive invitation-only conference (with, y’know, Nobel Prize winners and best-selling authors) and feeling that they didn’t belong.  This made me so mad and sad that I actually sat at the computer, typing furiously while tears ran down my face. You were chosen. They invited you. You got to go. They wanted to hear what you had to say.

After a little sleep and some reading I feel a little more empathy. It must really suck if, after years of hard work and achievement, you still don’t feel like you deserve what you’ve accomplished.

I guess I do not suffer from Impostor Syndrome, for which I am grateful.  I am, however, an actual impostor. I think perhaps it’s both better and worse.

No, I’m not an impostor in the identity-theft sense. If anyone cared to track my movements over the past 40 years, they probably could with little difficulty.

I am an impostor because I am trying to do things for which I am not, strictly speaking, qualified. I am a professional artist of over a decade, but I have no background in art. I have taken two classes, intro to drawing and intro to painting.  I have never been invited to join a gallery. The life of the “real” professional artist, with a few galleries and shows every year or so, bears little resemblance to mine.

In the past few years, my greatest success has come in science-based work. My background in science, since my high-school years in the late 18th century, has consisted of reading books and blogs.

I have a degree in political science (summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, etc., thank you, thank you) from 20 years ago. If I chose to try to work in that field, I wouldn’t have much luck either, because I never used a statistics package. Political science was more theoretical then.

So I made up my own thing, and I am trying my damnedest to make it work. Selling on etsy has been a wonderful thing for me, both in terms of enlarging my audience and making some money, but it has also cut me off even more from the mainstream art world. Galleries don’t want to work with artists who sell directly to the public – they want to do that for you. That’s how it works. I made this choice, and in many ways it has been a good one for me, but I have to admit to myself that there will always be people – many people – in the art world who look down at an artist who sells her work herself. I was not worthy to be chosen. I had to choose myself.

Obviously, I don’t belong in the science world either. I got a kick-in-the-face reminder of that this week. After being asked to attend a real, serious, scientific conference and give a presentation about my work, I got an email to say that, after all, the budget wouldn’t stretch quite that far, but I was welcome to come on my own tab (for reference, I have grossed $50 in the last 7 days).  A lot of science people like me, they cheer me on, they buy my work - for which I am so, so grateful - but I'm not one of them. I never will be. 

So – to sum up – I am a “science artist” running my own business. I have no background in art, science, or business. I chose this. I’m making it up as I go. I feel comfortable that I deserve what measure of success I have had. But I am an outsider. An impostor. Sometimes it’s great. Sometimes it’s really, really hard.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Trying Something New

Guess what? After years of having people tell me my paintings would look great on fabric, I finally took the plunge and put a few on fabric. Specifically, on gorgeous silk chiffon scarves. It's a little bit of a plunge into new territory for me, so I was lucky to have the help of some friends, especially Tracy Lee, who helped me tweak my original paintings into gigantic digital files for printing, and Alison Alten Jia, who makes gorgeous scarves at Middle Kingdom and who kindly introduced me to her printer.

The first two designs - Blue Mitosis and Yellow Petri Dishes - are in my etsy shop now. Another one, in citrus colors, is coming soon. So - what else can I say? You really could use one for your next scientific meeting, geeky gift or just as a unique fashion accessory. And yes, that is the same Blue Mitosis painting that was on the cover of the EMBO journal. The scarf will look much better than cutting the cover out of the magazine and pinning it to your shirt : ) 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Brain Damage

Update: painting has been claimed. 
I painted this new tree-motif brain yesterday and was very happy with how it came out. Then today, when I went to remove the masking fluid (the stuff that keeps the white parts white), I managed to damage the surface of the painting in several small places. Attempts at brain surgery failed, but I still think it's cool. If anybody would like it, just drop $10 to cover the mat and postage in my paypal account (miche (at) and I'll send it to you. US only, please.

A Little Off-Topic Rant

This isn’t my usual thing, but I keep seeing this ad, and it drives me insane. So I guess it’s time for a little off-topic rant.

I apologize for the quality of the photo – it’s a cell-phone snap from a newspaper page. I tried to find this image online and failed.  However, I think you can see it well enough to tell that it’s a visual compendium of nearly everything insanely annoying about how people view men and women in the workplace.

First off, look at that office. It’s entirely white. Every surface is white, even the floor. This “office” was obviously designed by someone who has never set foot in one. No clutter, no coffee, and the only color is provided by the HP products (of course) and the beautiful pieces of paper they have produced, which have been neatly arranged on the wall by a team of stylists. Just like in your office. But I can live with the all-white office - I mean, Roger Sterling has one. It’s the people that really bug me.

Let’s look at the guy. Isn’t he cute? His hair is tousled, his face a little stubbly.  His shirt is hanging out. He is wearing comfy clothes and shoes. He wears a wedding ring, so we know he is unavailable. Now the woman. She has sleek, perfect hair. Straight skirt. High heels.  No ring. You might still have a chance with her. He points out something to her, indicating that he knows stuff. She listens, enraptured.

Now let’s think for one tiny second whether this ad would have run if the guy were immaculately turned out, listening attentively as a woman with an untucked shirt, messy hair and flat shoes pointed to something on a graph. Then let’s all have a good, long laugh. 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

More shows coming up!

Artomatic  in Arlington through June 23

If you haven't visited Artomatic yet, you really should. There's still plenty of time - it runs until June 23 and features more DC area artists than you can shake a stick at (around 1,100 of them, in fact). Plus there are many fun activities and performances, including workshops for children and adults. Have a look at the website for lots more information.

June 16-17   Old Town Arts and Crafts Festival - Alexandria, VA

July 1  First Sunday Arts Festival - Annapolis, MD

October 6 Art on the Avenue - Alexandria, VA

October 14 MPA Artsfest - McLean, VA

Monday, May 28, 2012

My New Hangout

I have a new blogging gig! I'm posting a science-art pick of the week every Wednesday over at The Finch and Pea, the Public House for Science, in which Items of Interest and Curiosities of Nature are discussed employing the latest techniques in Logic and The Scientific Method for the furtherance of Human Erudition and the promotion of Critical Thought.

Join me, Josh Witten, Mike White and Marie-Claire Shanahan for a pint or two of science, sci-fi, art, music and general good cheer whenever you have a free moment. We're also collecting the artwork from the blog on a Pinterest board, in case you miss anything.

There I Am Again

Another pretty cool thing happened - a European scientific journal is using one of my paintings as their cover this month. Here is my "Blue Mitosis" on the cover of the EMBO Journal - that's the journal of The European Molecular Biology Organization, y'know.  And here it is online - I like how they used the image to make a banner for the page also. I have another special secret project planned with this image, so stay tuned.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Upcoming Events - updated

Lots of stuff on the calendar for the next couple of months, including the return of Artomatic starting on May 18 in Crystal City. If you've never been, Artomatic is an absolutely unmissable event, with tons of art, music, and general craziness. You can find my work on the 9th floor. I'll post pictures as my space comes together.

Other places to find me:

May 6                     First Sunday Arts Festival, Annapolis
May 18 - June 23      Artomatic, Arlington VA

May 27                    SoWeBo Festival, Baltimore   
June 2                     Flea Market at AVAM, Baltimore  + Meet the artist night at Artomatic, 7-9 pm

June 9                    Artomatic Marketplace

June 16-17            Old Town Arts & Crafts Festival, Alexandria VA

July 1                     First Sunday Arts Festival, Annapolis 

Stay tuned for more.

Friday, April 27, 2012

My Cells are on the Cover of a Book!

A little reminder that good things come to those who post. About two months ago, I got a message via my etsy shop from someone who had seen my paintings of malaria in red blood cells online. I get messages like this from time to time, usually from bloggers and researchers. Which is very cool, but not as cool as this one, which was from a publisher who wanted to use my blood cells on the cover of a novel! 

The book, The Heart Broke In, a novel by British author James Meek, has a medical researcher as one of its main characters - hence the blood cells.  (

Of course I said yes, and immediately started practicing painting pages and pages of red blood cells, which is why there are so many in my etsy shop right now.  After a few days, I came up with a good-looking bunch of erythrocytes in various stages of infection with p. falciparum, the parasite that causes malaria. I sent them off to Jennifer at  Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and held my breath.

Fortunately, FSG liked them too, and their graphic designer created a beautiful cover with watercolor-style lettering. And I got paid : ) 

A little kicker to this tale - I wanted to find out more about the book's author, James Meek. I chose one of his earlier novels to read - The People's Act of Love, (  from 2005.  I picked it because it was set in Russia and I used to live there. I loved the book, and from the author blurb I worked out that James Meek had lived in Russia the same time I did,  and started to wonder if we had any mutual friends. On a hunch, I asked Jamie Coomarasamy, a BBC reporter in London who was also an old Russia hand, if he knew James. Turns out they have known each other for years and had dinner together a few weeks earlier *and they discussed the cover* (O.o)

So, my friends, while it's true that the internet is full of scammers, spammers and ranters, it's also full of art, science and literature, all stitched together with connections that otherwise would never have been made. The Heart Broke In is out in October from Farrar, Straus and Giroux. I'll remind you to buy it. 


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Some Images from Our Small Rooms

A few images from the "Our Small Rooms" exhibit at the Cafritz Arts Center, featuring my work and Kendall Nordin's. More about the show here and here.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Best Rejection Letter Ever

Hey, I'm an artist. I apply for a lot of stuff, and I get rejected a lot. I don't like getting rejected, and sometimes it makes me cry, but it's part of the game. That said, if you have to tell people their entries were not chosen for something, there are good and bad ways to do it. We've all seen examples of what not to do, but today I received a great example of a kind, supportive and personal rejection. This letter *actually made me feel good*, so I am reprinting an excerpt here:

Dear Michele

Many thanks for taking part again in our Cover Contest. We had another great time here at [redacted], looking through more than 1,500 submitted images. The quality of the submissions was as high as ever, and the jury had the wonderfully difficult duty of pre-screening and evaluating all submissions. Only the 500 most promising pictures were included in the final round of scoring, which means that many good-quality submissions could not be considered in full detail.

I am glad to let you know that the jury decided to include all of your submissions in the final round:

“Blue Mitosis” (m-m-banks-33445.tif) reached place 102 in the non-scientific section of the contest (a perfect 10 in my book); “Petri Dishes 1” (m-m-banks-23765.tif) reached place 134 in the non-scientific part of the contest; “Blue and Green Petri Dishes” (m-m-banks44662.tif) was ranked 174th (another one of my personal favourites, actually).


Like in previous years, the jury and the editors will also select a small number of images for future covers of [redacted]. Would you like us to keep your pictures under consideration for this selection, or would you rather have us delete the corresponding files from our records?

Thank you very much again for participating in our little contest. We hope that you enjoyed it as much as we did.

Kind regards and best wishes

[Really nice guy]

Now everybody else do this.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Our Small Rooms at the Cafritz Arts Center

A little more about the Montgomery College Show, which opens today. (Essential info is here) Don't forget, the reception is Thursday, February 9, from 6-8 pm.

This exhibit is part of a year-long series that Montgomery College is sponsoring called "Intersections: Where Art Meets Science"

Some background about the artists - we're both based in DC. I mainly work in watercolor and collage, and most of my work over the last few years has been focused on scientific themes. I was recently featured on the Scientific American arts blog, Symbiartic, talking, among other things, about how I got started painting scientific subjects.

One of the paintings in this show, From the Cells to the Stars, was created in response to a friend's death and Carl Sagan's idea that humans are made of "star stuff". I blogged about it here and it was featured on Brainpickings. This show will be the first time the painting is exhibited in public.

I also feature paintings of bacteria and viruses (those are viruses above). Although we normally consider these to be invaders, viruses and bacteria are a huge part of our bodies playing vital functions in everything from digestion to cognition.

Another piece, Portrait of a Human, is a series of 16 panels, each with a specific cell type, from retinal cells to bone marrow to neurons. This is a brand-new piece created specifically for this exhibit.

Kendall Nordin is a multi-disciplinary artist. For the past decade her practice has focused on visual art, performance, and music. Her visual work has been exhibited in the US, Australia, and Estonia and is included in the viewing program of The Drawing Center, NYC. In the past year, exhibition venues for her work include the Container Space Gallery, Low Lives Festival, the DC Convention Center, Pulse Art Fair in Miami, Porch Projects, Gallaudet University, and the (e)merge Art Fair.

Nordin's video piece, Artists Throwing Rocks (see it here: was selected for the (e)merge Art Fair in 2011. Her work for this exhibit consists of a site-specific installation on the theme of the cell.

More of my work can be found here and Kendall Nordin's here

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Cell Art Show at Montgomery College

I'm in this two-artist show with Kendall Nordin at the Cafritz Arts Center at Montgomery College from January 12-March 9, 2012. Reception is on February 9 from 6-8 pm - please come!

Our Small Rooms

Michele Banks and Kendall Nordin

Two D.C. artists, Michele Banks and Kendall Nordin, focus on the delicacy and complexity of autonomic cellular processes: Banks through jewel-toned watercolors, and Nordin via a site-specific mixed-media installation.

January 12–March 9, 2012

Opening Reception: Thursday, February 9, 6–8 p.m.

Open Gallery

Cafritz Arts Center, Montgomery College

Hours: Monday–Friday, 8 a.m.–4 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.–4 p.m.

Location: The Open Gallery is on the ground floor of The

Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation Arts Center located

at 930 King Street on the west side of the Takoma Park/Silver

Spring Campus. Parking is available in the West Garage, located

immediately behind the center. For maps and directions, visit

For more information: Call 240-567-5821 or visit