GALLERY: The Cortical Garden of Pablo Garcia Lopez

Santiago Ramón y Cajal, the father of modern neuroscience, was born on May 1, 1852 in Navarre, Spain. To celebrate his month of birth we’ll be posting a series of pieces dedicated to his work as well as the work of scientists and artists inspired by his pioneering research and use of visual metaphors to describe the brain.

One such artist is Pablo Garcia Lopez, whose mixed media art is a direct reaction to the life and work of Cajal. Lopez explores the dialogue between neuroscience and visual art in his latest project, The Cortical Garden (developed at the School of Visual Arts in New York City and funded by Caixa Galicia Foundation), which is directly inspired by the words of Cajal:

“The cerebral cortex is similar to a garden filled with innumerable trees, the pyramidal cells, that can multiply their branches thanks to an intelligent cultivation, sending their roots deeper and producing more exquisite flowers and fruits every day.” (Cajal, 1894)

Lopez’s work, seen below, infuses medical imagery of the brain with thrilling biological analogies, using the themes of sprouting, branching, butterflies and flowers to seamlessly move from gardens to neurons and back again. In his own words, the work seen below explores “the role of visual metaphors in scientific research. Visual metaphors are not only used to divulge and popularize scientific knowledge, but they also are a source of inspiration to create new scientific hypotheses.”

39 Brains Forming a Flower | Paper (silkscreened); Diameter (85 inches) | Pablo Garcia Lopez, 2010 PET Soul Butterflies | Silkscreen, photo printing and crystal beads on black plexiglass, 51x51 inches | Lopez, 2009 Nerve Section | Plastic pipe, copper wire | Lopez, 2009Golden PET | Silkscreen and bowties on plexiglass, 51x51 inches | Lopez, 2009Wig | Silk and hair styling gel, 6x8.5x5 inches | Lopez, 2009Brainy Flowers | 6x8.5x5 | Lopez, 2009Butterfly Bats | Onyx stone pigment on black plexiglass, 51x51 inches | Lopez, 2009Sculpting the Wall | Silk and hair styling gel, 100x100 inches | Lopez, 2009Photo 4 (Serie 2), Cortical Garden Series | Digital photograph printed on aquarella paper (archival inkjet print) | Lopez, 2009


“Like the entomologist in pursuit of brightly coloured butterflies, my attention hunted, in the flower garden of the gray matter, cells with delicate and elegant forms, the mysterious butterflies of the soul, the beating of whose wings may some day– who knows– clarify the secrets of mental life” (Cajal, 1923).

Lopez is also a published Cajal scholar: click here to download a PDF of a March 2010 paper he authored in Frontiers in Neuroanatomy entitled “The Histological Slides and Drawings of Cajal.”

For more of Lopez’s work, visit his official website, and stay tuned to The Beautiful Brain for more Cajal-inspired content in the next weeks.

About the author

Noah Hutton

Noah Hutton is a filmmaker based in New York.

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