Do you ever sit back in the grass and daydream? Do you ever wonder why we are here, or why we need to stumble around to find the answer? Do you ever give thought to what else travels around the sun with us, and even what other suns there may be? Mystery, both large and infinitesimally small, adds dimensionality and depth to our lives. If we knew what was happening in our gut at each moment, or how electrons were spinning around us at each second, our world would be crushingly tedious. If we knew precisely what a dog feels when he responds to scents undetectable to us, or how a bird truly sees the world from up high, then our world would lose its magic. As Nietzsche famously said in The Gay Science: “We cannot look around our corner: it is a hopeless curiosity to want to know what other kinds of intellects and perspectives there might be…” In other words, we don’t even know, (and will never be able to know), what we don’t know beyond our meager five senses. But the act of imagining it, wrestling with it and attempting to somehow seize that wonder can lead to a wellspring of creativity.
It is this thirst to capture wonder, mystery, and the magic of nature that is beautifully captured in Angela McQuillan’s artwork. Her oil and acrylic canvas painting entitled Internal Parts 4, measuring 48x24x15, seems to this viewer to allude to a moment of organic creation. The intertwining organic shapes are tenuously connected by flowing tendrils, lacelike shoots and dripping, almost oozing splashes of paint, in vibrant colors that seem to speak to the excitement and frenzy of creation. It seems to be a creation we cannot see in real-time, whether human cells dividing or planetary matter forming, or even a dog’s perception of smells coalescing around its nostrils. As McQuillan states: “Despite the massive amounts of information available to us, humans are still surrounded by mystery. Our perception of the world is quite limited as there is much that remains undiscovered. I am drawn to the lure of the unknown.” So now that we have a sprinkling of Nietzsche, dog nostrils, dark matter orbits, and most of all daydreams, we can look at this work and relish in its imaginative and gorgeously told story.
Angela McQuillan is a Philadelphia-based artist and curator working at the intersection of art and science. She holds a degree in both Biology and Painting; she has ten years of experience working as a scientist in various positions. She is presently working as curator of the Esther Klein Gallery and Director of University City Science Center’s BioArt Residency, which she founded in 2017.