Caroline Wellbery Interview

What inspires/motivates you?
What inspires me is intellectual curiosity. I find there are a lot of interesting things in the world and I want to investigate them.

How does data affect aesthetics in your work, and vice versa?
I’ve often pondered the relationship between science and aesthetics, and I think aesthetics is a process and data is a product. They are complimentary, and I think in our society we deeply neglect quality of life. I think aesthetics have a large role in bringing back a knowledge of quality of life.

What adaptations has this involved both on theoretical and practical levels?
I found that using a slide show was a good medium to inspire thought about medical practices. I think that aesthetic components have been very freeing for everyone in that this project has been an exploration and an experiment, but I think these things work better if the link between art and science is established a priori. In blending art and science, the process is paramount, as the product may be very different. If you end up with two different products, audiences can be challenged to see how the two relate. Even so, audiences will want to know about the process of each line of thought.

What (if any) personal collisions have occurred in the combination of art and science?
When I ran the focus group, the scientifically-primed students responded to the art presentation by saying that people become jaded to artistic experiences if they’re repeated, and stressed the importance of coming up with something new. They also questioned whether the artistic audience was the same as the audience that the artist wants to reach, and outlined questions of political interference and how best to approach the broad issues of climate change. These are students who are in a training program, and they’re looking for information that aligns with that training program. In this instance, both the science and the art were challenging to them as they were out of the students’ typical study area.

What “aha” moments have occurred in the process?
There were really two learning experiences for me. One was learning about medical waste in general. That was very eye opening as many of my colleagues and students had not fully considered it. I also had an inspirational moment when I was working on the art project, as I found myself reflecting on meanings of medical waste, but also considering the expansiveness of the concept of invasiveness, as both medical waste and medical equipment is invasive.

What is your medium? Why?  Where has it taken you?
I’m really a language person, and I find that language resides between art and science. It allows us to communicate on multiple levels. It can apply both to fictional writing and grant writing, it is very versatile. Artistically, language veers into the altered personal. There’s something about each person’s voice, something about their choice of words. It’s about giving expression to who you are as an individual, and reaching other people in a way that connects them. There is a sense of community among people who see deeply into each other, and language allows us to surpass the daily limitations imposed onto human connection.

 What has been most unfamiliar to you in this research process? What has made you take a second look at the process and/or product?
In a way I feel that, even though I’m not a visual artist, I have a fellowship with visual artists. I go to museums a lot. Even though I don’t consider myself a good painter, my lack of expertise allows me to drift, speculate, and see outside the box. Art makes things strange, and that gives us a new perspective.

Where might this work be displayed? Who is the target audience?
This work will be displayed at the Healing Center for the Arts. I would like the general audience to see this work in the context of explaining medical waste. In the same way that the general population should be aware of cars that idle too long, medical personal need a medium that will draw them in about medical waste and enlighten them about the project.