Artistic Statement

We live on a tiny rock flying through an unfathomably large universe, but that rock is full of countless wonderful, beautiful, and complex things. It is my hope to explore and understand as much of it as possible — no matter if what is being explored is massive or microscopic.

I am fascinated by cells, the biological units of life. My art explores biology, our sense of self, and our place in the universe.

I am a neuroscientist by training and have an endless interest in biology and the brain. The brain is a structure of extraordinary complexity and beauty. Our brain is made up of an estimated 100 billion neurons (plus many other cells like glia). Our thoughts, memories, and emotions result from an amazing orchestration of activity propagating through those billions of neurons. To understand the grand complexities of our universe, such as our brain, we must focus on the individual units (the cells) before we can understand how they work to form a greater whole.

The cell was discovered in 1665; however, it was not until 1839 that cell theory stated that all living organisms are made up of individual units. This truth has been at odds with our sense of identity ever since. We think of ourselves as a cohesive whole, however, our body is made of individual cells that function both independently and as a group. Of course, for those cells to stay alive they depend on an extremely complicated series of interactions with the many cells around them. Despite cell theory stating that all living things consisted of individual units, it was not until 1888 that people accepted this truth with regards to the brain when the great neuroscientist (and artist) Santiago Ramón y Cajal showed that the brain, along with the rest of the body was in fact made up individual cells.

It may seem a bit perplexing that it took humanity so long to reach this truth, but the truth is completely perplexing in its own right. No single cell knows of its own existence, and yet together, the cells in our brains and the cells our hand work together to create art, music, and new bodies of knowledge.

My art focuses on human anatomy (both current and historical understandings of the human body). Depending on the viewer's distance from the piece, the "cells" either coalesce into the greater shape or remain visually distinct. From the microscope to the telescope lies awe, beauty, and terror at the tiny components that make up our own bodies and the grandness of the universe those components inhabit. It is up to the artist as much as it is the scientist to explore our place among this continuum. As we have explored this continuum, it has only grown wider, but we have always been better for it.


I can't tell you enough how much I appreciate you taking the time to look at my art.
All my best,
Matthew Ross