I just learned (What It Really Takes to Be an Artist on BrainPickings) that artist Teresita Fernández, recipient of a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship for her work (see her monograph, Blind Landscape) made an outstanding commencement speech at Virginia Commonwealth University about being an artist. (An exposition of her work, As Above So Below, is open at the  Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art until March 2015).

Teresita Fernández

I love the fact that –apart form all she says being glorious– all the words “art” and “artist” can be virtually everywhere exchanged with “science” and “scientist” without losing one bit of the sense she makes. Fascinating. In the following two fragments from her keynote, I did that exchange, and put the changed word in bold. Enjoy.

More than in any other vocation, being a [scientist] means always starting from nothing. Our work as [scientists] is courageous and scary. There is no brief that comes along with it, no problem solving that’s given as a task… A [scientist]’s work is almost entirely inquiry based and self-regulated.


[…] rest completely assured that what you don’t know about something is also a form of knowledge, though much harder to understand. In many ways, making [science] is like blindly trying to see the shape of what you don’t yet know. Whenever you catch a little a glimpse of that blind spot, of your ignorance, of your vulnerability, of that unknown, don’t be afraid or embarrassed to stare at it. Instead, try to relish in its profound mystery. [Science] is about taking the risk of engaging in something somewhat ridiculous and irrational simply because you need to get a closer look at it, you simply need to break it open to see what’s inside.

Art and Science: Two sides of a same coin, namely, making sense of our universe and mind!


Antonio Vantaggiato