"My painting takes off from nature inspired by science, especially from cell biology and botany. While much art depicts the world at the human scale (landscapes, portraits, apples in a bowl) I often start with cell membranes, the inside of cells, the silk spigots of spiders, lichens — the world of the tiny. By depicting natural forms in an imagined, mythical world, my paintings reveal the human psyche and its capacity to go beneath the surface of things; to experience beauty and awe and even fear; to understand that we humans are connected to all the other creatures on earth and even to the cosmos. I enjoy observing and reading about nature, but I am not a scientific illustrator in the conventional sense. I do study my subject matter ahead of time, but I paint as spontaneously as possible and rely on my imagination and intuition to carry me along. I love improvising and being surprised by my own paintings.”
An important influence on my work was Peter Steven’s landmark book, Patterns in Nature, which reveals an order to the universe organized around material forms and the forces that create them, rather like D’Arcy Thompson’s earlier Growth and Form and Philip Ball’s later The Self-Made Tapestry. Now, inspiration comes from microscope images (favorite sources: my own dissecting microscope and www.NikkonSmallWorld.com), science magazines and biology textbooks. In the process of trying to understand the visual patterns in nature, I am dazzled by nature’s complexity and by the diversity of creatures that have evolved and continue to evolve today.
Once I start a painting, everything I have learned about nature from the textbooks falls into the background as I begin my poetic visual story. I embellish the natural forms, give them intensely bright colors, juxtapose things from different scales of space and time. I take these “freedoms” as a form of creative play and also to amplify the sense of mystery and awe, both for myself and for the viewer. Humans, birds and lizards can enter into the tiny world of the cell; a cell membrane can turn into the skin around a body; the vesicles in a cell can become containers for seeds and hanging plants. While I am painting, one form often metamorphoses into another or emerges next to another form at a different scale; for example, the spider’s silk threads will become gigantic braided ropes climbing up to a human brain. While painting I travel mentally down into the microscopic world of the cell and out into vast space. In this dreamlike “right-brain” world, rigid boundaries between forms begin to dissolve and there is an experience of fluidity and wholeness."
Shoshanah’s earliest passion in life was the arts. After completing her academic training in Comparative Literature (earning a B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley and an M.A. from Harvard), she returned to one of her early loves: the theater. She attended Brandeis University, earned an M.F.A. in Theater Design, and promptly moved to Italy to work as a costume designer for Italian stage and cinema. Returning to the USA, Shoshanah enjoyed a successful career in design: costumes, graphics and illustration, museum exhibitions, and interactive educational computer-video programs.
In the late 1970s, as Artist-in-Residence and then Exhibit Designer at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, she worked with scientists in a variety of fields, from botany to zoology. In the 1980s, Shoshanah designed interactive educational programs for a variety of science exhibits, including the Petroleum Science and Technology Museum in Saudi Arabia and the Visitors’ Center of the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. In the 1990s, she created science animations for Microsoft’s bestselling CDs, Encarta and Explorapedia.
Shoshanah began devoting herself to painting her personal vision in 1999. By 2003, she had a solo exhibition, “Infinite Worlds Within,” at the Canessa Gallery in San Francisco. Since moving to Ashland in 2004, she has shown her work at the Gallery DeForest, Illahe Gallery, Pangea, Taste of Ashland, Liquid Assets and Studio Viva. In 2008, she delivered a presentation entitled “Art and Science: a Happy Symbiosis” at the 89th annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science Pacific Division. In August, 2009, she was one of the featured artists in “Shifting Patterns: Preparing for Unsettled Days,” an art-and-science project on climate change, sponsored by the Jefferson Nature Center of Medford, OR,