The Art of Science w/ Professor Nick Pena

Visual and Performing Arts Professor Nick Pena‘s piece entitled Behind the Cancer Wheel (Teresa’s Story) is currently showing through December 16 in The Art of Science exhibit at the Hyde Gallery. The 2016 exhibit is an exploration of the beauty of science and power of art, and features artistic interpretations of research being performed at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. To create this imaginative collection, more than two dozen Le Bonheur researchers were paired with local artists, who then communicated the significance of their work in unique ways.

Statement by Nick Pena:

Memphis Cancer Wheel by Emanuel VillaThe Memphis Cancer Wheel (left), created by Dr. Emmanuel Villa, Data Architect for Le Bonheur Research Center, shows the distribution of Breast Cancer patients from 2005 to 2012 (almost 4,000) among their cancer stage, age group, and outcome. Data comes from a repository made by the Center of Biomedical Informatics in which data from the West Clinic, Methodist Hospital, and the tumor registry were consolidated. Understanding the importance of data collection for research and the necessity of obtaining and maintaining accurate data collection are essential. The architecture and design of preexisting data helps to provide an understanding of what data exists, how it flows, and when and how this information can be measured.

Pena AOS opening reception

Teresa Bullock, a friend of Mr. Pena’s, is a breast cancer survivor who lives and works, as a graphic designer, in Memphis, TN. The text in the image is her cancer survivor story.

When viewing the Memphis Cancer Wheel I couldn’t help but wonder, who are the people who lost their battle with cancer, and who are the people who bravely faced, fought, and beat cancer? The diagrammatic image leaves me conflicted - I find myself searching for a narrative and wondering about the lives of each group and whether their lives had intersected like the curvilinear lines found in the diagram.

These simple inquiries led me to ask a larger question, “What is meaningful data?” That very question is the impetus for this piece, leading me to “play both sides” by juxtaposing the context of the data behind the command lines or computational analyses (the cancer wheel). In the end, I wanted to take the time to consider who the data represents and how their personal narrative is missing from the data.