From Cells to Art

 How did a medical scientist go from photographing CELLS to discovering the art within WINE?

white blood cell PMN


A medical colleague who saw the art in my photographs of cells, vitamins and minerals connected me with Sterling Vineyards, which had an artist-in-residence program. In preparation for the interview I photographed my first wine – a 1978 Sterling merlot. When the winemaker said the picture looked like the wine tasted, I was hooked on the inner world of wine.

As artist-in-residence I spent two years working with the winemakers, photographing their questions – what would wine from a mountain vineyard look like compared to valley floor, what about changes during aging. Too numerous to mention here, over the years patterns emerged that I could interpret related to winemaking techniques like malolactic fermentation or ageability.

What we are seeing are the intriguing patterns made by molecules coming together.  Photographs through the microscope of table salt shows cubes and squares reflecting the crystalline atomic pattern of sodium chloride (table salt).  With wine, a much more complex mixture than salt solution, we see the patterns formed by the dominant molecules in their unique vinous environment. These inner views certainly reveal beauty.

Detecting designs and patterns where no designs and patterns were previously apparent can produce tremors of faith… As far as contemporary science can tell, nearly everything about the universe—its knack for self-organization; its fine-tuned potency to bring about galaxies, life, consciousness; its sheer existence—is vastly improbable. This would seem to suggest that we are here because of 
a deliberate supernatural design.
—Herbert Benson, MD, Timeless Healing

The inner beauty of wine is perhaps related to the spirit of the wine or the signature of the winemaker. Clues to life and death are certainly evident in some wines. I’ve always seen the forms as a visual language or textural expression of a wine. Can you imagine them on every wine label heralding the style inside the bottle – drink this if you want something complex, this one is light. See for yourself the beauty in the bottle in my first book “Wine’s Hidden Beauty” which bridges the art, science and spirituality of wine.

The images offer clues to ‘divine design’ of the exquisite universe within us and of which we are a part. To me, the images make more real the mysterious; they help us understand experientially. They offer an AHA moment!

For the most part I have used these images to teach about life. Seeing a photograph of caffeine, some of my students have kicked coffee. Hearing about, and seeing, the art and soul of wine, others say now they understand why wine is sacred.

I feel grateful that I have been fortunate to have my scientific blinders removed as I traveled into these interior landscapes. What I  glean from these images – that inner visions from the shaman and earlier times perhaps included seeing our molecules. Of course they weren’t named but were seen and included as part of sacred art and traditions.

The POWER of the Image

Seeing how those kids became peaceful watching the images from inner space, I was compelled to explore the power of the image  – how can if affect our consciousness, mind and mood.  This led me to imagery and shamanism. The senses are – sight, sound, smell, taste, touch – all different ways of accessing information.  Different doorways access different parts of your consciousness.  What doorways do you have open?  What would you like to open?

Molecular photography captures a world invisible to the naked eye…. It opens the mysteries to molecules and cells.    It is art based on reality, not an artist’s imagined representation.  Images tell a story or act as a portrait.  They may even communicate scientific information visually so it is more easily understood, then it becomes a teaching tool.

John Naisbitt ~ High Tech, High Touch:  Technology and Our Search for Meaning