Posted in biology, design and architecture

Inspiration from splotches

From Seed Magazine: in creating her new series, Pareidolia, artist and chemist Vesna Jovanovic detected biomorphic and medical forms in blots of ink.

Art and science are generally considered very separate today; they have very different connotations, even stereotypes associated with them. Yet I find that my interest in these two fields stems from the same place: a deep curiosity about the world and the human position within it. Ironically, one of my biggest frustrations as an art student was the accuracy and precision that I could not let go of. I wanted to work more from the imagination, to leave some things to chance; I wanted to create opportunities for unpredictability and serendipity—for numerous “happy accidents.”

In 2002, I enrolled in an advanced drawing course at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. This course took me in the direction that eventually led to the series of drawings that I am working on today. One of the assignments was to create an inkblot and then use it as a guide for drawing. Initially, I struggled with the imagery. I tried projecting landscapes, human figures, animals…but they all seemed forced. One day something materialized more unaffectedly and effortlessly. In the curved streams of spilled ink, I began to see flasks and rubber tubing.

I continued developing these drawings beyond my time at SAIC. I began experimenting with various types of papers and inks and a range of new methods of applying ink to paper (spilling, sponging, blotting, and even masking certain areas and then spilling more ink over them). As my drawings developed, my glassware and tubing began turning into veins, intestines, and neurons. This probably happened as a result of the organic nature of the ink; the curved lines and streams were becoming increasingly reminiscent of biomorphic forms. I eventually titled the series Pareidolia, a term used to describe the psychological phenomenon of recognizing specific, identifiable forms in otherwise random stimuli. Common examples of pareidolia are the recognition of animals in clouds or faces in wood grain, and it is the basis of the Rorschach test, the series of inkblots used by psychologists to gain insight into a patient’s mental state.

Selections from Pareidolia are on view at the International Museum of Surgical Science in Chicago through October 16, 2009.



Beth Kelley is an applied & digital anthropologist with an overall interest in how people engage with and are impacted by their environments and vice versa. This has manifested itself in many ways, by looking at creativity, playful spaces, built environments, and environmental enrichment, sustainability, design research, and integrative and collaborative models of learning such as through play and hands-on learning.