Artistic brain: Colorful neurons are CSU student’s inspiration for hand-dyed textile

Neurons in the brain can look a lot like art if you don’t know what you’re looking at. This was the inspiration for Colorado State University apparel design student Nogah Seidemann’s entry into the 10th annual Art and Science exhibition at CSU. The exhibition was created to open up the connectedness between art and science, or as Leonardo da Vinci said, “study the science of art and the art of science.”

Seidemann’s hand-dyed textile with free motion quilting shows this connectedness because it is based off of a neurology experiment out of Harvard called Brainbow. The Brainbow process colors individual neurons in the brain using fluorescent proteins. This creates colorful images that, as Seidemann explains, look a lot like art, not research.

“I looked up pictures of neurons as my inspiration because my dad is neuroscientist and had shown me research images I thought were really intriguing. I was drawn to pictures from the Brainbow study,” Seidemann explained. “I wanted one where you would get the reference if you knew what neurons looked like.”

Apparel design student Nogah Seidemann with her art

Seidemann dyed all of the fabric using a shibori method, which is a resist technique used to produce patterns on fabric. This created patterns of light and dark purple on the foundation of the piece. She then sewed red, blue and white “neurons” on top.

Although her dad is a neuroscientist, Seidemann explained that she always knew she’d go into an artistic field.

“Art is hardwired inside me, and it’s kind of cool because the artwork [for this exhibit] is literally in the hardware of the brain,” she said.

Functional art

During high school, Seidemann took a fibers class that began to shape her passion for functional art. She was also involved in theater and enjoyed the costuming. These interests came together at CSU in the Department of Design and Merchandising’s apparel design concentration, part of the major in apparel and merchandising.

“I didn’t want only an art education. I wanted the holistic college experience,” Seidemann said of her decision to attend CSU. “Sustainability is also really important to me, and CSU is one of the leading universities in the country, so there is a lot of opportunity here.” She’s also minoring in environmental affairs.

Seidemann hopes to work in small-batch production for apparel companies like Reformation that focus on sustainable and ethical practices. In small-batch production, it takes longer to produce clothing, and there are more handmade elements.

“It’s about slowing down the process and moving away from very fast production where you lose the human element of craftsmanship,” Seidemann said. “Machines don’t have nuance. The imperfection of handmade makes it more artistically appealing.”

You can view Seidemann’s work at the Curfman Gallery in the Lory Student Center until March 24.

The Department of Design and Merchandising is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.