Taking Things Apart: A Scientific and Artistic Exploration

Winter 2014 and Spring 2014 quarters

Taught by

genetics, molecular biology
visual arts, art history, photography


One year of high school biology and chemistry.

Both science and art take things apart. In some instances—the evisceration of a frog or an overly analytical critique of a poem—the process can result in the loss of the vital force. In the best scenario, carefully isolating and understanding individual parts actually reconstitutes the original object of study, bringing appreciation for a whole greater than its parts. Sometimes taking things apart results in a paradigm shift: suddenly, the ordinary becomes extraordinary.

In one program strand, we use a biologist's tool kit to explore how living organisms function. We learn how biology takes apart and studies life in different ways. In winter, we focus on visual perception, beginning with anatomy, proceeding onto the logic of visual processing, and concluding with an examination of the specialized neurons and molecules involved in phototransduction. In spring quarter, we play with the idea of mutation, exploring how genetics is used to dissect complex processes and provide an entry point for the molecular understanding of inheritance at the level of DNA.

Another strand takes visual art as its point of departure. Here, we combine what we learn about the anatomy and physiology of the eye with a study of using sight to apprehend and appreciate the world around us. We will work with different tools—charcoal pencils and cameras—both to take apart and to construct new things. During winter quarter, we will learn the basics of drawing. In spring, we use black-and-white photography to study life at a more macroscopic level than in the biology lab. Ultimately, our goal here is the same as that of the scientist: to reconstitute and reanimate the world around us.

There are ideas for which literature provides a more sophisticated and satisfying approach than either science or the visual arts. Thus, in a third strand, we examine how literature depicts and dissects the emotional and behavioral interactions that we call "love." Authors we read will include Shakespeare, Stendhal, Henry James, Virginia Woolf, James Baldwin, John Berger, Haruki Murakami and Louise Gluck.

Our goal is to weave these strands together to produce an understanding about the world informed by both cognition and intuition. Throughout our inquiry, we will be investigating the philosophical issue of objectivity. This is a rigorous program involving lectures, workshops, seminars, studio art and laboratory science work. Student learning will be assessed by weekly seminar writing assignments, lab reports, art portfolios and exams.

Program Details

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

biology, visual arts and the humanities.

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day


Buy books for this program through Greener Bookstore.

Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning: Access to web-based tools required, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.

Required Fees

$50 in winter and $150 in spring for museum admission, and drawing and photography supplies.

Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Winter); 16 (Spring)

Class standing: Freshmen–Senior; 25% of the seats are reserved for freshmen

Maximum enrollment: 48


Course Reference Numbers

Fr (16 credits): 20094
So - Sr (16 credits): 20097

Go to my.evergreen.edu to register for this program.


Accepting New Students

Signature Required

Students entering this program in spring quarter should have completed at least one quarter of college biology.  In order to obtain a signature to register in the program, students need to complete a brief application form and bring it to the Academic Fair.  The forms can be obtained by contacting either of the faculty members.

Course Reference Numbers

So - Sr (16 credits): 30074
Fr (16 credits): 30276

Go to my.evergreen.edu to register for this program.

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