NMU Art Contest



Over Winter break, we asked Duke students to submit any artwork that express an idea, interest in, or an inspiration based on any neuroscience related topic. Enjoy the amazing submissions we received for NMU’s second art competition!


1st place
“Anxiety” by Hanna Varga
ink on paper
Millions of people suffer the debilitating effects of anxiety-related disorders every day. This piece commemorates the immense power one’s mind can have over their lives, and the battling thoughts that may prevent the individual from simple acts such as speaking up.


2nd Place
“Inseparable” by Marie Cheng
This piece reflects on our understanding of human emotion and its elusive origins. It underscores the tugging between the physiological and social dimensions of emotion and their inseparable nature. Two small wires attempting to blend into the organic shapes serve to question the emerging strides of biomimetics—how do we recreate what we cannot understand?


3rd Place
“Neuronal Fluorescence” by Athena Yao
acrylic paint and gold leaf
Inspired by Ramon y Cajal’s early histological drawings of neurons and by the future of experimental and imaging techniques (including fluorescence microscopy, such as through the probes used by researchers at MIT and Boston University [(including fluorescence microscopy)]), this piece conveys a sense of wonder and excitement as we continue making advancements in understanding the complex networks that form our neural connections.

Alice Lyu
Mixed Media (soft pastel and acrylic on paper)
I was studying synesthesia a while back and wanted to capture my understanding of it visually.


“;” by Greta Cywinska
My aim in this body of work is to convey a story of mental illness and living with depression. The series of alternating images illustrate depression as it appears in daily life in contrast to the silent struggles people experience internally. https://www.gretacywinska-photography.com/semicolon


“Mental Illness” by Erin Blanding
My art describes the derealization of mental illness.


“On the Other Side of the Corpus Callosum”
Oil Pastel, Online Filtering
The reference photo used for the coronal view of the brain was from University of Utah website ( https://webpath.med.utah.edu/HISTHTML/NEURANAT/CNS265A.html )


“The Trichromatic Theory of Color Vision” by Jonah Cagley
The trichromatic theory of color vision states that color detected by three different types of cone receptors in the retina. My artwork depicts the subject matter in the raw sensory stimuli of red, blue, and green, separating sensation from perception.


“Imagination” by Denna Huang
Digital Media
This piece is meant to capture the whimsical and almost magical process of imagination. The child is riding a bike on a neuron, being powered by his imagination alone.


“Eat My Feelings” by Sophia Li
Mixed media on canvas board
“Eat My Feelings” is a triptych about the “butterfly-in-stomach” feeling. The transformation from digestive system to plant system suggests the digestive system is alive and growing like a plant. The sensory nerves in my stomach send signals to my brain, which is represented by the circular patterns overlaying the paint.


“Medicated!” by Katelyn Sheets
acrylic on canvas panel
For this piece, I wanted to focus on normalizing common medications that are used to treat mental illnesses. Each of the drugs featured acts by altering neurotransmitter or neuromodulator levels in the brain. Some categories featured include SSRIs, benzodiazepines, and antipsychotics. National Institute of Mental Health – Mental Health Medications: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/mental-health-medications


“Deceitful or definite?” by Danielle Kapustin
graphite and acrylic paint on paper
This piece focuses on the connection between the mind and the body, inner and outer. The spine (tree) represents the connection of the brain to the outside world; seeing the color yellow, smelling the sweet scent of lemons, etc. Following the nature motif, the brainstem takes the form of a seed. The brain and brainstem are severed, intensifying and questioning the relationship between the two.




During the Winter break, NMU hosted our first ever art competition. Below are some of the wonderful submissions we received. Enjoy!

AD – Ink on paper, digital By Sua Cho
1st Prize Winner
This piece illustrates the experience of a person with Alzheimer’s Disease. The words in the bottom right corner are from the poem “Do Not Ask Me to Remember” by Owen Darnell.



Auto-trace - Computer-generated animation 2nd¬ Prize Winner Visualizing the path from a neuron's soma to the end of its processes reveal several interesting properties— including the path of its action potentials, its history of growth, and its connections with neighboring cells. Here, I developed an algorithm to automatically trace these processes from microscope samples.

Auto-trace – Computer-generated animation
2nd¬ Prize Winner
Visualizing the path from a neuron’s soma to the end of its processes reveal several interesting properties— including the path of its action potentials, its history of growth, and its connections with neighboring cells. Here, I developed an algorithm to automatically trace these processes from microscope samples.




Reimagining the Brain By Joy Reeves 
3rd Prize Winner
“Reimagining the Brain” is a comic series I created in an attempt to merge anatomical and imaginary regions of our brains! What if brain diagrams also included the whimsical, comical moments of being a student? Though certain regions (like “Memes”) lack medical accuracy, they carry a certain humor that unifies us during these difficult times.




Food for Thought
Frequent ice cream consumption is associated with reduced striatal response to receipt of an ice cream–based milkshake (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3302359/).



Fragmented Black Memory – Pencil, alcohol marker
By Lenique Huggins
Dementia is a devastating disease that brings incredible hardship to afflicted persons and their loved ones. Black adults in the US have worse dementia outcomes, an inequity due in part to lack of dementia knowledge and a distrust of healthcare. Churches are a trusted pillar of support in the African-American community. By increasing health education interventions in Black churches, dementia outcomes can be improved.



The Dichotomy of Aging – Acrylic painting
By Gabrielle Fry
This piece depicts two women having contrasting aging experiences. One declines cognitively, with a world around her in bright color she can interact with physically, while her own mind is turning black and white. The other woman’s Parkinson’s diminishes her motor ability, leaving her surroundings colorless and out of reach.



Circuitry – Acrylic on canvas
By Chloe Shudt
The similarities between the brain and modern computing technology are stunning. This work attempts to display the abstract relation between human thought and machine learning.



The War Within – Charcoal
By Delucia Lepore
The crouched human figure in the foreground is tensed as their OCD, a shadow of themselves, forcibly takes control of their brain. The composition shows the fear and helplessness that overcomes people with mental disorders.



Blood Flow – Acrylic on cardboard
By Arushi Bhatia
We are reliant on blood flow for neuronal function, which allows us to, among many other things, think and dream. This piece portrays that the blood carrying oxygen to our brain is simultaneously allowing for a similar flow of ideas and imagination.



Wider than the Sky – Acrylic paint and marker on cardboard
By Morgan Biele
This piece is inspired by a poem by Emily Dickinson referred to as “The Brain — is wider than the Sky”, as well as the painting “The Creation of Adam” and how it hints at neuroscientific ideas, and neuronal structures by Santiago Ramón y Cajal. The aim of this painting was to comment on the range of capacities of the brain- to hold skies, contain them, understand them, write them, paint them- all between the neurons Ramón y Cajal first depicted.



Frame of Mind – Posca paint pens, Gouache
By Amal Gupta
This piece is meant to represent the confounding matter of personality. The subject, my twin brother, is depicted as his multiple personality characteristics separated into different people. I wanted to make the figures look similar, yet have them doing different things to show how many ways my brother is different depending on setting and who he’s with.



Neuroverse – Marker on Paper, Photoshop.
By Ruixin Zhang
A human brain is often compared to a universe due to its complexity. In this drawing, I portray a brain, a sagittal brain slice, neurons, and a synapse as planets, and electrophysiological signals as stars. The true implication of this metaphor is that every one of us is as multifaceted, attractive, and promising as a universe can be.



Euphorical Cerebral – Acrylic on canvas
By Julia Henegar
This portrait of Juice WRLD emphasizes the detrimental effects of drug usage and its influence on mental health and visual perception (and thus perception of reality). It is an illustration of the neurobiological experience of visual and auditory perception and how foreign chemicals alter the mechanisms of perception.



Phrenology of a Blue Devil – Alcohol markers, color pencils, and micron pens on Strathmore toned tan paper
By Benny Romero
I wanted to go for a comical and socially relevant artistic piece that any Duke student could enjoy looking at. Phrenology is considered a pseudoscience, but it does have some influence in modern brain sciences today in how brain lobes are associated with certain behaviors or traits. Thus, I present the phrenology of a Blue Devil.