Cicada with purple crystals growing from it's body

CREATORS – Tyler Thrasher

In ALL, CREATORS by McKenzie Prillaman

Name: Tyler Thrasher

Which came first in your life, the science or the art?

Science and art took a grasp around the same time. As a child, I always had a fascination for the natural world, such as plants, caves, crystals, etc. It wasn’t until high school when I began exploring what I wanted out of life. My experiences in both art and chemistry courses came together simultaneously, and I found myself in love while also trying to find outlets to combine the two together.  

“My experiences in both art and chemistry courses came together simultaneously, and I found myself in love while also trying to find outlets to combine the two together.”

Tyler Thrasher
Skull of horned animal with aqua crystals growing from the nose and mouth.
Crystallized Skull by Tyler Thrasher
Cicada with small pink crystals growing from body.
Crystallized Cicada by Tyler Thrasher

Which sciences relate to your art practice?

I would say mostly chemistry and molecular geometry. However, my experiments with synthesizing opals touches on materials sciences and a bit of physics/light play. Some of my efforts to hybridize and create new plants also touches on botany and horticulture. 

What materials do you use to create your artworks?

Various different compounds such as sulfate salts, Tutton’s salts, monodisperse silica nanoparticles, and preserved insect remains (haha). 

Cicada with light yellow crystals on body and wings and small yellow crystals on edges of wings.
Crystallized Cicada by Tyler Thrasher
Close up of cicada wing with small purple crystals along the edges.
Crystallized Cicada by Tyler Thrasher
Cicada with large, light green crystals growing out of its body.
Crystallized Cicada by Tyler Thrasher

Artwork/Exhibition you are most proud of:

I have a handful of pieces that make it into my private collection. Some of them are crystallized cicadas that were so intriguing I couldn’t let them go. One is a cicada crystallized with cobalt ammonium sulfate and then covered with a layer of zinc ammonium sulfate.

Which scientists and/or artists inspire and/or have influenced you?

I’ve taken a lot of information and inspiration from Werner Stöber and his [research] team in regards to the Stöber process, which is a method for developing monodisperse silica nanoparticles. The courageous feats of Roger Hiorns are also an inspiration.

Snake skeleton with black/dark purple crystals
Crystallized Snake by Tyler Thrasher
Cicada with large, light purple crystals on edges of wings.
Crystallized Cicada by Tyler Thrasher
Close up of cicada wing with large, light purple crystals.
Crystallized Cicada by Tyler Thrasher

Is there anything else you want to tell us?

As an artist, I’m constantly striving to find new ways to give back and use my science art for good. One of those outlets was through a shirt I designed, “Raise Some Heck.” The idea is that we are called to “give a damn” and do good whenever possible, even if that means disrupting centuries old systems that don’t benefit us any longer. The initial goal was to raise $5,000, and we ended up raising $75,000!

“As an artist, I’m constantly striving to find new ways to give back and use my science art for good.”

Tyler Thrasher
The text "Raise Some Heck" in red with white flowers growing in between the words.
Raise Some Heck campaign design by Tyler Thrasher

For more by Tyler Thrasher, visit his website or Instagram.

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About the Author
McKenzie Prillaman

McKenzie Prillaman

McKenzie is a fledgling science communicator working at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She has a background in neuroscience, and was a research assistant at the University of Virginia and a postbaccalaureate fellow at the National Institutes of Health. After years of thinking she’d become a neuroscience researcher, she discovered her passion for sharing science with others. That finding, in combination with her lifelong dabbling in the arts, led her to write for the Art the Science blog. In her free time, she can be found volunteering with the Smithsonian Associates studio arts classes, trying new foods, and wandering around her home of Washington, D.C. Twitter: @meprillaman