Rainbow-colored brain made of fabric with different textures and patterns. Contains dragonflies. Brain is viewed from the side.

CREATORS – Laura Bundesen

In ALL, CREATORS by McKenzie Prillaman

Name: Laura Bundesen

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

My art came first. In high school in the 1970’s, I could be found embroidering on all my friends’ jean jackets. I’ve also been blessed with a seven year stint as the executive director of the small but thriving Art School at Old Church in Demarest, NJ where I took over 20 studio art classes exploring different media from ceramics to glass and paint to mixed media. An accidental career move into sponsored research in 2007 became my gateway to the sciences. As a sponsored research administrator, I have assisted mathematicians, computer scientists, chemists, biologists, neuroscientists, and many more find funding for their research.

Colorful embroidered phoenix rising from a colorful brain made of different fabrics and materials.
Rising Phoenix (2019) by Laura Bundesen, 11″ x 14″, mixed media
Neurons of different colors entangled with one another.
Under the Microscope (2018) by Laura Bundesen, 30″ x 30″, thread, mirrors, paint
Brain embroidered with small patches of different colors. A few black spirals are coming out of the brain.
There’s a Riot Going on (2020) by Laura Bundesen, 11″ x 14″, thread and paint

Which sciences relate to your art practice?

Neuroscience relates most closely with my current interests, which stem from a deep fascination with what makes our brains tick. I have close ties with friends and family who have dealt with mental illness, Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, brain tumors, and other brain disorders. These loved ones were the initial impetus to learn more about neuroscience. Discovering how prevalent brain disorders are has kept me engaged. I’ve also been encouraged by neuroscientists in my current position as sponsored research officer at Mount Holyoke College.

“Neuroscience relates most closely with my current interests, which stem from a deep fascination with what makes our brains tick.”

Laura Bundesen

What materials do you use to create your artworks?

I’m predominantly a mixed media fiber artist—still embroidering on every single piece and often incorporating other materials as well, including fabric, lace, beads, buttons, and paint.

Colorful brain made of different fabrics and materials within a white silhouette of a head. The background is rainbow colors.
On The Horizon—ode to neuroscience research (2018) by Laura Bundesen, 24″ x 36″, mixed media
Cell that has patterned stitches and round mirrors within.
Cell Reflections 2 (2018) by Laura Bundesen, 16″ x 20″, thread, mirrors, paint
Brain viewed from the side and embroidered with different colors and patterns.
Flow (2019) by Laura Bundesen, 8″ x 10″, thread and paint

Artwork/Exhibition you are most proud of:

In 2017, I was one of 100 artists participating in the Brain Project in Toronto, Canada, a public exhibition meant to provide education and fundraising for Alzheimer’s care and research. My submission, dedicated to the memory of my stepmother who passed away from Alzheimer’s, was a one-of-a-kind, large sculptural piece and the most complex piece I have ever completed. It’s been displayed publicly in Toronto off and on over the last three years.

Three dimensional structure of a brain made with different fabrics and other materials.
Not Forgotten (2017) by Laura Bundesen, Brain Project Brain 2017
Laura Bundesen standing next to her brain sculpture entitled Not Forgotten. It is a three dimensional structure of a brain made with different fabrics and other materials.
Not Forgotten (2017) by Laura Bundesen, Brain Project Brain 2017

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

I’m incredibly inspired by a handful of scientist-artists who work in both spheres and who have been very generous is sharing information. They include Greg Dunn, Christine Liu, and Tahani Baakdhah to name just a few. Their generosity is just amazing, and their art is inspiring. I also want to shout out to my partner Izzy Gesell, who coaches people with improv and humor tools, as the person who first suggested I try making a brain piece and who has continued to encourage me in the journey.

Is there anything else you want to tell us?

I try to make an impact through my art by bringing as much of it to as many people as possible. I hope you’ll visit me online to learn more.

Colorful embroidered brain within a white side profile of a head.
Twin 4 (2019) by Laura Bundesen, 8″ x 10″, thread and paint
Colorful embroidered brain with rays of light and rainbow coming out of it.
White Matter (2018) by Laura Bundesen, 12″ x 12″, thread and paint

For more by Laura Bundesen, visit her website, Instagram, or Twitter.

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About the Author

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 Art the Science's 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