The artist in you: Water&Wood 2019

by Janice Nigro

I have been living in Southern California for several years now. I know, I hear a collective “aww” it can’t be that hard to live here-sun, palm trees, and the ocean wilderness right there in front of me.

But you always give something up to get something else. In my case, I gave up Bergen, Norway and the non-stop rain for Hermosa Beach, California and no rain. Two places couldn’t be more different.

The list is very long for the positives (starting with the endless summer days). The list is also long for the negatives. I’ll skip the obvious and head right for the not so obvious: the undercurrent for the difficulty in making meaningful connections with people. The sense of community.

The struggle to feel community, I can explain away by the hours of time we spend in traffic. Or the independent nature of the people moving here. Our history is to move west. It compels anyone with an independent spirit who has grown up east of the Mississippi to try the west coast out for a while.

I am as much an explorer in my own country in Southern California as I was in Bergen, Norway. There’s all the excitement and a little bit of fear when you wonder if you will find a way to live, thrive maybe, make your niche. It’s new, but the biggest opportunity you have is not to be exactly who you were before. Incorporate your new environment somehow into your life.

It’s a no brainer how you might do that when you leave your own country. Maybe you can learn a new language. Or at least have a blast trying. It’s not so clear how you are going to do that when you move back to your own country.

For me, it happened through art.

Not the most far out idea unless like me you have spent most of your career as a scientist. One examining the most fundamental of details of life: DNA.

The art has been there all along though, in some ways propelling my science forward. Art has been my default coping mechanism, although I never claimed to be great at it. My clay pots from the pottery wheel were at best poorly formed tornadoes. And in a painting class in Norway, the teacher suggested my time would be better spent in Norwegian class.

I never felt the overwhelming desire to show my work to anyone. You can get stuck focusing on how it would be viewed. You might worry about the talent side of your work, but you also realize that your art is somehow an extension of yourself. Maybe you don’t want the rest of the world to see that.

It was probably desperation then that drove me take my first step out into the world of art. Alone in a new city in the USA far from my friends from the previous seven years, I looked to art to guide me.

I took a baby step out and started to sell my work at the Hermosa Beach Farmers Market on Fridays. I say baby step because it is a small venue somewhat hidden at 11th and Valley Drive in Hermosa Beach. I liked how I felt working on my art and discussing it with people. The venue emboldened me, and when the opportunity arose, I submitted work for the first Water&Wood exhibition (2017) held at Resin, a gallery collective of artists located in Hermosa Beach.

The now annual exhibition shows no boundaries. The organizers just want to bring art into our lives. It’s about getting the community to come out. Not just as spectators, but as participants. And that can only be good for us.

The organizers are open; they invite anyone who has ever fantasized about presenting their art publicly to do just that. You can be whoever you are-older, younger, maybe autistic-the artists represent the whole gamut of the human race.

It helps that Resin is local, in the “bubble.” It’s in a familiar space, one you can walk to, to launch your art into the world.

This is my third year participating. I still felt it was an impulsive decision to submit. Last minute, late at night, as if no one would see me and before I could think too much about it.

Price of my pieces? I still typed in a conservative estimate of my work.

Imposter syndrome? A little bit. I am an amateur, and my art is still photography, an activity most of us engage in daily. The twist is my images are mostly from underwater.

My first underwater photographs were awful, but I was smitten. Underwater photography represents everything I care about: travel, sport, art, and science. But as the underwater photographer Ellen Cuylearts says, maybe “I don’t have to talk about who I am, you just have to learn about me through the images I take.”

Come to the opening of Water&Wood on Saturday, February 9, 2019, from 4 to 9PM. Discover who your neighbors are.

©Janice Marie Nigro/

Looking for a scientific editor or writer? Contact Janice Nigro at Janice Nigro Ink. I have published in Cell, Science, and Nature, and articles I have edited have appeared in Cancer Research, PLoSONE, the Journal of Surgical Oncology, and Oncotarget.


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