Art by women in science
Creative Resilience is a UNESCO co-creation with 54 women scientists from around the world to showcase their artistic works inspired by the fight against and reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic. The sci-artists depict a world animated by cells, test tubes and medical equipment, and they make it resonate with a humanity in search of meaning and hope for a post-pandemic future.
In July 2021, UNESCO issued a global call for contribution to women with a background in STEM, inviting them to send their stories and artworks in relation to the pandemic. More than 100 artworks by 54 women of science from all continents have been selected to form the exhibition Creative Resilience.
Creative Resilience is not a traditional art exhibition, but rather exhibits the creative expressions of women neuroscientists, microbiologists, doctors, nurses, medical students, researchers, science communicators, engineers and mathematicians of all ages. They are STEM women, who are using their artistic talents, combined with their expertise in the fields of science, health, science communication and technology to provide a testimony of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Through painting, photography, computer drawing, block print, sculpture, crocheting or film, these “sci-artists” provide a testimony of how the global health pandemic has transformed the way we interact and how we are slowly emerging from it into new, transformed societies.
Women scientists are less visible than their male counterparts. Through this exhibition, UNESCO seeks to give a voice and visibility to STEM women, to their unique scientific perspectives, personal journey, creation, and resilience throughout the pandemic.
Gender Equality is at the heart of UNESCO’s work and it is one of its two global priorities. Promoting women in science is a firm commitment of UNESCO to reduce gender inequalities in natural sciences.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its restrictions, Creative Resilience is organized as a hybrid exhibition with virtual and presential parts. During the month of November 2021, all artworks are being screened live in a darkroom in UNESCO Headquarters in Paris as part of UNESCO’s 75th Anniversary exhibition“Transformations”.
Also, a selection of paintings of Creative Resilience will be exposed on the fences of UNESCO building. Creative Resilience will also be featured at Dubai World Expo in 2022, under the theme ‘Connecting Minds,Creating the Future’, as one of the innovative global exhibitions documenting transformations through an unprecedented crisis.
In many areas, gender equality is still a work in progress– one that the COVID-19 pandemic has hindered and hampered. However, this is not an inevitability. We can change the future in this field and many others, as long as we make strong commitments and take swift action.
The first way we can do this is through education, because what is learnt on today’s school benches will shape tomorrow’s society. We must therefore ensure – and UNESCO is working towards this goal – that young girls continue to go to school, because we know that girls who have dropped out due to the pandemic are less likely to return than boys.
We must also do everything possible – and this is anotherof our Organization’s priorities – to ensure that girls have the same access as boys to science education, which is so crucial to accessing skilled jobs. This means combating a more insidious but particularly harmful phenomenon: invisibility. Women scientists, for example, not only account for a mere 30% of researchers worldwide. They are also all too often pushed aside – their work less highly regarded; their successes attributed to colleagues. This was the case for Rosalind Franklin and her discovery of the structure of DNA, and for Nettie Stevens and her work on X and Y chromosomes, as well as for many other women worldwide.
This is why UNESCO is working to achieve educational equality between girls and boys in schools, and highlighting the women scientists who are carrying out research, making discoveries and producing inventions across the globe.This is the purpose of the L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women inScience Awards: to show everyone, especially young girls, that women, some of whom are still doctoral students, can achieve excellence in cutting-edge fields such as quantum physics or chemical engineering.
It is in this same spirit of celebration that UNESCO is organizing the Creative Resilience exhibition, which offersa fresh look at these women – not only as scientists, butalso as creators. At the heart of this event, which is also accessible online, is one fundamental idea: that creativity isat the core of scientific work, but it is not always perceptible to non-specialists. It must therefore be shown in a different way, through artwork.
Over and above differences in style, materials, and techniques; over and above differences in artistic sensibility, these 102 works by 54 women from around the world tell us a story of excellence and resilience, at the crossroads of art and science. UNESCO is proud to echo this message, so that it carries far and wide, to further gender equality in a new and powerful way.
UNESCO commissioned Dr. Radhika Patnala who designed the digital and online components of Creative Resilience. For their precious work, gratitude is extended to Dr. Patnala and her Sci-Illustrate team, based in Munich, Germany.
Creative Resilience has been made possible through a co-funding from UNESCO’s Natural Sciences Sector. Sincere thanks are extended to Shamila Nair-Bedouelle, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences.
Special thanks go to the members of the UNESCO Gender Equality Division: Bruno Zanobia, Mary Joy Brocard, Anne Candau, Danielle Cliche, Damiano Giampaoli, Nezha Elkhider, Gumiso Chisi, Diane Richard and Elspeth McOmish. They have tirelessly worked on all parts and processes leading to the exhibition.
Further thanks go to Charaf Ahmimed, Alice Ochanda, Matthieu Guevel, Martin Wickenden, Aurelia Mazoyer, Judithvan Zalen, Elie-Benjamin Loyer and their teams. The works presented in this catalogue were selected from among over 200 candidates who submitted their creative expressions to UNESCO from July-August 2021. While not all could be selected, they are to be commended for their tremendous commitment and contribution to this initiative.
UNESCO recognizes and values the excellent contributions of the 54 women authors of the artworks presented in this calogue and in the hybrid exhibition. They come from31 countries: Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Canada,Czechia, Dominica Island, Democratic Republic of Congo,Ecuador, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy,Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Latvia, Malaysia, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, Moldova, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Slovakia, Somalia,Sri Lanka, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the UnitedStates of America. All of them responded to an extensive questionnaire, and generously shared their stories, insights, and artworks. They make Creative Resilience. UNESCO is grateful to them.